Oh, Readers. I know I keep saying I’m going to be more diligent with the updates and then failing miserably. In my defense – my blogging time was mostly on Sundays previously, and now I spend my Sundays driving 6 hours round-trip to a second IPO club…
I know, excuses, excuses.
It’s been a pretty large stretch of time since my last recap. I will try to sum up the best I can here…
In my effort to get my dog ready for AWDF Nationals, I’ve really kicked the training into high gear. We’re tracking damn near every day, and I’ve been traveling A TON to get as much training help as possible.
I know that there’s a danger there, so I will warn you about that, my dear readers – there is such a thing as TOO MUCH HELP. Or rather, it’s important to pick a program and stick with it if you want any hope of not confusing the shit out of your dog.
Fortunately, (and by design, really), my travels haven’t really impacted my dog’s program much. The focus for most of the changes has been in protection, but I’ll get to that.
I did start tracking Brody in a Botcher harness. I know some people use these to encourage the dog to keep their head down, but I have it adjusted to simply apply steady line pressure. Brody likes a little line pressure when he tracks – it makes him feel more secure, I think – and I’m not talented enough with my line to be as consistent as he’d like.
Enter – the Botcher.
Keeps steady line pressure for me, and bonus – keeps my line up off the ground.
I’m a fan.
We haven’t really made any changes to our obedience program, but our OB has always been pretty good.
I did go over to yet another different club this past weekend, and was pretty much blown away by how much they proof their dogs in OB. Whips cracking, people milling around, dogs working and running around… It was a little intimidating and a lot impressive. And it has made me realize how much I still baby my dog in that respect.
So, while we haven’t made any changes to our OB, I am going to be upping the distractions around us and the expectations I have of my dog, if only so that my dog won’t be so embarrassingly distracted the next time I go over to that particular club.
As for protection…
We’re still struggling in protection.
Struggling enough that AWDF may be out of the cards for this year.
The problem – my dog places too much value on the helper and not enough on me, his handler, when working protection. I have yet to find a reward that he will take consistently and get excited about when there is a helper on the field. So our secondary obedience is taking a massive hit – it’s pretty much always either ugly or completely non-existent.
We can’t convince him to work through compulsion, either. Not that I particularly want to go that route, but it wouldn’t matter if I did, because it simply isn’t an option with Brody. He’s too “hard”, or so I was told by two different people this past weekend. Corrections with a prong just bring up his aggression levels more, and while we haven’t tried an e-collar, both helpers think that it would work about as well as the prong, which is to say – not at all.
It’s a puzzle.
One that some very talented and experienced people are helping me try to solve, though it’s looking less and less likely that we will get that done in time for AWDF.
I did ask one of the helpers that I’ve been working with (and I realize that my decision to not “name names” of helpers or clubs is confusing as shit – sorry) if this issue is a problem in our protection foundation or if it is just who the dog was always going to be. He said most likely a little of both. He thinks, from observing the dog, that he was probably always going to be this way, but that it also probably could have been caught and worked on a lot sooner.
We didn’t have much helper access when Brody was young – really just the occasional visiting helper. There isn’t a good training helper available in our immediate area, so we were pretty limited until recently. I wish that I had reached out to neighboring clubs and started traveling more a lot sooner, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t think to.
For now, the plan is to keep training like we’re going to AWDF. Tracking at least 4-5 days a week, and really proofing our obedience. Our send-out, in particular, still needs a lot more reps.
And we’ll keep going over the mountain every weekend to work with other clubs.
I’m also hoping to set up some private lessons with one training director/helper team in particular, but I’ll have to wait until they return from the World Championships.
About two weeks out from the trial, we’ll make a final decision.
AWDF was always going to be a super ambitious goal for us, so I won’t be super heartbroken if it doesn’t work out. If nothing else, at least it got me to get my ass in gear and start getting serious about the training.
One thing I do know, and I learned this with horses long ago, is that it’s never a good idea to get hung up on a timeline when training animals. It isn’t fair to the animal and it’ll just end in frustration for you, the trainer.
So, we will keep on keeping on, and if AWDF proves to be too ambitious of a goal for this year, we’ll simply forgo it in favor of a Fall trial.
I’d rather do right by my dog than try to force things to come together before he’s ready.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, we celebrated Brody’s birthday on March 23rd! He’s officially two years old!