Not much happening here the past week – just working on cleaning up some things for the upcoming AKC trial (still a month out, so no urgency there), and adding in a couple of things in IPO.
I did discover that somewhere along the way, Brody lost his flip finish. We do an about finish for almost everything, but we need that flip finish for Rally, so I’ll have to do some clicker sessions to re-install that this week. Brody could use a few clicker sessions to clean up some other precise position stuff, anyway, so that will be a good focus for this week.
Club training on Sunday was…fine. Brody tracked pretty well, but was a blowing articles, so we’ll need to go back and reinforce some things there, because something obviously isn’t clicking for him 100% yet.
In OB, again, Brody was fine. OB is by far our strongest phase, so I’m probably a lot pickier there than anywhere else. Brody’s heeling is good, his positions are good, his send out is fast, he downs fast, but…we’re still struggling with the last part of the send out. He always gets impatient in the down and pops up and runs to me.
Okay, I shouldn’t say “always” because occasionally he stays put, but more often than not, he pops up.
I was getting frustrated with it on Sunday, but all it really should tell me is that I’ve been unclear somewhere. One thing I know about Brody is that he 100% wants to do the right thing. So if he is consistently not doing the thing I want him to do, the error is on my end somewhere.
As the saying goes: “Trial and error, but mostly error. Like, a shit load of error.”
My plan for this week is to do lots of super short sends with a down so that we can get a lot of reps on the “down, wait for me to get to you” part of the send out.
And if that doesn’t work, I’ll come up with something else.
Protection was by far our best phase of the day, which was a nice change.
We started working on calling out of the blind – I got a little overambitious with it a little fast, but Brody adapted well and we (TD and I) came up with a plan to break it down a bit next week.
Everything else was surprisingly good. Heeling is starting to get a lot prettier – still not quite there yet, but definitely on the way. Brody is showing a ton of control everywhere.
And our ‘outs’ were pretty damn perfect, if I do say so myself! Even after drives and stick hits, Brody was outing on the first command.
This does bring me to the title of the post, though, because this is where I ran across one of those situations that can be difficult for newbies such as myself to navigate.
To set the scene – our club TD is also our helper (and his wife kind of shares that TD status). There is also another VERY experienced trainer/handler that is essentially our TD’s training partner.
After working Brody for the first time through protection, I was pretty thrilled with how things were going. Most notably, I was VERY happy with Brody’s outs.
So I was a bit taken aback when our TD’s training partner, in giving me some feedback on the session, mentioned that something was going really wrong with our outs and that we would need to look into changing tactics. Specifically, he thought the dog was slow to out and that the dog showed significant stress over it.
Now, I have a TON of respect for this person. So, as a novice that knows nothing, I was really concerned that this feedback didn’t at all match my perception of how the training session had gone. Was I that blind to what was happening on the field in front of me? Was I missing some signs in my dog?
At this point, TD’s training partner had to leave for work, which gave me the opportunity to discuss his feedback with our TD. TD was a surprised by the feedback as I was, but offered me a couple of things to think about:
- The sleeve we were working Brody on is essentially a puppy sleeve with a bite bar. It’s super soft, and so it can make outs look slow due to the work it takes for the dog to disengage their teeth before spitting it out.
- Brody can be noisy on the sleeve which, if you aren’t familiar with him, can read as him experiencing more stress than he actually is. Being more familiar with Brody and his stress responses, we can deduce that while he is experiencing some conflict over the outs (what dog doesn’t, really?), we know he isn’t getting overly stressed by them because his drives and aggression are staying level instead of coming up.
- Finally, TD’s training partner doesn’t attend club often enough to have the full picture. He doesn’t know that six months ago, Brody was almost completely out of control in protection. He doesn’t know that two weeks ago it took 3 out commands to get the out. So his assessments are based on incomplete information.
I don’t type this all out to discredit the feedback I received – again, I have nothing but respect for the person that gave me this feedback.
I type it out because it can be difficult for newbies such as myself to remember that context is key in these situations. One training session doesn’t tell the full story. It’s but a snapshot in time of what is a years-long process.
I type this all out mostly, though, to illustrate how important it is, as a newbie to the sport, to have someone that you can trust to filter through the feedback you receive.
I try to be clear with everyone that I’m VERY open to receiving feedback about my dog – how the heck else am I supposed to learn?
This means that I get A LOT of it. Which is really pretty great.
However, as a novice, I’m not able to filter through it all by myself. I need a more experienced sounding board that can help me sift through it all to find the bits that I should really be applying to my training now, versus the bits that I should be filing away for later, versus the bits that I should be discarding entirely.
Even as a novice, I know how hard that is to find sometimes, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I have so many people so invested in the success of my dog. For the moment, we’re going to keep on keeping on, but always with an ear open.