Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Control Unleashed - Week Three

Off-Switch With Obstacles
The first thing we worked on was more off-switch practice, but this time we also added the excitement of obstacles. Emma had two 4" jumps, a tunnel and a low table set up. One at a time, the dogs did one obstacle, played tug for 15-30 seconds, then the handler stopped the game and waited for the dog to offer a default behavior (everyone in class is using either sit or down). Because playing dogs are a big trigger for Iris, she's getting lots of practice playing Look at That! She's doing pretty good. Definitely getting a little stressed but not to the point of barking. When it was Iris' turn to do the obstacle and then play, she pretty much refused to play. Emma pointed out that Iris seems very concerned about being in the middle of the room with dogs on all sides. Thinking about it, in Iris' agility classes the dogs were always on only one side of the room when Iris was in the middle. It was less for her to worry about. Going directly toward another dog, even if the other dog is stationary, is also a lot harder for Iris than moving parallel or away from the dog.

Next, Emma had each dog preform two obstacles, play, then offer the default. This time I didn't try to get Iris interested in the toy. I asked her to do some hand targeting because that's usually one of her favorites, but even that was hard for her.

Emma raised the criteria one more time and had the dogs do three obstacles, play, then get the default. For some dogs in class, the exercise is definitely about learning to get revved up and then settle down again quickly. For Iris, I think it's really about being able to be around other dogs who are getting revved up. Also, even just getting her to move into the middle of the room to play LAT with me was a bit challenging for her this week.

Doggie Zen / Leave It
Next we worked on the next step of Doggie Zen / Leave It. To practice this, we put a treat on the floor and then waited for the dog to give eye contact before rewarding. Once the dog is comfortable with you placing the treat on the floor, you can begin tossing the treat on the floor. In the book, Leslie suggests using your foot to cover the treat if the dog tries to go for it. For some dogs who were really excited about the treats, Emma had us toss the treat just out of the dog's reach and then wait for eye contact (sort of a cross between Doggie Zen and Leave It).

One thing we talked about in class was how you really have three options for rewarding your dog after tossing the treat on the floor. You can give the dog a release (such as "take it") to go get the treat, you can pick the treat up and then give it to your dog, or you can give your dog a different treat and never allow her to have the one on the floor. Emma said she doesn't really think it matters which method you choose. I was thinking about it and I might practice with all three so Iris really learns to pay attention me to find out where the reward is coming from.

Emma also talked about putting Leave It on cue and whether or not you really want to. Emma trains her dogs that when they find food on the floor, they should automatically make eye contact. She doesn't use a cue. In some ways, that makes a lot of sense. Especially when I was living the apartment complex, I had to be really careful about Iris grabbing things off the ground because the kids were so bad about leaving old food around. On the other hand, I like to be able to toss treats as a reward because Iris isn't very toy motivated. So I'm leaning toward using a cue.

Start Line Stays
Last we worked on start line stays. In the book, Leslie says that a lot of dogs she sees in her CU classes don't have a start line stay. The dogs get way too revved up or stressed out to be able to stay, so she teaches it in CU as part of learning self control. Iris has never had a problem with her start line stays. I think Katrin emphasizes start line stays right from the beginning in her classes, so Iris had one of the best stays in CU class.

In class, Emma had us put the dog in a sit in front of the jump, take a step away, step back, and reward. Then, take two steps away, go back and reward. The dogs learn that staying in position will get rewarded (and it that taking the jump isn't the only way to get rewarded). I think we've done this game before!

Overall, Iris seemed stressed out during class. I think starting class off with dogs playing definitely raised her anxiety level to begin with.


In other news, Iris made it to five weeks and one day between seizures. Damn it. It really seems like her trigger is time. Her schedule is so regular.


Katrin said...

Sounds like your class is going great!!!

Sorry to hear about the 1 seizure, but then again only 1 is better than the clusters she was having, you must be doing something right!

Jules said...

DRAT!!! I agree one is better than cluster, but it still sucks.

The class sounds awesome! It sounds like you are getting a lot of insight into Iris!