Friday, April 9, 2010

Control Unleashed - Week Five

I just realized that I'd almost finished writing this, but never actually posted it. It's been a crazy week.

I think the format of this class makes it difficult to see the progress your dog is making. Each week, the exercises are more challenging and the criteria is higher. By the end of the week five class, Iris was right at her threshold. She was probably a hair's breadth away from melting down (we did end up lowing the criteria a lot for her). It felt like a less successful week than the previous one. But I need to remember, I don't think Iris would have been successful at any of these exercises a few weeks. Even though she didn't handle the class with flying colors, she did MUCH better that I would have expected five weeks ago.

Car Crash Game
Before we started this exercise, Emma talked about how important it is to communicate with other people when moving your dog through a tight space. This isn't always easy because I can be very shy, but it so important to set your dog up for success! Putting Iris in a situation where she'll react is worse than offending someone by asking them to give us a little space.

Emma set up four jumps and had each dog/handler do this pattern simultaneously. We had to talk to each other to make a plan about how to pass safely (who was going to go first, whether one dog had to step to the side, etc).

I was actually pretty worried about how Iris would handle this exercise. Dogs walking straight towards her is definitely a trigger. She ended up doing a LOT better than I expected. I had her sit slightly to the side when the other dog passed us and she did really well with it.

Scramble Heeling
We continued working on the scramble healing exercise from last week. Iris does pretty well with it. I'd like to try it in an outside-of-class situation. I think that would really change it for her.

Parallel Running With Off-Switch Game
Next we worked on parallel running with the off-switch game. This was REALLY hard for Iris. Emma had two dogs run from one end of the room to the other, play, and then stop play and get the default behavior. Dogs playing really pushed Iris right to her threshold. She was as close to her threshold as she could be without completely melting down. She was doing some barking but it would be one or two woofs and then I could get her to work again a little. She wasn't actually exploding at the other dog. Because Iris was having so much trouble, Emma had us stop and work on LAT while the other dog played instead of running with the other dog. Of everything we've worked on in class, other dogs playing is definitely the biggest trigger for Iris.

Next we did a variation of the same game, but this time one dog ran and played parallel to a little agility course.

When we started this, Emma asked me how I thought Iris was doing. I told her that I thought Iris was pretty much fried for the day. Emma agreed and Iris sort of sat this exercise out. I brought her off to the side and worked on LAT while the rest of the class did the exercise. When it was Iris' turn, we decided to have her do a little agility but not have another dog play while she worked. She was so brain fried by that point in class. Being around other dogs who are playing is definitely something we need to work on in the future because it's such a huge issue for Iris.

Look At That! With a Person
One of the other students in class has a very exuberant Aussie. He's really friendly but can get over-the-top excited when he greets people. His owner asked Emma if we could work on that a little bit. Emma walked around the room and everyone played LAT while she walked by. The goal was to have the dogs glance at the new person and then reorient.

Also, Emma talked about ways to train an appropriate greeting. When strangers ask to pet your dog, they often bend over and stretch out their hand. Emma suggested teaching the dog to hand target the outstretched hand. For the greeting, you end up with a dog that touches the outstretched hand and then reorients to you for the reward. I hadn't thought of this before, but it is a really simple solution. Emma also talked about training reactive dogs to target a shoe instead of a hand, something she also teaches in her reactive dogs class. The reasoning behind it is if you ask someone to let your dog touch their shoe, the person tends to stand up straight with their hands at their side. It's much less threatening than leaning forward and reaching out for the dog, which is what most non-dog people tend to do.

We're done with CU now and I would definitely recommend this class, especially for anyone who does dog sports. Emma isn't offering at the MSPCA until next fall, but she is offering it at Masterpeace on Thursdays starting in July. I might be crazy enough to drive down for it. The class was REALLY worth it for Iris.


Jules said...

I am so glad you enjoyed the class. I am thinking about signing Bug up for Thursdays in July. I think he would benefit from it.

Blue said...

It's a class I think I would take with any dog I was starting agility with. It was such a good opportunity to practice around some tough distractions. I'm really leaning toward putting Iris in the class at Masterpeace because we got so much out of this one. Even though it's a bit of a drive, I don't really want to wait until September for the next class at the MSPCA!

Keeping fingers crossed that it won't be an issue in July but if you're still worried about Bug jumping, agility really isn't the focus of the class. Emma even offered to have us do rally or obedience exercises instead of agility, but our whole class was agility folks. I'm sure you could use jump bars on the ground (all the Aussies and BCs were jumping 4" in class) or substitute some obedience stuff.