Sunday, April 22, 2012

Do You Train In a Vacuum?

Meaning, you always train in the same places, with the same people, with the same distractions?  Your dog is in a low state of arousal, because everything is familiar.  Do you train alone, and have a hard time replicating things that happen at a trial? 


So, last week I spent a bit of time trying to replicate the trial setting, while training alone.  It's hard!  What I wanted to do was to get Seeker's state of arousal up, so, his most FAVORITE thing, besides the squeaky ball, is Kruz.  So, I took both boys out to the building and put Seeker on a crate pad.  Kruz then did some 'jumps' (a bar on the ground between two uprights), and tossed a toy reward.  I did lots of clapping, hooting and hollering...which Kruz LOVED, and drove Seeker crazy!  Seeker is a good boy however, and remained on his crate pad. 

Then I swapped the boys out, and played a great game of tug with Seeker in order to keep him up.  Okay, let's be honest, Seeker is always up....but, I wanted him as close to 'trial high' as I could get him.  We did a few short sequences, and they were fairly trial like.  I was happy with his work, but realize the training level was not 'perfect', in regards to the energy he has at a trial. 

I've started playing a radio in the building when I train, just to add some background noise.  A stray chicken or cat might wonder in, but for Seeker that's not much of a distraction.  So, I'll continue to look for opportunities, or ways in which to bring his arousal up. 

Nettle is MUCH easier to distract.  Especially since we have a pair of squirrels living in our trees now.  What a totally AWESOME distraction!!  Unfortunately, or not, Seeker doesn't see these as a distraction when there's agility equipment to play on.  Actually, he doesn't seem to be interested in them much at all.  Net can't focus if there is a squirrel present, so I'll have to be sure to keep them around so we can work through it.  In other words, I have to be more interesting than the squirrel!!!  Hum, maybe a squirrel skin hat? G

In the mean time, Nettle's second greatest distraction is Seeker.  So, he gets used in her training quite a bit.  We play some pretty complicated (for her), sit games.  Meaning, can you sit while I send Seeker through a tunnel, and throw a toy for him.  Can you....sit while I run away and release Seeker to a jump.  This not only helps her understand to hold a position, it was be very helpful in USDAA Pairs, or DAM Relay when you have one dog running and the other (one or two) are waiting.  Does she make a mistake once in awhile?  Sure, but it's no big deal, she just gets put back where she was, and we try again. The nice thing about working with Seeker as a distraction is that I know he will lie down if I ask him...thus Nettle's fun has ended. 

It does take some thought to figure out how you can 'break you training habits' and make it more 'trial' like.  You can do it!  You just need to think about what really puts your dog over the top.  Find what really gets your dog excited, and bring that into your practice session. 

1 comment:

  1. The first time I worked Phoenix in the back yard after the Flying Squirrel Circus moved in, I thought he was going to spontaneously combust. It still isn't easy for him but he's getting much better at sticking to the task at hand. If a squirrel should meet its maker, I'll bring you the skin for a hat.