It seems I have finally found the motivation to start working on some agility things with Sei. Yesterday he saw his first jump, and it was kind of fun. The problem is that where to start with agility is a huge analysis paralysis trap. What handling system? Handling or equipment introduction? Do I use the class I already have (Shape Up, some equipment, some handling), buy Silvia Trkman’s foundations DVD (equipment/skill focused), buy the FDSA handling intro course (handling focused)? Can I even self evaluate handling in a bronze level class, or would there be a huge benefit to waiting until I can do it at gold (probably)? Can I even justify purchasing something new when there are also equipment costs on the horizon. I only have jumps without wings at the moment, and most foundation agility programs need at least 1 tunnel and some wings. Wings are easily made from PVC, but tunnels and even homemade bags are more expensive.
Should I even be doing jumping? Sei is over a year (15 months), but under a year and a half. When I talked to the ortho vet about agility and jumping foundations last month, he cleared Sei for such activities given his fitness background, the program I had in mind, and that it is not something we train extensively everyday. X-rays were not taken though, so growth plate closure is not known. Is it really any different than the jumping he does in disc? It is probably safer because it is more controlled than disc (whether I should have been doing disc or not is whole ‘nother can of worms I have wrestled with). Does the fact I am doing something that is potentially worse justify doing something a little less risky? That is bad logic!
I decided to sidestep most of equipment and agility specific issues, and work on an FDSA course in my library called Jumping Gymnastics. It is a course focused on conditioning for jumping, and teaching the dog how to jump effectively and safely. All you need is 4 jumps, and some toy skills. Which I would like to think we have! It will be a nice, easy, skill based contrast to the work I will be doing following along with the Boogey-Dog course this semester. I want something that is just going to be fun and not feel like endless drilling with me screwing up, and Sei getting frustrated. Perrin’s love of jump grids have given me a +CER to them, and the course is set up with a focus on errorless learning so I thought it would be a good fit in that regard as well. Today we started with our baseline videos for the set point exercise.
The Set Up
Sei is currently somewhere between 20.75″-21″, so I used a jump height of 20″ as per the AAC rules. I used one of my cavalettis as the stride regulator, and used distances of 4.5′, 5′, and 6′. We did 2 reps of each distance, for a total of 6 reps. Here is one of each, in real time and slow motion:
The 4.5′ and 5′ distances are too close for Sei. He is taking off much closer to the jump than he lands. The 6′ distance is better, but it is still a little unbalanced. The next time we work on this I will be curious to try a couple larger distances, or use the same distances and a 16″ jump, and see what happens. It is also clear that he is pulling from his front end rather than pushing from his rear. This is the sort of thing that the course is designed to help with through both conditioning and jumping exercises. I also wonder if I was standing a bit too close to the jump and affecting how he was landing (decelerating to prepare for the tug). I will stand farther away next time and see.
In terms of the skills department, I was so happy with our toy skills, hand touches and waits/breaks here! These have mostly been edited out of the video, but I felt good about them. I used hand touches to set him up behind the set point where he needed to be, he waited until I released him every time (although I didn’t push my luck on this part, I kept it at a level I figured he would be successful at, saying ‘tug’ while I was still in motion rather than stopping and waiting first), he drove straight over the jump to the toy (never going around or under the jump, where did he learn that? He saw his first jump yesterday! I certainly didn’t teach it!), outing the toy when asked, the whole bit! Whoohoo! I started out tugging, outing the toy, then taking Sei back to the set point to go again. I realized that the smarter thing to do would be to tug with Sei all the way back to the set point, then set him up. He liked that a lot better! (EDIT: Watching the slow motion video, he did actually break his stay once before his marker. I presented the toy a fraction of a second before giving my cue, and he broke on the toy presentation. I would have never seen that without the video replay).
In terms of smart training, I should consider stationing Sei between reps while I measure and change the set up. Either in a down if I think he can hold it (questionable) or give him a station. This would be a smart thing to work on now to set us up for success in future agility training.
Tomorrow is a long drive back to the farm, then we will be at the cottage for a few days. So we will likely not work on this specific exercise for a few days. Tomorrow I will do some fitness work focussing on the core and rear, and then the cottage days will be full of swimming, so that will be fun and fitness!
We have been training, but working on FDSA gold spots. I tend not to log here when I have gold spots because our work is being logged in that format instead.
We have been in a bit of a rut with training, and I have been wanting to work on more shaping. The issue has been that Sei does not wait nicely while I work with Perrin. After a lot of work, we have started to get somewhere with that! Husbandry is another thing I have been meaning to work on seriously with Sei, because he is not very tolerant of handling AT ALL. So today I finally made some headway on all three fronts!
I worked on both dogs on chin rests on the coffee table for the purposes of husbandry procedures. They are in different phases of training on this, so it is an interesting exercise. The idea is that while the dog has their face on the table, I can do some sort of procedure (ear drops, eye drops, getting goopies out, looking at teeth, etc). Sei is just learning the chin
Perrin is pretty proficient at the chin rest part, and is extremely tolerant of handling. This makes him a very forgiving student while I am learning! The only time he objected to something I did was a slight head movement away when I put my hand over his nose. This allowed me to work through that and split it out into smaller pieces. And Sei stayed in his down almost the whole time! Whoohoo!
Sei is very new to this. I had never trained the chin rest part before today. We did one session earlier today on shaping the chin rest, but that is it. He learned really fast! I did a session with Perrin first, which I think helped Sei along.
I didn’t realize how worried Sei was about the tripod. He has a history of not liking it, but he kept an eye on it the whole session. His enthusiasm is much lower than the earlier session, and I think that is why. You can also see that Sei did decline to continue at the end, so he got a cookie and we quit. My timing is poor several times in the middle and I ended up clicking a few head motions away.
Today was a busy day in dogland! Sei worked on tugging for our toy class, name game fun for our loose leash walking class, and his fitness routine for our case study. Perrin did his fitness routine for our case study, and came for a run with me. The entirety of our fitness videos are here, only so I have them stored in another place other than my hard drive in case of a catastrophe. The llw name game video is from yesterday, but we did the same thing 3x today.
I was away with Sei for the weekend, so he didn’t get much training other than basic life skills. Perrin worked on nosework with Jake this weekend while they were home together.
On Sunday, Sei and I went to disc, and he absolutely rocked it! Even after being in the car most of the weekend and not sleeping most of the night before. He nailed all the tricks he knows just like we were at home, made some really great catches on long throws despite my inability to throw, and was just an all round sunshiny ray of enthusiasm. Once we got home, Perrin and Sei did a few rounds of nosework each.
Today, I worked on toy skills with Perrin: adding basic work into play for the first time. Mainly sits/stays/release to tug. He worked really nicely, and was still enthusiastically interested in the tug after 5 or so minutes of playing that game. We are definitely making progress there!
Sei and I worked some more jumping through the hoop, but I used a tug this time instead of a thrown toy. The change in how reinforcement was delivered definitely seemed to change the picture a bit for Sei. He was more focused on the game we were playing rather than racing around with the toy. I am starting to get more comfortable on how to use toys to reinforce work, but I am a long way off from proficiency yet!
I also noticed how differently Sei and Perrin need me to play tug with them. Perrin doesn’t get into tug much until I really start pulling back actively on the tug, especially if I am facing him head on. If I played that way with Sei, he would let go and run off. Sei prefers to win more, to ‘drag’ me backwards by the toy and to get to keep it.
My canine fitness equipment arrived today, so I was able to get the basement set up. It will be a week or so until I can get the inflatables filled up to their proper sizes (the pump that has the appropriate fitting is not very powerful, so they need to rest between fillings before I can add more air). Then I can start getting Perrin and Sei’s (and my last!) case studies started.
We have continued to work on different things around here. On Sunday I finally got around to finishing the videos for Perrin’s expert trick dog title, and Sei’s novice trick dog titles. So now they both have new titles! Whoohoo! I will get around to uploading the videos on YouTube eventually…
Today Sei went for his first cruise by the local dog park. He doesn’t see many dogs in his life, and I was curious to see how he reacted to many dogs doing crazy things in the distance. He was solid! Looked at them interestedly, but didn’t get excited or over aroused. He easily played with me instead, but got distracted from time to time. Good start! His walking on a leash leaves lots to be desired though….Funny how having a yard (ie no leash required for bathroom trips) has put leash walking lower on my list of things to do.
I need to start working on practical things with Sei, because it’s getting a little out of hand. Playing in new places (he plays *amazing* in the back yard, time to take the show on the road), stationing/staying in an open crate while Perrin works, recalls, and loose leash walking are priorities.
I tried putting the manners minder in the soft crate for Sei while I worked Perrin, and that worked great until it was Sei’s turn to come out. He wouldn’t. So I left him there and Perrin and I went upstairs (crate was open) and turned the downstay function off so he wouldn’t be getting any treats. Well that was a bad idea, because once Sei came upstairs I went down to take the manners minder out of the crate. Perrin and Sei followed me down, and Perrin stuck his head in the soft crate while I was in it pulling the manners minder out. Sei found that extremely offensive, and made it very clear to Perrin that he thinks that space is his alone. Luckily Perrin is a sensible guy and didn’t escalate things. Guess I will have to come up for a better plan, because I don’t want Sei guarding the crate. The prospect of a dog fight in a crate is not a good one.
Sei worked on a bit of the boring stuff today (downs, hand touches, waiting while we eat, etc), but the fun part of today was disc!
Disc with Sei is just so fun! I bring the discs out every now and again to see how he feels about them, and last night he decided that he liked them WAY more than before! We worked on some out of hand takes with two discs (he takes one disc from my hand, and another one appears! So he comes back, dropping the first to get the second, so I pick up the first. Repeat). Then I was just throwing some for him to fetch. Normally the disc hits the ground before he gets to it, but this time, he jumped way up in the air and snagged it! His first disc catch! I don’t want him jumping like that regularly at this age, and now I will be more thoughtful with my throws in the future knowing that jumping wildly for discs is in his behaviour repertoire, but it was pretty cool to see him do!
This morning we worked more on the two disc game, and I started adding a short little floaty toss right in front of me instead of holding the disc. This added a number of complications. One, I had figure out where Sei was, and how fast he was moving to determine when I needed to toss the disc in the air such that he had enough time to see the disc, understand to catch it instead of taking it from my hand, and figure out what he needed to do with his body to catch it. Two, to make that process easier for Sei, I wanted to give him a cue in advance of tossing the disc, so he knew where it would be going. This cue had to be timed right too.
Not shockingly, I quickly learned that my timing is pretty awful.
I was late with my catch cue a lot, which led to Sei missing the disc, jumping wildly for it, or running into it with his feet or chest. Poor boy. I found it really hard to judge his speed when he was running towards me. We haven’t played this kind of game enough for me to have a good feel for his gait (not to mention he is growing and changing continually at this stage). He also is not practiced at this, so needs more time to process than an older dog might. I’m also still learning how to throw the discs with any kind of proficiency, so I don’t have a good feel for how long it takes me to execute a throw, and how long a disc will hang in the air.
After some messy rounds, we got a few really nice catches strung together with a beautiful flow. That feeling is the same way I felt when I started Perrin in agility. Team work, and partnership. Both halves of the team are working together with different skill sets to make it happen. Those couple of catches have made me happy all day.
We worked a little bit more when I got home. It wasn’t quite as good a session (he was a bit worked up after being let out for the first time in 5 hours), but Im going to put it here for future reference. It is unedited except for trimming the ends off. My video editing and storage computer had an unfortunate run in with some liquid, so until (or if) it is back up and running, video will be minimal.
Perrin worked on a few tricks that he knows like leg weaves and hitting a bass drum, but not anything new, or overly fun for him. Poor guy is still recuperating with his hot spot.
Perrin had to go to the vet today for the horrible hot spot under his ear. Vets offices can be a hard place for Perrin, with other dogs in a variety of arousal states from calm to excited to scared. We lucked out on only having one other dog in the waiting room for a short period of time, so he could just relax. He behaved delightfully and charmed everyone there. Hopefully we now have the meds to get this nasty hot spot cleared up.
After Perrin got his pain killers, he was in a very chipper mood. I decided to shoot another TEAM1 run through when he was feel a bit better than yesterday. I’m not going to pick this one apart, most of the issues from yesterday are still there (naturally, we didnt do any training to work on them or studying of the rules to avoid rule violations) and my camera died at the end, so we didn’t get quite a full recording. The point of this one was for me to get a feel for if the exercise was too long and we have to work on duration, or if Perrin’s lack of enthusiasm yesterday was because he was feeling sick. Given the enthusiasm he gave me the whole time today, I think yesterday was an outlier due to illness. (Ignore Sei, he thought it was the height of unfairness to be in his crate while Perrin was working).
No video for Sei today. We worked on some loose leash walking, foot targeting a pivot platform, nose touches, wrapping a cone and downs.
Today before I left for class, I worked on nose targeting a target stick with both dogs. This particular target stick came with the Manners Minder and has a base that makes it into a verticle target (although I may stick it into something else, because the base is tippy and it throws both dogs off after an enthusiastic nose touch).
Perrin understood immediately that the game was about the target stick, and that it involved his face. The only problem is that he thought that he should take it, rather than touch it with his nose. We had to step backwards from where I thought we could start, to clean up the nose touching. I want nose touches of the foam target only. No grabbing the stick, no biting the foam ball, no licking. Once I clear up that understanding, I think the rest of the training (adding it to the base, moving the base around, adding distance, adding a cue) will likely progress more smoothly as Perrin is fairly familiar with those things. Well, other than adding a cue. I never assume that will go well. (NOTE TO SELF: check TEAM rules to see if I can set up the target stick when I need it. Then I can just use the context cue of the target stick being in the training space for the time being).
Sei picked up the nose targeting super duper fast. He has a very limited repertoire of behaviours at the moment, none of which has a huge reinforcement history behind it. However nose touches with my hand have one of the stronger histories (second only to sitting). His first guess on what to do with the target stick was to nose touch it, and he was quickly following the stick around to new positions to touch it. Good start!
Today we did a few more key retrieves. I didn’t hide them under anything today, but we moved into the kitchen. He also practiced some basic stays with Sei.
I also went through TEAM1 requirements to see what holes/skills I need to work on with Perrin to put the whole performance together.
Vertical Target: I have taught a general nose touch, and he will foot target just about anything as a first shaping attempt, but nothing vertical. I think I will take the vertical target from the Manners Minder and work on putting a vertical target behaviour on cue
Backing Up: Perrin knows how to back up but he does it in fits and starts rather than cleanly if he is backing away from me rather than in heel position. I will likely have to re-teach it to get it clean enough.
Sends: Another thing that he knows, but just is not as clean as I would like it. I think that my cue is bad, because he offers it beautifully if I set a cone down to shape with it, but he is slow and unenthusiastic if I cue it. I will have to refine this one a bit.
Other than those, I think the behaviours are solid. That does not mean it will be easy to get it all together into the videos. It will require many takes. I will screw up. Perrin will screw up. Sei will cry too loud to hear me in the video. This will likely be a winter project. Maybe this weekend I will do a mock run through to establish a baseline.
The boring basics were the name of the game today. Discriminating between ‘sit’ and ‘spin’. Sits. Sit stays. Adding a cue to a down when I could capture it. We did a little shaping for targeting a platform, which he did great with! He just seems to understand shaping now in a way that he did not before. He is much more intentional in his movements, and you can see the wheels turn in his head; he is starting to actually understand how the game works.