Thursday, May 10, 2012

Novice Obedience - Part II

Two posts ago, I shared the first half of the Novice-level Obedience skills that Kash needs to know in order to compete in trials.  Here are the remaining three skills that he needs to work on.

Exercise 5:  Recall
In this exercise, your dog starts from a sit in heel position (at your left side).  On the judge's cue, you tell your dog to "Wait" and walk about 40' away and turn and face your dog. When the judge tells you to, you call your dog.  Your dog should come in fast and straight, sitting promptly in front of you, without being cued to do so.  Your dog needs to be close enough so that you can reach your dog without moving forward (bending obviously necessary for the shorties!).  Finally, you ask your dog to "Finish" (return to heel position).  This can be done two ways - from the left or the right, which are two quite different behaviours.

Kash's Progress:  Kash knew a generic "front" from his Rally training, but practicing it in the context of this exercise, I quickly learned that he didn't understand the position quite as well as I thought he did.  He sometimes would come in crooked, or he would self-finish, going back to heel before I cued.  So we've gone back to teaching a game of "find front" in which he has to find the position, be straight, and come in fast, from different angles. It's coming along well.  As a separate exercise, I am also practicing the "formal" version by putting him in a wait, walking away, and calling him to front.  Here is an example of what it looks like (although in this video I asked him to sit from a distance - just happened to be what we were working on at that moment when I recorded it):

We will continue to work this exercise until he is confidently and quickly finding "front" position from many angles.  His finishes are decent - they don't need much tuning up other than continually reinforcing faster and faster reponses.

Exercise 6:  Long Sit
In this exercise, all of the dogs in the Novice class will enter the ring together, and sit next to each other (several feet apart).  On the judge's cue, all of the dogs are asked to "Stay", and I will walk about 40' away to the other side of the ring and stand facing my dog.  The dogs have to hold a sit-stay for 60 seconds, at which point we return to our dogs and wait until the judge declares the exercise complete. 

Kash's Progress:  Kash finds this exercise quite simple in most environments.  Sitting for 60 seconds is not that hard for him. We have "overtrained" the behaviour so that he is actually doing 90-second stays in training. This way, 60 seconds will look easy-peasy in the ring. The only situation I need to get a bit more practice in is in dog-heavy environments.  He has no problems performing at local parks where dogs are moving by on-leash (and occasionally off-leash, despite the leash laws of the city!), in pet stores, and any part of our property, but I haven't actually worked him in a dog-heave "event" simulating a show environment.  I will get the chance to get some good practice in in a few weeks when we attend our first agility trial of the year, I'll make sure to do some stays with him there. 

Exercise 7: Long Down
This exercise is the same as the Long Sit, except that the dogs have to hold a Down position for 3 minutes.

Kash's Progress: We have been slowly working up to three minutes (haven't really worked on it much prior to this point, to be entirely honest!).  All has been going very well, though.  No real issues, we've done a few full 3-minute stays very well, although we still bounce between 2 and 3 minutes to keep it fun for him. Like the Long Sit, I will "overtrain" this up to 4 minutes so that 3 minutes seems really easy for him.  Nothing like making the ring environment seem easier than the training one!

That's the entire sequence of exercises in a nutshell.  In order to achieve this title, he needs to get a qualifying score (which means he needs a total of 170 points, minimum, out of a possible 200) in 3 different trials, under 2 different judges. 

Our goal is to be ready for October, although it's looking like we may make our debut a little bit earlier, and I may consider entering him in his first run in July to see where we are at! There's also the Terrier Specialty in Halifax in August, which I can't really say no to........oh dear. There's just too much to decide!

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