Friday, May 4, 2012

Novice Obedience - What's it all about?

(A little blurry, as it's a phone photo, but a photo of a happy heeler!)

Recently I mentioned that I am going to be making my debut into the Traditional Obedience ring with Kash.  I thought I would take a few moments and share what exactly that means, and what exercises make up the requirements for the first title, called the Companion Dog title.

Exercise 1: Heel on Leash
This exercise is pretty straightforward; it is a heeling pattern that is done on leash, following the judge's orders of the following things:  Forward, left turn, right turn, about turn (where you turn 180 degrees and go in the opposite direction, fast, slow, normal (comes after a fast or slow), and halt.  At "halt", you come to a stop and the dog is expected to sit automatically in heel position without any cues to do so.

Kash's progress: This is already a decent behaviour for him, due to his Rally training. However heeling is one of those things that always needs to be practiced and can always be improved somehow.  Our biggest work has been in making it quieter, as the biggest difference between Rally and Traditional Obedience is that you can interact verbally with your dog in Rally; in Obedience you cannot, so I've been working on removing that verbal feedback so it's not a surprise to him later. And of course just being an adolescent, distractions are important to keep working through.

Exercise 2: Figure 8 Heeling
This exercise is an extension of the on-leash heeling.  Two people stand about eight feet apart and on the judge's order, you walk a figure 8 pattern around the two people.  The dog must ignore the people and remain focused in heel position.  There are two "halts" as well.

Kash's progress: We haven't previously done much of this, so it's something we will need to practice. We have done this exercise using two trees, but no people yet.  I doubt it'll be any issue though because we do lots of regular heeling by people and he does well.  But I'll have to make a point to practice it some!

Exercise 3:  Stand for Exam
In this exercise, on the judge's order you ask your dog to Stand and Stay, and walk 6' away.  The judge then approaches, gently examines your dog by touching it, and your dog has to remain standing, without moving about, and accept the stranger's  touch. When the judge is done, I go back to my dog and he is to remain standing until the judge says we're done!
Kash's progress: We only started teaching this about 3 weeks ago.  He struggled a bit at first, as he has long been conditioned to "Sit to say hi", but I think we've had our lightbulb moment as he seems to really understand the purpose of this exercise now.  Since the initial training, he has now done four perfect Stand for Exams, from start to finish, for four different people.  Four down, forty-six to go.  Just kidding. Well, not really. If I got 50 people to do it for me, then I know he'd never have a problem again! It's something we'll do every chance I get (as in, as much as I can hassle people to help me out!), but I don't really foresee any problems from this point on.

Exercise 4: Heel Off-Leash
This is the same heeling pattern as the heel on-leash, except it is done, well, off-leash!

Kash's Progress:   This should not really be a problem for Kash.  99% of Kash's heel training has been done off-leash. We just have to work on our overall heeling, and continuing to work around distractions, as mentioned above.

Those are the first four exercises that are included in the Novice-level of Obedience.  In my next post I will share the final three exercises, which in total will make up the requirements for his CD (Companion Dog title).  Stay tuned!

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