I haven’t had time to write in several days, but I have been very busy with training. I spent the entire weekend herding with Hannah, and then we attended a fun agility workshop on Monday evening. I will write more about that shortly.
Yesterday I also spent time training Ross. We did some obedience work and tracking. Ross continues to amaze me with his enthusiasm. He is such a fun dog to train! We probably wouldn’t do well in traditional obedience because Ross is just so bouncy and boisterous that I’m sure we’d lose points for precision. But I love that about him and never would try and suppress it. So, we will probably do Rally-O, although I may give formal obedience a shot because he really is quite good.
This week we are working on heeling backwards, on either side of me. He sometimes ends up a little crooked so we do it against a wall or fence to force him to stay straight. Location of reward is also important and I find feeding him on his far side (as opposed to the side closest to me) gets him to stay straighter.
In the agility workshop I took last night, the instructor really got after us about criteria. I have to admit, I have been letting that slip of late, and my other instructors haven’t been giving me heck for it as in general we are performing quite well. I mean, why fuss about little things like releasing my dog – who is able to lie quietly in her crate with the door open while watching other dogs do agility at close proximity – with a ‘get in’ instead of a ‘free’, followed by a ‘get in’?
Well, this instructor was having none of that and made that very clear! We got sent back to the crate to start over, and were corrected on a number of other occasions as well! And with good reason. You let one little thing slide after another, and then suddenly you’ve lost something big.
I think this is my “problem” with Ross. I don’t keep my criteria high enough, or consistent enough, with him. Ross is my baby and I spoil him rotten. As a result, I let him get away with things that I would never allow my other dogs to do. It doesn’t really matter – for the most part – as he pretty much stays out of trouble. But if we ever want to compete, I am going to have to step up my game with him. And he’s certainly capable of much, much more than I have been asking of him. I am now inspired to push us both in that respect.
Ross and I also did some tracking. I haven’t done any tracking with him since winter started, as I thought the snow might cause problems. But I figured I’d give it a try last night. I laid a fairly long track for him (about 150 meters), including a 90 degree turn. When we last tracked, we were just starting to add turns, so I thought this might be too much for him. Well Ross just amazed me! He exploded down the track without hesitation, completely ignoring the treats I had dropped along the way. He even got the turn – with a little help – and dragged me right to the end and his jackpot reward.
I have never seen him so keen or so confident on a track. I don’t know if that’s just him, or if the snow makes it clearer. I found it interesting to watch him follow the scent – which drifted away from my footsteps when the trail crossed the wind – instead of the impressions in the snow. Clearly he was not paying any attention to visual cues.
When a dog tracks, it pulls against its leash. I am going to have to dig out my harness for future training sessions as I have been working hard at his heel and I don’t want that to go out the window because of tracking. The cue to the dog that it is time to track then is clipping the leash from its collar to the harness. I have never used a harness on Ross before, but I don’t expect it to be an issue. He loves to pull and will probably be happy to not be choked in the process!
Once we were finished our session, I let Ross off his leash. He ran back to the start of the track and did a complete victory lap, complete with digging in the snow at the end in case there were any missed treats. He was clearly as pleased with himself as I was!