I’ve made some changes in my training routine since getting back to three dogs, and I think I have come up with a decent system. First, I have uncoupled training and exercise. Doing both together is a hang-over from when I had just one dog. I used to take him out for hours on end, and would train and play and run and hang out all in one big long session. I just can’t do this with three, or even with two. If I have more than one dog with me, I find it very difficult to train. Maybe when they are more advanced I’ll be able to do it.
So I now run the three together and give them a good workout. Then we train at home in the basement, one dog at a time. This is working MUCH better than doing individual long exercise and train sessions.
This week I have been working on the rear end awareness exercises I learned at the workshop. Ross is the best at them, probably because I have made this a real focus for him for some time now. One of the exercises is getting the dog to go into increasingly smaller boxes. Ross is able to get all four feet into a box that is only about 6x8inches now! Neither of the other two can do that. Mira is still working on the biggest box, and Hannah can go one size down. But Ross just dives in to even this tiny box. I now have to find one even smaller for his next level!
One thing that I don’t seem to be doing right is this new method of teaching backing up. I described it briefly before, but basically you toss treats to the dog every time it moves one of its feet back a little. The treat is to land between its paws so the dog has to reverse again to get it. The second it does so, you toss more treats. This makes it a very dynamic process and the dog learns to keep moving its feet to keep getting cookies.
The problem is the treats go flying in every direction. I am training on a cement floor and using kibble, and it bounces and scatters everywhere. So we basically end up with a hockey game with the dog diving every which way to get treats, and me not sure if they are really learning anything. They do love it though! Even the cats get in on the action, as by the end of the session there is kibble everywhere. Kibble is a real treat in my house as I rarely have it around. I am going to try this on carpet to see if it works any better, and also make some liver treats that hopefully will bounce less.
The dogs do seem to be getting the idea that backing up is good though, as they now offer it for almost everything. So something is clicking. Hopefully I’ll know more once I’ve given this a little more time.
I’ve learned a few more things this week as well. First, my timing needs work. Second, don’t train ‘it’s your choice’ right before you train kibble hockey (aka backing up). Third, fade the clicker out of dynamic exercises very quickly, otherwise you get a sticky dog. I have this problem with several exercises, where the dog has learned to do a set of repetitions, then stop in anticipation of a reward. Getting them to move around on a pedestal is one of these and I’m not sure how to get past that. Something to work on next week.
Fourth, I am going to put a training log book in my training area and make notes at the end of each session as I know there were more things I wanted to write down, but can’t for the life of me remember right now!
And finally, I am going to make up exercise lists and post them to my wall so I don’t have to stand around trying to remember what I wanted to do. I am going to set up groups of exercises, perhaps 5 sets, and then I can work through them during the week. I also need to identify my goals for each dog, which I’ll do in the training log. So far I am doing the same thing with each dog to get them all to the same place, but each has his or her strength or weakness that will need attention. I need to write all of this down so that I don’t have to work by memory as I find that is just not reliable enough!
Last but not least, I need to make a jump so I can start working on the 1-jump stuff. That workshop was so much fun, and I can’t wait to get down to practicing. If only all my homework was this much fun!