Over the last month, it's become apparent that we have quite a bit to work on this year. Most of my goals are for Rye and for me because we need the most work.
|What do you mean we have things to work on?|
Our biggest goal for training is to compete in an agility trial before the year is over. Rye really loves agility and she has come so far in the 8 months or so that we've been training. I had planned to compete last fall, but then Rye got a little wild. Over the summer, we'd been doing 2 classes a week plus working in the backyard almost every day, and she was really focused. Then I went back to work and we went down to one class a week and she lost a bit of that focus. Last week, we identified some clear goals to work on and once we're a little more solid with those skills, we'll find a trial to enter.
Rye's biggest strength is her contacts on the a-frame, teeter, and dog walk, so we try to incorporate a little bit of that into each session to make sure she's doing something that gives her a lot of confidence. She knows when she hits that dog walk or a-frame she's supposed to go all the way to the end, plant her front feet on the ground, keep her back feet on the equipment, and hold that pose until I release her--no matter what I'm doing. We don't have the room (or the money!) for our own a-frame or dog walk, but we do have a plank that's about as wide as the dog walk that we use to practice our contact behaviors. We work on different crosses at the end and different lengths of holding her stay, too, because those are always skills that can be reinforced. Rye also has really strong weaves and she loves them, so we try to work on different entrances and driving forward as she comes out of them. The basement isn't the ideal place for that since there's not a ton of room, but just having those moments where she's focused on reading me is important.
The thing we really need to work on, though, is tight turns over jumps. A big part of our issues are my fault. I've spent the last 6+ years training with a dog who jumps 20 inches. With Barley, I don't really have to think about how I'm moving. We are usually so connected that we just kind of move in sync. Rye, though, only jumps 16 inches, so all of my movements are way above her head and that usually means "hey, we're jumping big!" Combine that with Rye's independence and the fact that she finds agility highly rewarding and she makes up her own courses every time we need a tight turn. We've got a couple drills we can do in the basement with one jump to work on turns--I'm still struggling to get my hand lower so she can read the turns better before she takes off, but we'll get there. The best part is that all of these little drills are games that make the training extra fun for Rye.
My other big goal with Rye is to develop a solid leave it. This dog is a scavenger. She steals everything. If I accidentally shut the treat drawer with a tiny corner of treat bag sticking out of the drawer, she can open the drawer and then runs around the house shredding the bag (while Barley follows her eating the treats she doesn't realize she's dropping). She finds soggy hamburger and hot dog buns along the sidewalk every trash day and I have to stick my hand down her throat to fish them out.
|Leave an empty plastic bottle on the coffee table and she steals it.|
I know our struggles are as much me as they are her--we need more solo walks to work on this in the real world and we also need to practice in low distraction areas in the house with things that won't hurt her if she doesn't listen and gobbles them up. The challenges of having two dogs who have different training needs are really becoming apparent.
Barley's still her perfect self and we don't really have any new training goals for us. I just want to keep reinforcing all of her really good behaviors to make sure she doesn't decide that Rye has more fun that she does. I have noticed that her watch command isn't as strong as it used to be, so we've been working on that one (which is also something Rye needs more work on, too) when Barley and I have been taking solo walks lately. Barley used to get at least one solo walk a week after agility class, but then Rye joined the same class and there were fewer daylight hours in the week, so we're looking forward to longer spring days when it's easier to get both dogs out on their own.
Barley's had seven strong years of setting new training goals, so I'm excited for 2018 to be the year of Rye's goals and Barley's maintenance training. We're starting out with two good dogs already, so I'm excited to see where we end by December!
Our theme this month is training goals, but we welcome any positive training posts! Be sure to check out all of the other great blogs linking up with us, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Wag 'n Woof Pets for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop to see what other training goals are being set this year. I'm sure that I'll have a whole new set of goals by the time I'm done reading!
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