Monday, February 5, 2018

2018 Training Goals

The beginning of the year is always so hectic with returning from holiday travels, getting the dogs back into their classes after a month off, and preparing to go back to my own classes after a month off. Even though January is the time of resolutions and goal setting, I often feel like the beginning of the year is too chaotic to really start committing to goals and actually stick with them. I'm loving the idea of waiting until February to really focus on our training goals for the year.

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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14 comments:

  1. Sounds like some good goals. Madison jumps 8", so that would be a whole new world for you, and she is super slow. Not sure if she will ever compete, but it is fun for now. It is true, if you don't work on skills, they will go away, but they also come back faster too. Enjoy your training.

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    1. I'm positive I would lose a dog that jumped 8! I'm not used to looking that low at all. Barley sets her pace to match mine, but Rye is a firecracker, so I'm definitely learning how to work with different dogs. I'm glad that your mom and Madison are having fun together!

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  2. Sweet girls! Can't wait to hear how Rye does!

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    1. You know you'll be the first to know (unless it's really bad and I have to call her grandma for consolation first! Then you'll be second).

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  3. So much training to do, so little time! :) It is tough when you have multiples and you're trying to do different things at different times. It's nice you have at least some things you can work on together.
    It's definitely a benefit when the days get longer and we don't have to worry about nasty weather keeping us indoors! I have a feeling you'll do very well on achieving your goals.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. I definitely took for granted how easy it was to get in quality training with only one dog! It was even easy when Barley and Rye were still separated because everyone was getting solo training sessions every day. Now that we're all together, it's hard to remember to take that time to focus on one dog at a time.

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  4. First trial! That will be exciting. Which venue are you thinking USDAA, AKC etc? It's definitely harder with multiples to train everyone separately. When we had a foster, Mr. N was upset about not being included so I let him sit in and everyone practiced together.

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    1. We're going to be starting with AKC and CPE--there are several facilities that hold AKC trials regularly near us and our trainers said CPE was very encouraging and focusing on the fun, so that's a good training opportunity. Rye's trainers have said she has what it takes to be a MACH dog, so we'll see!

      Thankfully, we can do a lot of training with both dogs at once, but some of the things like leave it and watch are things Barley knows so well that she'll do it instantly and then start getting pushy about getting her reward while Rye is still figuring it out--and trying to do those things on walks when I have one dog saying "I'm doing what you asked, give me a snack!" and one dog who is so distracted she has no idea what I'm asking and one hand holding leashes and a poop bag and the other holding a treat requires way more coordination than I have! :)

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  5. What Good Dogs! Good spellers too! ;)

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    1. When your mom teaches English, you have to learn to spell ;) They aren't nearly as good at math!

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  6. From that picture, it appears both are pretty good with "leave it."

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    1. Haha! We actually don't use leave it at all for that game :) They have to make the choice to wait until I let them have it all on their own without any words from me!

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  7. I second Pamela's comment about their leave it! :)

    Working with two certainly adds complexity to training, but it sounds like you guys are really up to the challenge!!

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    1. There are days when working with two makes my brain feel like it's going to explode, but it also has plenty of moments that make me laugh harder than anything else. It's definitely an adventure with two :)

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