'/> The PR Gang: Out and About

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Out and About

Since our amazingly fabulous and at the same time disappointing debut at our first competition we've gone back some some basics in our training. Because of Roxy's trepidation in performing with lots of people and dogs around the ring as well as reactive issues, I decided we needed to do some more socializing, sloooowly. Besides our usual walks around Old San Juan, we've been to a new park, a couple of mall parking lots and to Ponce, on the south side of the island, to check out the grounds for the next show. I need to have Roxy's attention on ME no matter what the circumstances.
Practicing maneuvers with various distractions is called proofing. I had fallen in to a false sense of security in my training because the majority was done in my house and at a park near my house. These are comfortable places for us. We know the surroundings, the people and the dogs that may show up and it's easy to ignore what we see everyday. When we get to a new place, Roxy's head goes up, the ears are pricked and attentive, eyes wide and alert and her brain is going at hyperspeed. WOW!!! JUST LOOK AT ALL THIS! I'm obviously not nearly as exciting as that smell over there, those people having a picnic, that person in the big scary hat or that disgusting piece of trash. So what am I, the handler, supposed to do? And how do I compete with all this? Luckily Roxy is food and toy motivated, although not so much that if something is really freaking her out that she'll look to me for advice. We've had to work slowly on this and at quite some distance. I use really yummy(for her)treats and toys. She loves a good game of fetch and jumping up to catch things. If I whip out a toy that she loves and get very excited about it, it's contagious. She then focuses on me and what I have in my hand rather than whatever else has caught her attention.
I've read a couple of good books lately of which one in particular has been very helpful. It's called Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. Leslie is a behaviorist and the book is aimed at agility dogs but the principle can be used with any type of reactive dog. Some of the stuff at the beginning is a little New-Age-y for me but hey, whatever works.
As far as actual Rally moves, of which there are 31 signs for Novice, we've been working mostly on heeling skills, tighter turns(especially left) and the Down-walk around dog. Roxy tends to sit up when I get behind her. I 'm guessing this is because she can see me easier and also really wants that treat! I'd say we've got about a 50% success rate right now. I started out telling her to stay in the down position and putting a few treats right in front of her. Then each time I walk a little further around her. Sometimes I stop by her hindquarters and come back, other times I move out away from her. I continue to change it around because she tends to get bored. YO! Mom, I did it twice already. What MORE do you want?!
After a long, very exciting weekend on the other side of the island we had a couple of rest days in our own comfortable surroundings and are ready for more adventure in the next couple of weeks leading up to a show on the first weekend of December.
So that's what's happening on my little island. Until next time, Train, don't complain!

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