I joined her class in Lynnwood for Tuesday evenings, but didn't realize the drive would be so impossible. Who knew rush hours starts at 2:00 in Seattle - making a 1:15 drive into 3 hours. I'd left so early since I'd never been there before and wanted to be ahead of time to scope the place out and acclimate Gimme. We got there in time for the last 15 minutes of class. Kathy was so nice and had all of us work on an extra training exercise after the discussion (using up her between class break) - just so I'd have something to go home with.
The handout she gave us on analyzing behavior progress looks good after a quick glance. If its as promising as the first few lines suggest, I'll probably blog about it. Just the same, in the fifteen minutes of class we got, I discovered how stuck Gimme is on our "close" behavior - where she backs around me, starting and ending in hip (standing heel). So to help her get unstuck, I've started teaching her "bacon" (a cue made from back-on) to back to and on a platform, even if she must back around something. The first session went well. This stems from something I talked about last month and you can see it at the link out and around. I talked then about cleaning up Gimme's backing up concept, so now I have another reason to do so - thus "bacon".
Fortunately Kathy has another much closer classes in Fife on Thursdays. I never even looked at the Fife schedule, assuming they were afternoon/evening and would conflict with agility. Turns out they are morning classes, so we've joined this class and went this morning for the first time. Also Kathy arranged for me to get a prorated refund - even though the Lynnwood facility handles the enrollment in classes and they have a no-refund policy after 48 hours before the first class. The class we joined this morning started last week, so she has arranged for me to get into this class prorated to 5 of 6 classes.
The class this morning was really good. I've never worked with Kathy as an instructor, so I didn't know what to expect. She started by introducing Gimme and I, making sure everyone was clear on her space needs. I found all her explanations good and answers to questions were clear. The class had a definite plan and we all knew what we were going to learn before we even started (you know how much I love this style of teaching). I sure hope all the classes are as good as this one.
I learned an important distinction about Rally FrEe pivots, which I was completely unaware of. If you pivot and turn toward your dog, then your dog's front feet are the pivot point and should remain roughly in one place. If you pivot and turn away from your dog, then you are the pivot point and your feet should remain roughly in one place. So you have to think about which way you are pivoting relative to where your dog is. Gimme has a really good counter-clockwise pivot in heel, so I volunteered her to demonstrate. I thought I was doing it with Gimme as the pivot point, but Kathy pointed out our pivot point was actually between the two of us, so another thing learned.
The exercise was a series of graduated tasks, teaching the dogs to use their rear end as you do a 90° turn. She wanted us to work our dogs on the weakest side, which was a great reminder because I was already mentally ready to do it on our easy side (dog on left). There was four ring gates forming a square with 6' sides, guides forming a square with 2 foot sides, a large cone and two flat-bottomed bowls to work pivots on.
The first thing I discovered was how incredibly sloppy and lazy my training technique has become without an instructor to keep a watchful eye on me. The second thing I learned was Gimme doesn't work many tasks nearly as well as I thought when I get food out of my hand. I'm not luring her in the sense of having food at her nose, but food in my hand presents a mental lure and if its not there, she doesn't focus. This despite our training at home with all food off my body. This will be invaluable for our long term goals.
Case in point was how poor Gimme's "side" (right side standing heel) was with no food in my hand (resting on my hip). So I started on the 6' box just click/treating for moving at "side". By the second time around we were able to focus on clicking her rear movement on the corners. Then we repeated the process with the 2' box and then the cone.
I discovered another interesting thing at the pivot platforms. Even though Gimme has a ton of experience with our wooden pivot platform at home and did it in class from my left side, she was clueless when I asked her to get on it from my right side. Here is a behavior I would have thought she had 100% fluency and yet it is clearly not one she has generalized. So another thing to train.
I really have a lot of things to work on between now and next Thursday. Its kinda exciting.