We didn't have nosework or tracking this week. We'll move to a nosework class on Tuesday nights and this was their last class of the session, so we just skipped and will start with them next week. As for tracking, Nadine had a conflict this week. Its just as well on both counts, since I've been putting a special effort into getting caught up at work and have been pretty bushed by evening. Next Monday through Wednesday, I have all my account transitions from Easter to Mother's Day - so will be beat again, but I know Gimme wouldn't tolerate slacker-me for a second week, so I'll just push through it.
Yesterday's RallyFrEe class was particularly good. Gimme got to demonstrate a number of things. Even though she's a relative newcomer to the intermediate class and we started as beginners, she's already passed the other two students. She is such a quick study and with our false pregnancy issue now resolved, she is progressing very quickly. Its great to be making linear progress (no steps backward). Have I mentioned how much I'm loving this?
The floor for class was again broken up into two sections. We started on the near side which had two platforms and set of guides in a straight line. Then each team, one at a time, did a "thru". Then Kathy and the handler identified the first thing they wanted to improve. Then she coached them on how to get improvement.
She left Gimme for last, which she has taken to doing most of the time, because she's the best (seriously, this isn't just me bragging ☺), so we are showing the more advanced problem solving. Our first challenge was getting past the platforms. Gimme is super-magnetized to platforms and can't resist hopping on them. She nailed each of the two a couple of times, as we were moving to a corner. From there we demonstrated our "thru". Gimme's right-to-left "thru" is very tight, with no improvement needed. However, her left-to-right is loose.
In the course of demonstrating the left-to-right, I got too close to the 16" agility table set in the corner and Gimme spun around to lift both back feet simultaneously and plop them on the table. The whole class broke up laughing, while Kathy and I did our best to not chime in. Gimme was so proud of herself, she certainly needed no encouragement from us.
After this little side-trip, Kathy stood in front of the table so we could get on with demonstrating left-to-right thru. Our solution to getting her to tighten her thru was to use her beloved platform. The first challenge was getting Gimme to stay with me in "side" position and not dash ahead to get on the platform. Lots of treats for staying in "side" solved the problem. Then it was a matter of me learning to adjust my stride so I positioned my forward step where it would leave her room to get on the platform and stop in heel position when I brought my rear foot forward. This issue is a matter of turning radius. Gimme turns sharper to the right than the left which seems like it ought to work for us in this move. However, if you look at it, she starts with a left turn and I think it causes her to carry out too far before she starts the right turn. The platform worked nicely and I will probably try it some more to see if it helps.
After this we worked in pairs, one team on the course and one on the near side of the floor practicing whatever we wanted. I practiced having Gimme NOT leap onto every platform just because it was there. The prevailing wisdom is to not put on cue the platform behavior. So I had to think my way around it and be clear in my head what I wanted her to do. Basically if I have her doing a cued behavior, she should not leave it to leap onto a platform - in which case the platform is a distraction to work through. If she isn't working, she is free to indulge herself. And to be clear, I do have one type of platform work on a cue - its "bacon" (a contraction of back-on, without "back" in the cue) - to back on the platform without going over or beside it with her front feet first.
So for our practice time, this is what we worked on. "Heel" and "side" in the vicinity of platforms and she did very well as long as I paid well, making it clear what I wanted. I do have to say, Gimme is easily the cleverest dog I've ever known. She really tries to follow the rules. However, its just not in her nature to bypass a loophole. So while we were heeling really close, Gimme just couldn't resist lifting both back feet at the same time, taking a full step with both back feet in the air, before plopping them on the platform while keeping her front feet in "heel" position. J'Anna saw this and almost fell out of her chair laughing. I really should put this on cue for my agile little monkey.
For our time on course, Gimme did very well. However, I had problems. I was working her on leash and just couldn't manage the leash on the different "thru" behaviors, which would throw her off. Kathy was coaching me, so I asked her to stand in the gap of the fencing, so I would feel comfortable with Gimme off leash. I didn't think she'd try to bother the other dog, but I wanted a back-up just in case she suddenly thought it an option. She did start toward the gap once, but turned on a thin dime when I called her - she might have been going toward Kathy. Anyway, once we were without the leash, she did really well on all the stations. Kathy thinks we are definitely ready to enter the regional video competition in May, which I've had in my head as a goal.
While Kathy coached the last beginner on the course, she encouraged the 3 intermediates to work together on the near side of the room on focus. Kathy is very good about keeping the intermediate students engaged while she takes time with the beginners. She's really a very good instructor.
Gimme started class with less focus than I've come to expect, but had come around. I really wanted to push the envelope, so I played eye-contact with her and included dropping treats all around her, one at a time and in handfulls. I'd pick them up one at a time and if she was seeking eye contact when I looked toward her (not eye-balling the treat), then I gave it to her. By this time Kathy had finished with beginners and came over to stand behind each of our dogs, one at a time, loudly clapping her hands (she started from far enough away to not scare a dog and moved in as appropriate). When she did this to Gimme, she ended straddling her tail, because Gimme was using her twin laser beams to make sure each of the treats came her way, so ignoring Kathy was a non-issue. Kathy was really impressed and had everyone else watch what we were doing.
To end class, Kathy had us demonstrate the behavior we've been working on, "can" so everyone would know why Gimme was so intent on getting her back feet on the agility table. "Can" is: backing onto a prop, then pivoting around while keeping her rear feet on the prop. At this point, Gimme backs on ("bacon") and then pivots a step or two. I explained how I'd learned treat placement was critically important. Initially I tried treating to the right of her nose to encourage another step, but I was getting a CW spin right off the prop. So I had to treat straight from her nose. I'd also learned I had to be careful to treat low enough so I didn't inadvertently encourage her to sit on the prop. In order to encourage her to take more steps, I jackpot the last two steps where she ends up back in start position. I think she will put this together and start making more steps until she does the entire pivot. I did demonstrate her cued "bacon" behavior as well. Naturally, everyone was suitably impressed.
After class I helped Kathy put stuff away and picked up the signs, and we talked. She was really impressed to learn Gimme should be in a false pregnancy and yet is doing so well. She says Gimme is her most improved student and she really thinks she could go far. I told her how much I hated all the barking in the back-ground to begin with, but as much as it still annoys me, I do think its been good for Gimme. Barking dogs has always been a challenge for her and now she only rarely acts like she notices. At times its so loud I have to cross the floor to hear what Kathy is saying (we crate away from the other dogs), so I'm really happy to see this unintended positive outcome from this personal annoyance.
I love, Love, LOVE having my girlie being so resilient and able to make steady progress. It is so neat to be able to really push for more and more with her - especially as I see her determination to overcome whatever challenge I give her. She is sooooo much fun to train. Be jealous one and all... ☺☺☺