Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
UWPCH, ADPL3(2), ADPL3(GC), NC, NI, and NE... 41 and counting...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

RFE Assessment #1 (practice 6)

First let me apologize for being so lax in getting back to blogging.  I've managed to cram 5 years worth of being sick into a few weeks time.  I caught the first cold in many years.  Then I, and my family, got hit with the flu, after which I got the cold again.  Meanwhile with this cold I also got a sore throat.  When the sore throat didn't improve with the cold and yesterday seemed to be getting worse, I went to Madigan Army Hospital.  The Physician Assistant confirmed it was time to hit it with big guns.  I know its working well because I feel so much better: Gimme and I walked 3½ miles this morning, then I came home and cleaned out the van.

One reason I decided to get my throat looked at is because last weekend, my mother fell and shattered her wrist.  While she still lives in her home, she does have a fair amount of dementia.  This broken wrist adds a whole new dimension to her care and means she needs assistance 24 hours a day for 6-8 weeks.  Luckily there are five of us, and we've worked out a schedule so she's getting the care she needs and is still able to stay home.  I wanted to make sure my sore throat wasn't exposing Mom to some nasty bug.

Meanwhile, Gimme broke a nail - it didn't hurt for her to walk, but it stuck out oddly and caught on everything.  On Monday she went to the vet, got knocked out, the nail was trimmed back behind the break and now she's much more valuable.  As much as she can be a twit about other things, Gimme's very good about following directions and only needed to be told one time to leave the bandage alone, so recovery has been uneventful and without the dreaded cone-of-shame.

So now you know more than you really wanted to know, eh...  back to dog training...

On December 31st, for RFE practice I set up a course to use almost every station in the novice RallyFrEe.  I wanted to video the performance and then assess each behavior based on several factors, to establish a baseline of the foundation behaviors.  After all, if foundation behaviors aren't solid, scores at higher levels will be affected.   The 27 behaviors in course order are:  Left Heel Forward, Sit-Stand, Circle Around CW, CCW Spin, 270º Right, Front Cross Dog, Thru to Left Heel, Left Turn Circle Trx, Figure-8 2x, FC: Into Center, Step Back Center 3x, FC: Into Left Heel, Left Turn Thru Trx, Right Paw Lift, Switchback, Left Paw Lift, Right Turn Thru Trx, Right Side Heeling, Walking Weave 4x, Right Turn Circle Trx, Front Cross Handler, FC: Into Right Heel, 270º Left, CW Spin, Circle Around CCW, Down-Stand, and Bow.

The idea is to assess the first attempt at each behavior by seven criteria on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 if dog failed entirely, 5 if dog perfectly met expectations.  If a category doesn't apply to a behavior, we left it blank.  At the end of assessing individual behaviors, we calculated an average score by adding up points assessed and divide by number of applicable categories.  For example:  heeling, we added up points and divide by 6, because the category Start/End Positions doesn't apply. The seven criteria are: Attention/Focus, Precision, Start & End Positions, Speed, Cue Verbal vs Physical, Duration, and Certainty/Style.  The description I have for the criteria are:
  • Attention/Focus    Dog's attention/focus is on the task at hand, without lapses in attention.
  • Precision    Precise execution of behavior as described.  Tightness of turns, exact position in heel.
  • Start/End Positions    Starting from and returning to exact position in heel.  Does not apply to heeling behavior.
  • Speed    Speed of response to cue and speed of performance
  • Cue Verbal vs Physical    Dog responds to simple verbal cue and no physical clues/cues are needed.
  • Duration    Dog holds position accurately.
  • Certainty/Style    Dog performs with confidence.  Cuteness factor may apply.
We also treated it as training/practice, so if the dog failed on the behavior or did really poorly, we each reset and tried again.  I also wanted to try out the suggestions I got from Kathy for how to address the distraction issue I noticed at the prior session.  So I used ring gates to create a small alcove inside the door, with an opening to enter the "ring".  I let Gimme look around, acclimating, from inside the alcove.  This way we were able to try out coming into the building and working, without our usual perimeter walk.

Unfortunately my training partner didn't video us from the moment we walked in, so none of the training for the new rules got captured.  Happily Gimme picked it up very quickly (only returned to alcove 4 times), so I thought she did a nice job.  She gave me a good setup at the start.  There were a couple of times when she lost attention and rather than call her to come back, I went to her and gently took her by the collar to lead her back to try again.  Mostly she did well afterward and was not bothered by this baby-dog approach, but the time I had to lead her back a second time, she asked for (and got) reassurance.  After the reassurance she was then distracted by her own butt!  I used trotting backward to get her moving with me (need to do this more often - may try in lieu of leading her back to work). 

At one point, just as we approached the corner near the dog crating room (for the doggie daycare) someone walked by with 2 offleash Samoyeds.  Gimme was forging toward them, so I quickly took her by the collar and led her away to start again.  They were only 12 feet away, so I was happy that she didn't go straight over the edge about it.  Our next attempt coming to the same corner, she was still distracted, looking to see if they'd appear again. This corner proved to be a challenge for attention whenever we were near it.

So here is the video... its very long and not impressive. RFE Assessment #1

Still I was happy with her work in many respects.  This is her first time working here without a perimeter walk, making conditions very different for her.  So despite how bad her attention looked, it was MUCH better than I really expected.  Dog distractions are always going to be her Achilles heel, so I was pleased with how well she did when faced with that distraction and her efforts to work through it.  I was happy with her attitude and desire to work with me throughout.

Its really clear that attention is THE issue for us - which was no real surprise.  I think once we improve her attention, many of the other pieces will improve on their own.  And the other take-away is how much we need to work on heeling, as heeling between stations is not as good as it should be.  Honestly attention and heeling are so intertwined - they are mostly the same thing.  As I've been discussing how to train through the attention issues I talked about in my last post, I've come to the conclusion I haven't "fixed" her being "broken" from our first RFE video entry.  I messed up her attitude and haven't put enough work into repairing the damage.  So I think much of the attention issues are related to this.

When we came back in, I worked entirely on heel and setup, making them fun and enticing.  I wish I'd thought to have this video taped.  Gimme was so excited and working so hard.  She was clearly charged up by Mom making heeling and setup fun again.  Its all still there - clearly its my #1 job to bring it back.  Bad mommy, wonderful dog...

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