Last Thursday, J'Anna and I met to practice RallyFrEe. We are both focusing on fundamentals, mostly heeling (both sides). I'm also enjoying a MDSA workshop called "Finding the Sweet Spot", about a technique of playing with free movement to evoke focus, teamwork and a way of moving with your dog, without using cues.
It looked fun. So I planned a non-course layout, more of a playground of different items to encourage more freedom of movement, to break out of the mold of straight-line formal heeling. The idea was to practice heeling and then when there was some good work, part of the reward would be to break out into more free movement, using the items in the playground.
I had a couple of "stations" which were set up with two signs so you could do whichever behavior was appropriate for what side the dog was on when you approached. These signs were:
Video Session 1 - Started out with a very brief period to let her get used to the area, along with getting the music to play (edited out). I thought we had some of our best duration heeling during this session. She got distracted in a couple of places, but since we are weaning off the long perimeter walks, I think its understandable. The free-moving playground sessions went really well. She clearly likes it when I move faster, which I'm encouraged to do by the beat of the music. I do see I in places I motion her in one direction and then take off in a different direction - poor baby. She seemed to like the beat to John Denver's "Annie's Song".
Video Session 2 - She did so well ignoring distractions by the end of the first session, I thought she'd start right out with good focus - but we still needed to warm up her brain. The bit by the chairs was completely my fault - I couldn't see it at the time, but I really was crowding her, so she was making an assumption to go around the chair. In this session I noticed I started bending over partway through and I don't think it gives her a clear picture of what I want/intend with my movement. We haven't practiced "cane" and "orbit" in a very long time, so I was pleasantly surprised she got "orbit" the first time and only needed one reminder for "cane". She also liked John Denver's "Back Home Again".
Video Session 3 - I thought this music (Willie Nelson, "If You've Got The Money") would really suit Gimme, but this short session wasn't as good as the two sessions to John Denver music. After watching it, I think the problem was me. This music begs a Texas Two-Step kind of movement and for the life of me I couldn't remember how to do it, so my movement was probably perplexing to Gimme. It wasn't horrible, just didn't feel right.
Video Session 4 - John Denver's "Baby You Look Good To Me Tonight" is another good beat for us. I do think Gimme doesn't quite read me. She seemed a little unsure this time; she must think I'm being terribly unpredictable. We'll have to play with this a couple more times, so we are both comfortable with it. Its really important to Gimme for her to "Win" and I'm thinking she's not sure what constitutes winning here. This session continued with John Denver's "I'm Sorry", which is too slow for Gimme - in order for her to be comfy, I had to push faster than felt right.
Session 5 - John Denver's "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" should have been good music for us. While parts of this session were pretty good, none of it was as good as the same things done in prior sessions. She'd lose focus and become distracted. I was able to get her back, only to have her lose focus again. Barking in the background didn't help. It was pretty clear to me she was just used up for the day.
What was interesting to me, was that I didn't feel like this went very well. And yet after watching the videos, even the last one was quite a bit better than I remembered. If you'd asked me right after the session I would have said Gimme didn't think this was very much fun. But, as I watched the videos, it seemed clear she was having more fun that I perceived in the moment. So I'm thinking the impression of not-fun was in my head. Improvisation has never been a strong skill for me and I must have been more uncomfortable with it than I realized. I don't think most of this looked bad, but it felt uck-ish...
I think I'll play with this some more.