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Discussion Starter #1
It's so quiet in this forum, so I thought it might be fun to see what the competition obedience/rally people out there are currently working on! So what's happening in your training and what are your competition goals for 2008?

I just have one dog that I'm really concentrating on for competition, and that's my three year old chow, Khana. Trick (GSD) is nearly 12 now and retired, and my young GSD Tazer is nine months old and a long ways from being ready for anything (she's got more energy than should be legal).

Khana has her RE and CD so we're doing open work and it's been a blast. She's such a silly girl at times and finds interesting ways to challenge me. Her retrieve is pretty good but she wants to play with the dumbbell and I don't want to do anything correction that may lessen her enthusiasm, so I'm trying different things to get her to grab the dumbbell and race to me without playing with it first (like pouncing on it, picking it up and throwing it into the air, standing over it and looking at me with this "aren't I just the cutest thing you've ever seen???" look). Lately I've started hiding the dumbbell so she has to search it out. I leave her on a stay in one room, go into another room and put the dumbbell down and then return to her before sending her for it. Initially the dumbbell was pretty obvious to find, but I'll make it a bit more difficult as we go along. I use really great treats for this and she's extremely enthusiastic.

One of the problems I have with Khana (and all of the chows I've trained) is that they lose interest pretty quickly if they don't think there's something in it for them. If you make an exercise too difficult, they give a bit of a try and then shrug it off as if to say "ah well, no big deal .. not interested anymore!". So it's a constant struggle to build enthusiasm and keep the interest at a high level. Force training is not great with this breed and they can completely shut down if something isn't much fun. And as I get into more difficult levels of obedience, I have to keep things cheerful and optimistic so that Khana stays the same way.

I'm really pleased that Khana finally seems to be settling into being an adult. When she turned three last November I thought "okay, she's NOT a puppy anymore, I'm ready for her to settle down!". And the last few months I can really see it. This helps tremendously in her training since there are fewer things that she's interested in. She's such a happy, friendly dog that she's been almost TOO social, and I've liked that attitude. But it's good for the competition side to see her settle down a bit into a more slightly aloof attitude (which is proper for a chow).

I've also started doing more of the formal utility hand signals with her, and working on the moving stand (which to me has always been the easiest utility exercise). I need to start her on scent articles now that her retrieving is pretty solid, and also start doing go-outs in preparation for directed jumping.

My 2008 goals are simple: hopefully I can afford to trial her in Open Obedience with the goal of a CDX, and to continue her training with the future goal of a UD.

So tell us about you and your obedience competition goals!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
Khana in her first trial, summer 2006:
 

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Ris is my 4 year-old Mutt who I've had for just over 1.5 years now. Other than working towards her CGC (just two sections we need to work on to pass that) I have started working her in Rally. She can't compete in AKC Rally since they have yet to permit mixes to enter so we've been focusing on APDT. Even though there is no APDT Rally closer than Missoula (I think). Our trainer is working to get APDT Rally in Billings and her aim is this August. (I'm in the process of trying to move out of the state so I don't know that I'll be here for it but if I am, we're entering.)

So we've been working on some of the APDT exercises. I need to work with Ris a bit more on heelwork as we haven't had much opportunity to do so over the winter. Most of the exercises in Rally are no problem for us (canine freestyle helped that) so basically I just have to work on polishing her up a bit. She tends to do crooked fronts because she's anticipating needing to be back in heel position. And if I try and reposition her (using hand signals) or wait for her to do it herself. . .she usually ends up sitting next to me at heel.
So we need to work on that a bit. With a bit of polishing I don't doubt she would be able to compete in Rally. We've never had the chance to compete (not too many opportunities out here) but we have done two freestyle demos. They were performed before Ris was as attentive to me as she is now so I have no doubt I can expect much more focus from her in our future endeavors. She did really well in those freestyle demos as well. Especially considering how fearful a dog she used to be (she still is with some things but is SO much better now).
 

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We just finished the RN and will go for the RA. I think we could easily get it, but now that we've had a taste of competition I want to not only do it but do it well. I'd like a little more attitude and precision with heeling and we also need a lot of work on pivoting left. I also want to try for a CD, but will probably wait until after the RA or RE so that the heeling and pivoting is rock solid.
 

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Well let’s see. We’re currently working on exercises for open. Really eased off after Kayla got her CGC late last year but trying to pick up the pace again. We are working on consistency with the retrieve and jumps. I’m having the devil of a time with the out of site group exercises. She throws such a fit when I move to go out of site that I wonder sometimes how we made through the CGC tests. That is the biggest challenge for us to meet.

Started agility classes in February so we are about eight weeks into that – and starting to shop for more equipment!

We have one leg for her RAE, but took a hiatus from Rally to focus on the CDX and get started in agility.

And I’m hoping/planning on starting all over again with a new “little brother” for Kayla sometime between late spring and end of summer.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That's neat that you're transferring from freestyle to rally - I did something similar but the other direction (from rally to freestyle). Many of the exercises are similar and the two sports really compliment each other.

I know there are some differences between APDT and AKC Rally, but I've only competed in AKC (we haven't had any APDT trials up here).

Melanie and the gang
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Liesje - I think it's a good thing to want more precision - it challenges us to become better trainers! The left pivots seem to be a nemesis for many people but the more I train the easier I find them to do. When I teach classes in obedience and rally, we do a lot of rewarding for that very first step (where the dog makes the first step with the rump to the right, behind us) and then gradually build to more steps. I think a lot of people get into trouble in training because they want more out of the dogs before the dogs really understand. But by going slower, you actually end up ahead of the game because the behavior is so solid.

My young chow is a backing fool - she does beautiful left pivots and will even back circles completely around me (ending up in heel position again). And dogs that learn to back well in the pivots generally can learn to back nicely for the "three steps back" in excellent level. It's just a matter of straightening out our body language and then rewarding for a straight step back instead of a pivot (their body movement is very similar whether they're doing a straight back or a pivot, since it both involves making the hind end lead).

Hopefully that all made sense!

Melanie and the gang
 

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Samuel - I think that sometimes a hiatus lets our dogs re-group and when we come back into it they do even better.

My old GSD, Trick, was not great at the out of sight stays because she wanted to come find me. It was a difficult situation - I didn't want to punish her (how can I really fault a dog that wants to be WITH me??) but I really did want her to stay in her spot. I did a lot of positive reinforcement including having others reward her for staying (people who were in the ring pretending to be judges and stewards). I also had them gently put her back into place if she broke, and that helped her understand that she needed to remain there.

In the class I teach now (an open/utility class), we always have a couple of people who remain in the room and any of us doing an out of sight stay will tell those people what we'd like done if our dogs break. And everyone is encouraged to work at the level their dog can handle - maybe only walking out of sight for 10 seconds at first, and then coming back to reward for staying. In the past couple of months we've been able to work everyone into a long stay with most of us out of sight, and the dogs have become pretty relaxed about it. Of course, that will all change when we move outside this spring and the distractions all change!

Good luck with the upcoming pup! I find that my group has to adapt whenever I add someone new, and that it can show in my trained dogs and how they react in training for awhile. When I first picked up Trick (nearly 12 years ago) it was right before a weekend of local trials that I had my chow entered in. The morning of the first trial, as we were getting ready, Trick peed on the floor - and Kylee fell competely apart, upset because the puppy peed! She did terrible that day at the trial and I didn't even show her the second day. It was kind of an eye-opening to how the dogs react to changes in the sections of their lives that are usually calm and predictable. Now I always figure that the older dogs are going to regress a bit when I bring a new dog or pup into the mix, and it all works out fine. I just don't fret about it much and they adapt quickly.

Melanie and the gang
 

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Originally Posted By: IliamnasQuestLiesje - I think it's a good thing to want more precision - it challenges us to become better trainers! The left pivots seem to be a nemesis for many people but the more I train the easier I find them to do. When I teach classes in obedience and rally, we do a lot of rewarding for that very first step (where the dog makes the first step with the rump to the right, behind us) and then gradually build to more steps. I think a lot of people get into trouble in training because they want more out of the dogs before the dogs really understand. But by going slower, you actually end up ahead of the game because the behavior is so solid.
It's slightly frustrating for me b/c I'm never sure if I'm doing it right, it seems so awkward. Everyone I talk to seems to use a different method.

What I did for a while w/ Kenya was get a nice treat in my left hand, put a leash on her and hold it in my right hand behind my back, pretty tight. I would step left and as I did, I'd hold her head in place with the leash but move my treat hand around her left, so as she followed it w/ her nose and was guided backward with the leash she would move her rump and pivot. This actually worked quite well at home, but I could not replicate it in class b/c the environment was too distracting for her. What's difficult for us is she's kind of a "touchy" dog so I usually can't use leashes or any sort of physical guidance (not necessarily corrections) to help her b/c she thinks she did something wrong. So far, I've been able to simply lure and mark all the fronts, finishes, etc., but the left pivoting is so unnatural for her I can't find anything to capture unless I can physically get her started stepping back or scooting her rump. If I try luring backwards and to the side, she just sits down and then will get up and walk forward and swing around back into heel. Moving backwards and pivoting left is something I've never seen her do, it's like she just doesn't understand it at all and will offer lots of other things instead.
 

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For the left pivot with Risa, I just turn really fast into her (I'm not body checking her or anything though). If she doesn't get out of the way, her toes might get stepped on. Ris has really good hind end awareness so this works pretty well for us. For example, there are times she gets ahead of me on-lead and I stop. Instead of turning around and coming back to my side, she just walks straight backwards.
 

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On the Left Pivot, have you thought about possibly using the leash as a sling under her stomach? We've had people in some of our classes use this method and lightly pull backwards as they pivot left. We've also use it for stand exercises.

Another thought - have you started on the Excellent exercise Back Three steps? Using a wall, start working with Kenya on stepping backwards when you reverse direction? That could lead into doing the left pivot as well.
 

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Thanks for the suggestions. I always love your tips and advice!

We are currently doing an exercise in one of the classes where we are putting the dogs in various locations and putting half in sits and half in downs. Then moving off to various locations. I'm always trying to pick places where someone else is in Kayla's line of sight to me. It seems to going well-but she knows every person and dog in the class so we'll see where that leads us. Will probably move to the trainer staying near her with a leash on while I step outside so we can start on breaking through with this.
 

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Originally Posted By: Murphy-ElperroguapoFor the left pivot with Risa, I just turn really fast into her (I'm not body checking her or anything though). If she doesn't get out of the way, her toes might get stepped on. Ris has really good hind end awareness so this works pretty well for us. For example, there are times she gets ahead of me on-lead and I stop. Instead of turning around and coming back to my side, she just walks straight backwards.
Yeah see she lacks that hind end awareness and doesn't move backward naturally like that. She will stop and wait, or swing back.

I'm wondering if we work REALLY hard on focus, if she has her eyes glued to me, and I move left and step into her, will her body naturally adjust? Anytime I use a leash or anything physical, she sits down, her ears lay flat, and her tail tucks. It might work, but I typically won't use any method that I can tell is obviously not fun for her. I've been playing around with having her sit in front of me, "watch" me, and then I step toward her and mark if she stands up and takes a step or two backward. It's not exactly a left pivot or three steps back in heel, but that's really about all I've got as far as her moving her own rump backwards.
 

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Hmmmm...let me see, my goals for 2008. Molly earned her CD and RN last year and I'm really hoping to get her RA this year. The thing is that our rally classes were cancelled due to lack of interest, so now I'm signing up for as many fun matches as I can to keep up with the signs and everything. We are also working towards open. She is retrieving the dumbbell and retrieving over the jump, so I'm pleased with that. We are just having some troubles with the out of sights sits and downs. I have no idea what happend, but I can't even walk across the ring anymore without her following me. So something has spooked her and we are slowing working our way back to the solids sits and downs before going out of sight.

We are also 1 leg away from our novice agility jumpers and novice agility standard titles, so I want to take her as far as I can in agility this year.

I also plan on starting tracking with her this spring. I think she will enjoy that.

She is keeping me busy as usual!
Oh and another goal is to convince my husband that our house is not complete until we have a male GSD!! He is not going for that one at the moment
 

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Liesje, when I get a spare moment later, I will come back to this thread and give you some exercises you can do with Kenya to increase her hind-end awareness.
Ris didn't come pre-programmed with the knowledge that she can control those hind feeties. We had to work on it.
 

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I could only find one website that even had any exercises on hind-end awareness:
http://agilitynut.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/rear-end-awareness-exercises/

There are a number of exercises we did to teach Ris she has a backend. The first we learned was having your dog back up away from you. In order to start this, you have to have done space work with your dog (inviting them in and out of your space).

Spacework
You take a treat in your hand and form a 'C' shape with your body. The leg on the same side as the treat is stretched out towards your dog with your toe pointing up. Your upper body is curved towards your dog and your hand with the treat rests on your forward leg. When the dog enters into your space to get the treat give it to them when their nose is practically on your leg. Repeat. Once your dog is good at coming into your space, you are ready to start asking them to get out of your space.

After inviting your dog in, take one step towards them. If your dog backs off a little bit, immediately reinvite them in again. However if your dog turns their side or back to you or otherwise disengages do not take such a large step the next time. Try a half a step. Or barely lifting your leg at all if the dog is really concerned about your forward movement. After EVERY back away, reinvite the dog into your space.

Once your dog is able to back away with you taking a couple steps, you can move on to the next part.

Backing up Straight
You can use a couch, wall, row of chairs/benches for this one. What you want to do is create a path that your dog has to go through which will keep their butt from swinging wide. So set up your chairs/benches in a row and create a channel for you and your dog to go through. It's easiest if you start off backwards through the channel inviting your dog to stay in front of you. Once you get outside of the channel, step towards your dog to get them to backup. Start slow and reward just a couple steps (or even one step if it's too tough for your dog at first) and work your way up to longer distances. Once your dog understands it needs to walk backwards straight, you can eliminate the barriers.

Cavaletties
The easiest way to make these is to take soda bottles (or Pounce cat treat bottles) and duct tape two together. These become a base for a jump bar (which can be a broom handle or actual PVC piping). You lay out a bunch of them at different heights (though none should be higher than your dog's wrist height) and in a curved line. When you start out you might need to put up a barrier around the outside of the cavaletties' path to encourage your dog to go over them. You can have someone hold your dog or you can leave them in a sit/stay at one end and then call them to you over the cavaletties. Dogs with no hind end control will likely knock a bunch of them over. But they soon learn that their back feet matter too and will be more attentive the more they do this exercise.

You can also do a similar version with a ladder though I haven't done it that way.

Pedestal
Get a box of some type and make sure it's weighted so it won't shift or slide around a lot. It should be wide enough your dog can place both front paws on it.

Encourage your dog to place their front feet on the box and reward them for that position. Once they're comfortable enough to maintain that position you can move on. The next step involves you standing at the side of your dog facing their shoulder. Walk towards them and reward any lateral movement they make with their hind feet. Gradually increase the criteria until they can walk circles around the box keeping their front paws stationary and moving their hind feet. As your dog gets better, you can start standing next to them as you would if they were in heel position and just turn your shoulders towards them to get them to move sideways.

If you have any questions about what I typed or if you would like to see it in action, just ask. I have no problems videoing Ris and I doing these things if you need visual clarification.
Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
On the left pivots:

I've used a variety of techniques over the years, but I've kind of settled on luring the dog's head to the left so that the hind end swings in behind me. It's the technique that seems to be the easiest for both people and dogs. The key to success, however, is to be absolutely patient and not to try to go too fast.

I teach the pivot from a stand, and not while I'm moving forward (although I may have to take a step forward to get my dog into a stand at first). The pivot is an exercise that is best taught separately from heeling, so I don't tie them together until the dog understands the pivot really well.

The first part of the pivot is that I bring the treat to the dog's nose (sometimes, depending on the flexibility of the dog, I bring the treat over the dog's back and to the nose on the left side of the dog). I then bring my hand toward the dog's back (not out away from the dog, because I don't want the dog's front legs to move at ALL). At the same time, I pivot very slightly - just a couple of inches - in place. I don't step into the dog or move forward at all, because that wouldn't be pivoting. My left shoulder moves back, a bit exaggerated, to help with the visual cue. And then I wait. I let the dog try to get to the treat. If necessary I move the treat slowly back farther toward the dog's tail, but I keep my hand close to the body. Also if necessary, I use a leash behind my back but only with enough pressure to keep the dog from stepping forward (remember any leash pressue is just one more thing you have to wean your dog off of later on).

As soon as my dog's hind legs take even the slightest step to the right (behind me) I mark that behavior with a "YES!!" and then praise and give the treat. She may only step one inch with her right hind foot, but that's a start. This is where being patient and rewarding for tiny steps comes into play. If you don't do this, it will take a lot longer to get a reliable pivot.

And then I encourage my dog back into heel position (standing) and I do the exercise again.

If my dog moves forward out of position, or moves her front end over, or bends herself in half trying to get the treat but ends up doing a spin around instead, I just smile and step backwards and say "that's not it!" in a happy voice. It's important not to ever sound disappointed or discouraged .. the dog isn't doing things "wrong" because she wants to. She just doesn't understand what I want. So I set things up and try it again. Eventually I always get a step in the right direction and that's what I reinforce.

Tazer is "Miss Flexible" and can bend her body completely around, which does make it harder to get her to step correctly with her hind legs. But even she's getting it. The chows don't bend so easily and they actually do the pivot back pretty quickly even at the beginning of the training.

I don't step into my dogs because that makes them move the front end over, and a proper pivot means that the front feet don't move (other than to adjust slightly as the hind ends moves around). A left turn where the dog moves the front end over is not nearly as pretty, but they will accept that in the lower levels of rally for the left 180 and 270 (as those are not truly pivots, they're actually curved turns). But the true pivots in the more advanced levels in rally should require the dog to only move the hind end around and not allow the front end to move sideways.

If your dog knows a good left pivot, it really makes a nice picture in regular obedience too. It helps with the figure 8 as well as any left turn (and sets you up for a beautiful turn for glove 3 in utility).

I know that many people use props to help teach a dog to back up in a straight line, too, but I've had the best luck teaching my dogs by shaping the behavior more freely, without walls or chairs. With my dog facing me, I step forward and as soon as the dog shifts weight back, I mark and reward. I do the same thing with my dog in heel position, except I may use a slight bit of backward pressure on the leash. I step back (a small step) and when the dog shifts weight back I mark and reward that. And then I build from there.

If you use props, you have to wean your dog off of those. So anytime you're training and can do it with the least amount of help (from objects or leash pressure, etc.) the easier it's going to be in the long run. My dogs do beautiful straight backing (in fact the judges last fall really praised my chow's backing in excellent rally, said she was the only dog there who did it properly) and I do it by shaping as freely as possible.

It's hard to step into shaping behaviors like this if you've never really done it - it was a tough step for me to take (being a former Koehler-type trainer!). But it's SO darn rewarding and SO darn effective. I prefer to do most of my training completely off-leash when I can. It makes me really use my mind and to really observe my dog's behavior, and reward for the little steps because I can't force bigger steps. I do much of my training in small areas like a living room, a garage, etc. and then it's just a matter of transferring it into an area with more distractions (which, of course, is always a challenge too!).

Melanie and the gang
 

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Well, Axel got his CD these past two Saturdays. I entered only on Saturday of the trials. He did ok. A couple of no-sits at the outdoor show. I was a nervous wreck and need to get my "game" back lol I hadn't shown since 2005 (his first leg) and before that, not since 2004. So right now it is a matter of just getting back into things. Both of his second legs were 190. Not bad considering ... but no where near what I know we are capable of if we get our act together. I was quite worried during the stays. I train alone now the majority of the time and have little opportunity to proof much. Of course, the stays were lined up to the back of the Open ring. We were in the center, in line with Open's high jump. The darn DB bounced through and was practically on Axel's tail. I hadn't proofed for that! Whew, relief that he didn't move though .. just looked at me like, "What the heck ma?!". Then during the downs, we were next to a creeper. He had never seen a creeper before lol and wasn't sure what that other dog thought he was doing.

Showed 3 times, got three legs. Could have been worse, should have been better.. not up to my standards of when I showed Achielles... but we'll work on it
Showed for Rally Novice too... got an 89 first show (missed doing a sign correctly.. opps still new) and a 97 the second leg. One more leg and RN is knocked out for the year. There are a couple of shows coming up in June. I don't know that we are really ready yet for anything else... may show in Novice again, or Veterans, he is 8 after all... and the RN leg. Still deciding.

At this point I tend to be a sporadic trainer. With work, teaching 4-8 classes a week and family, I just haven't been able to find the motivation/energy & time. So, my goal now is to set aside time to train for open at a minimum of 3 days a week. I have at least 3 dogs to train for titling. Axel can still get CDX, not sure I will go on to a UD.. (too many dogs, too little time...) and his BH. Moxie has more foundations training to do. Jinx has pretty decent heeling, but not anywhere ready. Still not confident he knows. I think he is just guessing correctly lol. I also haven't started stays or stand with him.. or jumps... so lots of foundation stuff to do with him and Moxie. Malfoy, I don't think I will show. So letting him slack off on everything and just be a "house dog " lol.

Ok... so... How do you teach jumps? Axel has the basics of ROH & BJ but no where near reliable. Biggest problem right now is that he wants to go around the jump on the return of the ROH. BJ we are still doing straight line recall over the jump. I'll start turning this week I think. I tend to teach a sort of target BJ. Tossing a toy or treat out as he jumps.

On the ROH I used a flexi. He picks up the db but then nearly always wants to go around. I have thought of putting up barriers.. but that is an awful lot of stuff to fade. What do you think? Continue with flexi and try to prevent bad returns? Guess it's time to find another class lol
 

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Well Risa earned her CGC over the weekend, so one of our major goals is out of the way. Woo hoo! And she's been acting like she earned it ever since.
We'll still keep up the work on meeting new people and getting over those fears as well as her occasional reactivity with other dogs.

The soonest we'd be able to compete in Rally wouldn't be until August or so. We'll probably still dabble in it until then but I know I really need to work with her on it since her 'trial' at the fun match didn't go so well. Lack of attention and training outdoors! I'd hoped to enter a video competition for freestyle this spring but, since entries are due in by June 1st and we haven't practiced much, it's unlikely. Ris isn't ready to compete in agility either. But we'll probably spend most of the summer working on freestyle, rally, and agility fun.

Congrats on getting Axel's CD, Jessi.
 

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congrats to all of you on setting your goals, working on them and achieving them.

My goal is to find a new puppy I can have some goals for !!!
diane
 
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