Monday, October 09, 2006

The joys of Open A....

Well, for the second day in a row the retrieve over the high jump killed us. Same problem as yesterday: I set Murphy up, tell him to wait, throw the dumbbell and send him (all on the judge's orders of course). Murphy sits there, not moving when sent - ditto for a double command. Today's judge called exercise finished as soon as I issued the second command (no chance to help him today). We were qualifying up until that point today...Lost 4 points on heeling (mouthing), 2 points on the drop, 1 on the retrieve on flat and 1 on the broad jump. We got full points for the stays - so we were working off a 192 - suck, suck, suck.

A whole new kettle of fish. I don't think it's physical - he hasn't shown any reluctance to jump and he continues to "over jump" each obstacle - he's easily clearing 24" with at least 6" to spare. His retrieve on the flat was fine - absolutely no hesitation. No hesitation on the broad jump either. I did some new things today in the ring - lots of pump-ups. Some hand touches, some cheerleading - The best thing about the whole weekend was that today he stayed with my between every exercise - he remained engaged and he remained focused - though I did rev him up slightly too much before going in and got some mouthing, but I used my "second command" in the heeling to tell him to knock it off - and he did - and didn't stress about it either.

Some of my thoughts on the high jump problem:
Pressure - as in spacial pressure. The high jump was 3' from the ring gating where people were walking by, he would be jumping into a corner and back side that had probably 10-15 dogs and 20-25 people who were watching rally and utility. I do know that Murphy is very submissive and will yield whatever he has to a dog that wants it - we've been trying to work through this - but he still won't retrieve an object that is contested. Perhaps having the jump where it was and jumping into a crowd was too much for him. The retrieve on the flat and the broad jump put him into space in the middle of the ring or on the side against a physical wall where there wouldn't be pressure from spectators and other dogs.

Not understanding the exercise - I'm not sure this fits but I always have to raise the topic when something goes wrong. He's been pretty solid on this exercise, in previous trials he's gone out to the dumbbell around the jump and jumping on the return - he's made mistakes but he's always moved when sent. He didn't even move today. He didn't give me the look like he thought he had done anything wrong either - and he gamely moved onto the broad jump when asked. If he thought he was wrong I think he would have made that obvious - his being wrong in the past has resulted in a stress meltdown - there was no stress today.

Sport confusion - Does he have this exercise confused with agility and was waiting for me to move and then release him. Yesterday when I moved towards the jump to help him he was ultimately successful - however, the agility picture would never look like that to him where I'd only take two steps and send him to a dumbbell. Plausible..

Too many stays - we had a problem last week where he was breaking his stays as soon as I stepped away - this after a long run of really successful stays with variable reinforcement but we had solidly moved into the 7 minute sit and 15 minute downs without any problems. I'd ask for a sit (or down) and he would stand up as soon as I moved away. If I walked away and he stayed in position he'd stay there forever... This didn't affect our "waits" - it only affected his "stay". I didn't work him the last 4-5 days before the trial on anything other than some baby stay stuff - position, walk away, immediately come back and treat..really heavily rewarding the initial 10 seconds. His stays weren't a problem this weekend - with the exception of a really slow down when I came back from the long sit smelling like chocolate cookies (I got busted - "you've just eaten chocolate - I some before I go down"). If the problem was a product of too many stays, wouldn't I have seen this with the retrieve on flat and broad jump? Even more so I should have seen this on the drop on recall...

I keep going back to the pressure thing - I need to start recruiting crowds and their dogs to help.I should also up the reinforcement history on that exercise. Perhaps backing up and clicking the initial jump? Murphy will have a few days off of obedience, we've got an agility trial this weekend. And then another obedience trial in two weeks...

Off we go again!

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