For those of you who know me or have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve had quite the journey training Miles to do the teeter. It wasn’t until February of this year that he dared to do a teeter outside of the one I have at home. Because of Miles’ issues with this obstacle, I felt like I did a very good job giving Rue a better foundation for it. So you can imagine that I’m a bit perplexed to find myself back in the same type of situation again with her.
With Rue I’m fairly certain it’s not a fear that’s getting us with the teeter, but more of a lack of confidence in her job on the contacts. I’ve trained her to have a running dogwalk and aframe, yet she’s supposed to stop on the teeter. I think she is just very young and hasn’t quite yet learned how to for sure tell the difference b/w the dogwalk and the teeter and so if she’s just a little stressed, she can’t think, loses her confidence and avoids one or both obstacles.
Rue’s typical response to pressure is to leave me and go sniff and eat grass or visit whoever else is in the ring. That’s been her way since she’s been with us. I used to lose her to this kind of thing all the time (even during games of tug if she felt too much pressure) until I figured her out. So I just think she hasn’t had quite enough training time yet and with the pressure of a trial and with her rapid success up to the Excellent level, it’s come to a head.
Thankfully now that we are on a break, I get lots of time for more training! Rue truly is one of the most self-confident dogs I know, but she also doesn’t like to be surpised by things. So I’m sure if she thinks it’s the dogwalk and then it moves, it shakes her confidence (and vice versa). And now for my plan to test my theory….
I had the day off on Monday (woot!) so I decided that I’d bring Rue out to PBH to work on some dogwalk and teeter stuff. I wanted to first see what she did off the bat. I’ve noticed that the times when she’s been less confident/drivey with the teeter (and dw) are when the dogwalk is the 2nd obstacle. If we go back and look at her trial history, she did refuse the teeter at the PBH trial on day 2 and you could argue that the spacing out during her run on day 1 had to do with the teeter/dw as well.
So I brought her to the big ring where we’ve barely ever practiced, never have had class, and pretty much have only done a couple of run-throughs and the trial. I figured this might be enough “unfamiliar” for us to start. I brought her out with her tug toy and pretty immediately lost her to a massive sniff fest after about 10 seconds of tugging. She spent about a minute or two sniffing all around the ring before I could finally get her to re-engage. Well, at least I know she’s feeling some pressure 😉 So once I got her tugging again, I brought her down to do the dogwalk (I wanted to do dw first then teeter since this has been the trend for her issue). I did dw-jump-tug twice, then a short sequence of jumps, aframe, and dogwalk, then tried to get her to do the teeter. She was successful, albeit slow, and didn’t tug right away. I got her engaged, then tried jump, 180, teeter….and she left. Took herself to the kiddie pool…yes it was hot out, but still…..how curious. She then had a few successful reps, but then I ended up losing her again to sniffing. The video is long, but I think gives a good overview. Nearly all of our training sessions when she was a pup used to look like this….thank goodness we’ve moved forward from that! It’s hard to say whether this was all teeter stuff at the end or just waning motivation from me using a lower value tug or it being hot out.
After letting her cool off in the pool I thought I’d try to see what I could get using food. Historically she pays better attention and learns better with food, but is way more motivated/faster when I use the tug. Perhaps I should have started with food today, but who knows what would have happened. I actually found it relieving to be able to reproduce some of her stress in training. Here she is with food….
Then I played a little with the bang game…
We ended the session with some fun tug/chase games designed to help her want to go past me better and to build drive. She thought it was tons of fun and boy was she racing me to the toy! In the end, I think this was a very important lesson to have had for both of us. It’s more clear to me now that it’s not a fear, but I still need to figure out how to help her feel more confident. I’m now toying with the idea again of not keeping the stop on the teeter. At least or until that becomes a problem for us due to her flying off….
I debated about bringing the dogs to Bon-Clyde for our usual Tuesday night drop-in class, but on our lunch time hike Rue was favoring her right rear leg a bit. After examining her, all I could find was a little abrasion on one of her pads (probably from the astroturf over the weekend) and thought the sand surface probably wouldn’t do that any good. So I decided to bring them to the Masters level run-throughs at PBH. I figured that I could have some folks act as a judge in the ring to add the pressure I needed around the teeter. Much to my delight, my friends had set up the European Standard course from 2009 USDAA Nationals. I thought that course looked fun on paper and I was right! Very fast.
First time through with lil’ Rue I made sure to reward her with tugging after the obstacle before the teeter. I wanted to reward her for all of the hard work she did leading up to it and also break her speed so that she would have time to process. I had a classmate acting as judge who she doesn’t know well too. Not suprisingly, when I set her up to do the teeter she left and started sniffing. She did end up having to go potty, but I really think that was a secondary reason to sniff…the primary being the teeter, but I’ll never know for sure.
Once she relieved herself, she was more than happy to tug again and then had no problem doing the teeter and the rest of the course.
And one more teeter for good measure…
For her second turn, I decided I would run the course through the teeter and reward after it, instead of before and after. She showed no issues and ran like a missile!
Last night, before teaching my class, I asked one of my students if she’d stand near the teeter for me while I put Rue over it. She kindly obliged and as seems to be the pattern, Rue went to visit her and avoided the teeter the first time. I got her back with me and she got right on, no issue. Then I did a little sequence and ended with the teeter…again, no problem.
So now what am I to do with all of this information? For one, I’m for sure not concerned about it being a fear and that I don’t need to go back and retrain the teeter from the ground up. I think I simply need to continue to bring her out to as many new places as I can and have folks in the ring with us. When that ceases to be a problem, then I’ll need to up the distraction/pressure ante for her some other way. In the meantime, I’m not going to ask for a stop at the end. I also need to figure out if I need to somehow signal to her ahead of time if it’s the dogwalk or the teeter or whether that will just resolve itself in time and with more experience. I’m also debating about entering her one day in a local NADAC trial. Even though there are no teeters, it could possibly help by just getting her more trial experience, but with easier courses. Of course it certainly doesn’t hurt that Silvia Trkman’s coming to PBH this weekend and Rue is working in a contacts seminar and in an all day handling seminar. We’ll see what the queen of the running dogwalk has to say about the little Miss 🙂
That’s all for now…..