I have been continuing to work on the figure 8 exercise, adding in more places and distractions. This is generally going well and Ragnar is showing more understanding that he has to commit to working before he gets to play with his ball.
I have started to build more hunting into our weekly regimes to let Ragnar have opportunity to start to hunt for extended periods of time and to focus more on the hunting than on me.
I had my first session with Gwen from Dogs Matter which was great. Gwen is a positive trainer who specialises in obedience, agility and scent work to competition level. We had a great time, talking through Ragnar’s anticipation issues with Gwen helped me to put words around what I am struggling with. I realised that I have an on switch and an off switch but I don’t have a standby switch which is what is causing the anticipation issues. Gwen also talked about teaching the dog to switch between handler focus and work focus which is also something that I need to work on with both dogs. Gwen gave me an exercise to help work on that.
Whilst we were chatting at the beginning of the lesson, I had put Ragnar on his raised bed. He was choosing to wait in a sit and was being periodically rewarded for not leaving his bed. All the time we were just chatting things through he was quiet. As soon as I started to look like something was going to happen, he started to make a small noise. I stopped progressing to work and went back to chatting and the noise repeated a couple of times, so I put him in a crate and covered him up. The noise stopped so I uncovered him whilst we finished setting up the exercise. He was quite for the rest of the setting up time.
The exercise that we were working on was sending from station to station. He could do this if I stood next to the station but not if I was even a short distance away. Massive amounts of energy meant that he would bounce on and straight back off again. He needs to learn how much energy to put into the exercise and not just go full throttle at everything!! Lots of stuff to work on for next time with this, we are working up to being able to direct Ragnar from station to station with four stations in a square and me standing in the middle gradually being able to increase the size of the square. For this to be successful he needs to be able to switch from handler focus to work focus and back again fluently.
We also looked at some basic ‘It’s yer choice’ work, Ragnar can do this but not first time, he will nose boop my hand first and then back off. Gwen suggested a bigger consequence of removing the hand rather than just closing my fist over the food. This helped him not to nose boop and then we moved onto IYC after him moving. So, I would throw a treat a short distance and then present an open hand with food in as he returned from getting the treat. This is to practice self-control after movement. Not much success there to start with although he worked it out after a few goes. Need to proof this.
What was also great was that Gwen picked up on some handling errors, minor mistakes which will have a big effect on later behaviours. So great to have a fellow training nerd to be picky with what I am doing so that I can become more precise and a better handler 😊 Gwen will help me to hold my inner spaniel in check and to project calmness whilst working the boys!!
We’re off on holiday! 😊 My annual trip up to Evesham to train with friends for a week. As ever the boys travelled well and we had a great journey. They really enjoy being in the caravan and we had some good training time whilst I set up the awning and garden area. I had taken their raised beds and so I put them on their beds to watch me put up the awning etc so they didn’t have to stay in the car any longer. They both did a great job of watching and not getting involved. The work that I have been doing with them with boundaries makes being away with them so much easier, especially with being able to use a relatively flimsy garden fence, the plastic orange safety fencing which they could easily get over if they wanted to. Due to the training they don’t break that boundary even when other dogs come over to say hello and even when the dogs come into our garden, under or over the fence! I can leave them roaming in the garden area when I go to get water, even though I am out of sight for 5 mins or so. Ragnar just sits under the caravan where it is nice and cool and Erik sits by the fence waiting for me to come back.
Sunday was a nice easy drive up and setup day with several walks and swims for the dogs. The campsite is great two lakes and wooded areas to walk in.
Monday was a laid-back start to training, we all decamped to the training area by one of the lakes and pretty much worked on whatever we needed to with our own dogs.
I took both a raised bed and a crate with me to the working area to set up my work station. The plan was to work Ragnar using the raised bed as his off switch and using the crate to give him down time if it got too hard for him to manage himself on the bed. Ragnar managed very well whilst other dogs and people were working even when they were doing water retrieving. He had to go back in his crate approximately 5 times throughout the day for a short period due to a small amount of noise. When he was managing himself on the bed he was being rewarded periodically with food. When he went into his crate with the door shut then I didn’t reward him as he wasn’t having to work hard.
I spent most of Monday mainly concentrating on teaching Ragnar not to anticipate work with noise and/or movement. I spent a lot of time standing up from my chair and sitting back down if Ragnar showed any signs of getting excited, either noise or movement to get off the bed. I got a good workout getting in and out of my chair. Ragnar was rewarded each time that I could move and he remained still and quiet.
I then progressed to being able to put my training vest on with no reaction. If he moved or squeaked then I took it of and sat back down again, Ragnar was rewarded each time he got it right.
I then progressed to releasing him off the bed and asking him to come to heel. If he managed that well, we carried on walking to heel towards the lake, if he couldn’t manage himself then we went back to the bed area and started again. If he made a mistake a second time then I put him back on his bed and we took a break for a while before we started again.
After several attempts we made it approximately 25 yrds of reasonable off lead heelwork to the edge of the lake where he would sit automatically with no noise and he was allowed to have a retrieve off the water.
I was rewarding all the interim steps with food and when we did some auto sits at the edge of the lake some of these were rewarded with a ball throw away from the water.
Once he could manage himself form the bed to the water, we then worked up to doing various retrieves, splits, seens and blinds near the water with a distraction dummy out on the water. We also did some push backs to a dummy in the water. He was anticipating being sent so I also did some rewarding for not going until sent. Need to do more work on this to firm up the waiting until told.
Ragnar was very good at maintaining his criteria on the bed and managed the whole day when he was out training to be off lead even when the others were working.
Tuesday, we had Sally Richardson come along to give us some training.
Ragnar started on the bed, he was very good, no noise and he was also good at not anticipation when I was going to get him off the bed. I was very glad that we had had time on Monday to get that sorted.
The first exercise was a seen with shot. He was steady, went out when sent, but didn’t pick the dummy as it was different from usual. We then tried him with a canvas dummy and he retrieved it but dropped the delivery and had a small bark. Just rewarded with food.
He waited really well on his bed whilst the others did the same exercise, they were working about approx. 10yrds away from us so it was a bit of a challenge but he did well. He sat up most of the time.
We moved away from the main work area for the next exercise so I just took the raised bed. This exercise was a mixture of memories and a seen, alongside the lake as a distraction. See below for diagram.
Two memories were placed out and then we walked away to the send point, Raganr was sent for the first memory (M1). We then walked out and placed the other tow memories and walked back to the send point. Ragnar was then sent for one of these (M2). He was then sent for the last of the initial memories (M3). A seen was then thrown out and he was sent for that (S4). Finally, he was sent for the last memory (M5).
M5, M2 Start Point S4 M1,M3
He did all the retrieves well, to hand but with a bit of an over run on return, no brakes! No noise on delivery. Twice he did a bit of noise on set up for memories so I stood up and walked away, reset and had no noise on reset.
We tried a recall across water as the next exercise but he ran around as it was a long swim and easier to go via land!!!
His next exercise was a long retrieve in water, the furthest he has ever been, approx. 50yrds. As he got to the retrieve I recalled as I wanted him to come back swimming rather than get out the other side of the lake and run back. I called slightly too soon and he left the dummy and came back minus dummy. My fault, so he got a big reward anyway as he had put in so much effort with the swimming.
He then did two good distances on water to blinds, approx. 25yrds.
We need to do more work on building his confidence and swimming distance from land.
His last exercise was to honour another dog’s retrieve. Small noise waiting for the first one but no noise for the second one. He then had two retrieves whilst the other dog watched and I managed to send him for both with Erik’s retrieve cue. Idiot!! I need to do some work on proofing both Ragnar and myself that ‘Pick it up’ means stay for Ragnar!
Wednesday, Nat Cannon came to teach us which was great as she is a cocker person!
The day was mainly about hunting and Nat gave me some great ideas to help get Ragnar’s nose down, and stop him looking at me.
Sit Ragnar up near the cover and then chuck lots of balls in the cover, move them around and leave lots of sent by rubbing them around in the cover. Move them around so that he doesn’t know where they are and bury them, so he has to get his nose in to find them. Pick some grass and rub my scent on to it. Throw the grass down to where I want him to cast off to.
I need to keep my hands still and cast him off. I need to STAND STILL initially and then once he has got going start to move around SLOWLY around the area whilst he works. I need to look at the ground not at the dog so when he looks back at me there is no eye contact. His reward was to be given the ball back after he had found it. Throwing was getting him too revved.
Ragnar and I spent most of the day working on this under Nat’s guidance and it made a big difference to his hunting. He was flying 😊
We also did a few seens into cover. Ragnar isn’t very persistent if he can find it very quickly, he comes back to me. I sent him back a couple of times and then hunted him up to it so that he found it himself. I need to do some more work on this so that he will persist until he finds it.
Thursday was another day to train on our own agenda. I repeated some more of the hunting that we did on Wednesday and when I remembered to set it up correctly then it went well. I need to work hard at not looking at Ragnar when he is working! Thursday was also very hot so we did some swimming together and Kayaking. Ragnar settled to the sit on Kayak very well once he found a spot which was not too slippery.
Friday was a bit rainy so we went out shopping in the morning and did a bit of training in the afternoon when it dried up. Mainly going over the stuff that we had done during the rest of the week. We also went out Saturday morning and then I took the awning down in a dry spell during Sat afternoon.
I packed up Sunday morning and drove home. I was really please with what we achieved over the week and especially pleased at how easy the boys are to be with when we are camping. I could go next door and hang out whilst leaving the dogs out in the garden area and they were great and didn’t try to get out. I so enjoy going camping with friends as there is always someone you know watching out for the dogs if I am not around.