Well we’re back from holiday and have lots to work on. I am trying to hunt with the boys every day to get ready for the Working Test on the 10th. Ragnar is getting better and more into the hunting game and is looking at me less once I cast him off to hunt. I am putting out 4 balls each time for him to find and then rather than giving him a ball chase or handing back the ball I am just casting him off to hunt again. I am verbally praising him and then varying the time to cast off again. Handing him the ball back after delivery was making him become more possessive of the ball again so I will not bother with that. I will experiment with rewarding with food and see how that goes.
We headed down to Cornwall to see friends for the weekend which was really good fun. The local beaches were closed to dogs during certain times of the day so we had to do a fair amount of on lead walking each day. Ragnar coped very well and even managed to do some really nice off lead heelwork on the cliffs when there was no fence at the edge so it wasn’t safe for him to free run.
Ragnar had his first Hydro treadmill session today. He did a good job and seemed to cope very well with this new experience.
Today is the 7th and Ragnar has managed to injure himself somehow, I think possibly he managed to misjudge getting out of the car and landed on the tow bar hurting his ribs. He was in lots of pain so had to take him to the vet for a painkiller injection. He is very sorry for himself poor boy.
So, my plans to go to the working test are up in smoke because Ragnar is still not back to full health. Disappointed as I have been looking forward to this for months ☹ Hey Ho! Life goes on. The most important thing is to get him back to full health. He is on restricted exercise which he is not too happy about.
I had a lesson booked with Gwen on the 9th and we went ahead with this making sure that we only did gentle exercises. This went well as Ragnar had made some good progress on the exercises that we were set last time.
I need to work on making sure that I don’t overshadow my verbal cues with body language, as this will encourage him to look at me rather than just concentrate on what he is doing and listen.
I also need to work on varying all the body cues and timing that goes with the behaviour so that I can proof just the verbal cue to move to the next platform.
We also looked at heelwork and went through some exercises that will help build the fun into the heelwork for both Ragnar and me.
Left circles to help him control himself better and fast pace transitioning to normal pace to help with making things more fun.
He was much better at not anticipating work and was great on his raised bed waiting in between exercises.
We also worked on some more IYC games continuing to add motion into the games to see if he can offer self-control after movement.
I have been doing some of this training with both dogs in the room, one working and one watching. Ragnar is managing to do a great job sitting on the raised bed watching whilst Erik works.
I continued to rest Ragnar over the weekend and into Monday but on Monday evening he started not to weight bear on his left hind. So off to the vets we will go to see what is going on. More rest today until I see the vet and find out what is happening.
Poor chap his is not very happy at the moment.
So, it turns out that the problem was a bruised toe. Not great but easy to treat. The down side is at least a week of mostly leadwork and then gentle!!! Yes, gentle exercise Ragnar! On level ground. So, no hunting training but we have managed to keep up with the platform work and the IYC games with gradually increasing movement.
I can now throw food left and right and get him going in a rhythm then hold out an open hand with food in and he will automatically sit and wait for the food to come to him.
His platform work is also getting better. I can wait for different periods of time before giving the cue to move and I am also doing different things whilst I give him the cue. Slowly he is becoming able to respond with me doing different things. He seems to do a lot of latent learning. Something he struggles with one day he will have made progress on the next day.
We have another week before our next session with Gwen so I will be carrying on with the practice. I am also going to get back to hunting training as Ragnar’s foot seems to be up to it now.
I took both boys with me to an area to hunt and had a friend hold Ragnar whilst I hunted Erik for some dummies. Ragnar waited quietly whilst Erik worked, which was good, then when it was his turn he hunted really nicely.
Yesterday I progressed to taking the fabric crate to the working area and setting up with Ragnar in the crate to start with and hunted Erik. All good. I then swapped dogs and Erik was quiet in the crate whilst I worked Ragnar 😊 Huge step forward!!! Again, Ragnar hunted very nicely and is continuing to look back at me less frequently. I think I need to start putting less articles out to find and more placing them and then turning him back towards me on the whistle to find closer. He is now expecting the finds to be away from me and is ranging a bit further which is great but I don’t want him to be going too far. It is a bit of a balancing act. I have also started to use dummies rather than balls as the finds and rewarding with food. Ragnar is still quite aroused by the ‘finds’ and is mouthing the dummies as he comes back in. I will keep on with the food rewards and see if that helps to diminish his expectation for the ball which is what I think is causing the arousal on the dummies.
Being able to have both dogs out and ‘park’ one will make it loads easier to practice the hunting as I won’t have to spend so much time walking backwards and forwards to the car to swap dogs. I am hoping to be able to progress to having one dog on a raised bed and then on to one on lead and one dog hunting, and in my wildest dreams one walking off lead to heel and one hunting! Watch this space. It may take some time but I will keep on trying 😊
Today I tried tying the non-working dog to a handy post. All good for the first go, so stupid me tried a second go! Talk about increasing the criteria too quickly! New place, new station, added reps! Bless them though, they did step up for me. Erik managed to remain quiet through most of the second go, only squeaked twice, when I added yet another criterion of stop whistle and thrown dummy for Ragnar. This is why making things up as you go isn’t a very good idea. I should stick to my plan and not free-lance!
Ragnar did a good job though, Stopped and was steady to the thrown dummies and was able to hunt on away from the dummy, a second stop whistle and then I walked to him and sent him back for a memory, nice run out, find and delivery. Food reward.
I then did some work on finding a seen ball when I throw it into long grass as this needs some work so that he will persist.
I have been bringing back in the cue discrimination run/don’t run with the ‘ready’ cue and Ragnar is doing a good job of not running after the ball if I haven’t said ‘ready’, even if Erik runs in on it!
I have also been doing some work on ‘pick it up’ means stay, as this is Erik’s retrieve cue and when I work them together I need Ragnar to stay when I send Erik. Initially I had him in a stay with no article out and did some cue discrimination rewarding him for not moving when I said random words including ‘pick it up’. I then progressed to having a retrieve out and adding in random words including ‘pick it up’, rewarding him for not moving. I then added in his retrieve cue – ‘Viking’ so that he was allowed to go and retrieve it sometimes.
Today we had another lesson with Gwen. Good progress has been made with the placeboard exercise and I didn’t get told of for being a rubbish handler during this exercise today 😊 We then added using the placeboards to work on not anticipating being sent on directional cues. Gwen commented on how relaxed he was when he was waiting to be told to go. No ‘edge of his seat’ attitude, he was happy to just sit there until told to go.
We added some challenge to the IYC exercise, could he listen to cues when I was holding a ball out instead of food? Yes, he could do a down but struggled initially to do a place cue. We worked through that until he could do down or place even if the ball was being held very low in an open hand.
We revisited the figure 8 exercise with the get it bowl out to show Gwen. She suggested that if I was rewarding from me it should be another ball so the reward from me and from the bowl was equal in value.
We then worked on some choose to sit when the ball is thrown, which he did very well.
Lastly, we looked at heel work when there is a big distraction around. I feel that the heelwork that I have been doing in the park has plateaued as the boys are still making mistakes regularly. So, we worked on clicking at random interim spots between the start point and the get it bowl with a ball in it.
We also added in a ball throw behind me as a reward after the click sometimes so that there was the potential for the good reward from me as well as in the bowl. This had a good affect on the heelwork and towards the end he was walking really well and not forging ahead. The other things we added in were a full circle right so that the route to the bowl wasn’t always a straight line.
Lots of great things to continue working on with both the boys 😊