Since going to the Denise Fenzi obedience seminar I have some ideas for training Jet. I’ll be applying them to Chase, too, but Jet is my primary focus, Chase has a natural drive that can carry him through a trial. Jet doesn’t. So I’m reassessing Jet’s training. This weekend I did some different things to try to scientifically understand what is going on.
Denise is a motivational trainer. She isn’t a clicker trainer, but does occasionally use markers. She’s not a compulsion trainer. I kinda think she just fits into her own category. I’m not going full-on clicker training with Jet. But I’m going to do motivational training. No compulsion. But I’ll remove reinforcers if that works best. There are consequences to not working. But I won’t use pain, either.
Jet’s problem is he works beautifully with treats. He falls into heel, head up, nice focus, sits on the halts. But when I don’t have treats, then he doesn’t work. So this weekend I took him to an obedience trial. He was in Beginner Novice and Rally Novice on Saturday, and Beginner Novice on Sunday. He Qualified in all his runs, but his work was not what I want. And if any of it had been off leash, he would have wandered off or sniffed like he’s done in previous trials. I want him to work regardless of the leash. And I want him to want to work. I want him to enjoy working and interacting with me. And I will admit, I don’t subscribe to the belief that if you keep taking them into the ring, eventually they’ll just figure it out and work. I think they’ll learn bad ring habits and will end up getting worse.
When I was warming him up I didn’t use treats. In the past I would have whipped out the treats to get his attention. I don’t want to do that anymore, because I can’t bring treats into the ring. So when we warmed up he didn’t seem to know what to do. Either 1) he doesn’t understand, 2) he’s nervous, or 3) he is holding out for treats. (A friend suggested – maybe he doesn’t understands he’s supposed to sit regardless of the distractions.) (If there are any other options of what the reason may be, I will really appreciate comments!)
I would tell him to sit, and he just stared at me like he didn’t understand. I told him a second time, he still looked at me. I leaned down and said sit in a more sturdy tone, and he sat. Three times to respond to a sit cue is not acceptable.
I don’t really think he was nervous. Maybe he is. Maybe I’m a bad handler because I’m not completely sure if he’s nervous or not. But when I did eventually get out the treats, he fell right into heel and sat on cue. So I’m thinking, with Jet, he either doesn’t understand, or he’s holding out. I’m leaning toward thinking that he’s holding out.
I’m not going to start with the sit or the heeling when I train. Or any exercises. What I’m going to start with is getting him to enjoy working just for and with me. Below is a video example of Jet not playing with me, or even responding to me, when the environment is too stimulating. This is from Saturday, I took him outside to see if he’d just play. I didn’t get any treats out. I wanted to see how he’d respond. As you can see, he basically ignored me and air scented. Old instincts kicked in and I walked him over to see if we could see what was up, though Denise said that may be a bad idea. And it didn’t do Jet any good anyway. And really he wouldn’t be able to ever visit whatever it was, so probably I shouldn’t have taken him there:
Here is a video of training and warming up indoors. He’s better, but he still frequently looks away from me. I want constant steady attention. Those who have done or watched the high level competition obedience will know what I mean when I say I want his complete focus. I didn’t get it here with play. I would have gotten it with treats:
So I’m going to start with some play and focus work in my front yard.
The plan is, go out the front door, see what his attention is like. If it’s not what I want, we go back inside and he lost the opportunity to work. Then we try again in 30 minutes or so.
Jet really does love to work. He loves to play and interact. But usually when we go out the front door, he thinks we are going for a ride or for a walk so it’ll be interesting to see what I get. It might be a hard environment. I could do this in the back yard, but he is comfortable and likes to play in the back yard… however, if we consistently have less than I want out front, I’ll go out back.
So that is the first step. Front door, play, see what I get. I won’t use any treats. I may use some toys, depending on what I get.
Then I’ll move this same routine to a park or a ring setup. Take him out of the crate, if he interacts with me and works, cool. If not, back in crate, he lost the opportunity to work.
Of course if this doesn’t really work, then I may have to reassess again. I am not going to use treats. I’ll video our sessions so I can see what works and what doesn’t. I need to break this down. I need Jet to play and interact with me. Can’t bring anything into the ring but me and Jet. So if we don’t have a good play routine between the two of us, we are screwed in the ring. And I don’t want a dog that wanders off or sniffs. Jet is capable of really beautiful work. I just need to make sure that the play and the work are both rewarding for him. I want him to be happy while we do it!
If you are interested here’s Jet’s runs from Saturday:
Beg Novice, 186 1/2
Rally Novice 82. I thought it was a fair score.
I didn’t get Sunday’s Beginner Novice on video. He did better, but still not what I want. He got a 191 on Sunday, which I also thought was a fair score.
So if anyone is interested I’ll be documenting Jet’s training over the next while, and hopefully things will work! 🙂 I’ll put all these up with the tag Jet Obedience.