Jet’s Obedience Training

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:

Outside Training

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:

Inside Training

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
Beginning Novice

Rally Novice 82. I thought it was a fair score.
Rally Novice

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.

3 thoughts on “Jet’s Obedience Training”

  1. I have the same problem, a dog that is much more alert with food.  What I have started to do is much the same as you, I don’t have the treats on me anymore in practise. When I go to class I walk around & put the treats in different spots around the room, I keep everything short right now, maybe 2 or 3 steps in heel, if he gives me heads up attention I break & run for the treats I have hidden. this is working for us, slowly but surely.  I am also going to go back & start working with tugging as a reward.
    Good luck!

  2. I was trying to comment earlier but my computer and your page were argueing, LOL. I have been watching Michael Ellis DVDS-he is from Leerberg dog training and taking some semnars with Marla Cooper and one of the things that I thought of watching you with Jet when he was outside was Michael suggests to take a puppy, but I would suppose a dog too that is acting stressed about anything and taking them to a LOT of places, but to just get out of the car all ready and just do some good playing, just a short session but then get back in the car and go, or I guess you could play put your dog in the car and then do what you were going to do. He just suggested that you get the dog so used to turning and totally interacting with you that when he gets to any other place he just figures it means it is the start of a game and looks to you. Also I really had a big difference in my little Lizard brain girl Lizzie who would not play when there was any hint of food, I started delivering all treats by engaging her and just making her chase me a bit-that did not stress her and I would think you would have to make sure any dog did not think you really wanted to get away from him, but I found in susan garretts recallers course delivering treats like that changed the energy level and made play and food more a part of each other. I just watched a video on motivation where they said you should plan where you are going to start your exercises and do five movement related behaviors, hand bops, nose targets, running at your side, etc, and end where you are going to start. I saw your video on youtube of training with Jet and I thought you guys LOOKED MARVELOUS He really seems to like when he is jumping up and when he has to move around fast after you, you guys looked totally in sync it seems you are defin. on the right track!!!! That is so cool!

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