Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Beating the Drop on Recall Demon

Another breakthrough night at the training club! I'm so excited! Moxie and I have been working on the drop on recall exercise for open level competitive obedience for some YEARS now (though not consistently) and tonight it finally "clicked". I started out by leaving her in a sit stay and walking out about 20 feet. Then instead of calling her, I asked her to "down" in place. (This made possible though years of work proofing downs anywhere, anytime) I used her verbal mark, "yes" and praised then returned to her and gave her a treat. Then I would put her back into a sit, go back out, and ask for a down again. Mark. Treat. Repeat a few more times. Finally I left her in a sit, went out, and called her front then asked her down about five feet out and she dropped like a stone! I was amazed! No creeping. No hesitation. It was an immediate, picture perfect down on a single command! I through a puppy party over it of course. I was very excited about this down, which of course meant Moxie was excited about it, and is more than happy to do it again and again for all the praise and yummy treats.

I just can't believe that was all it took to get her to "get" it. I have tried every which way to teach this skill. I tried using a helper and a leash to stop her while I simultaneously give the down command. She was too smart for that one, she knew when she was tethered and when she wasn't. I tried proofing moving downs, drilled them and drilled them and she would drop on recall, eventually, but she clearly didn't understand what I was asking of her. I tried using her favorite game, fetch. I would throw the ball for a retrieve and as she brought it back to me I would ask for a down and the minute she dropped, I would throw another ball for her. Again, she would drop, eventually, but it wasn't an immediate response and she clearly didn't understand the concept.

But tonight was just brilliant! I was so proud of her! Our relationship grows stronger with each passing day. If only my people friends could read me as well as Moxie can. She's amazing. Other highlights from tonights session include an great improvement in heel back/backup. She is performing the skill correctly more and more frequently and with greater control and precision. We are getting there! Her attention and heelwork is spot on. I wish I had some good video of us heeling to post as it's quite flashy from where I am, I'm sure its fun to watch.

One negative, my new trainer is all about correction, which, I believe correction is necessary in training. Don't get me wrong. But its also imperative that you know your dog, and trust me, I know my dog. I cannot leash correct my dog. She shuts down. Moxie is a super soft touch. She works best completely hands off. All I have to do is change my tone of voice for her to know when she is doing something correctly vs incorrectly. So I use a verbal correction, "eh" or "wrong" in the right tone of voice is all thats needed to get Moxie to reorient to me and try again. So tonight I lost her attention for a split second during a heeling with distraction exercise and my instructor says "correct her!" which I did! I gave her an "eh" and then a command, probably a watch me, or a leave it, I don't remember, but it worked. But no, she wants me to leash correct Moxie. It doesn't work and I won't do it. She shuts down. She cannot be manhandled like that she's too sensitive. Don't get me wrong, I don't disagree with a leash correction as long as it is done properly and not overdone, done out of anger, or done to "hurt" the dog. I just don't agree with leash correcting my dog as she doesn't respond to it.

Fast forward to the end of the night, I asked the trainer to put Moxie through some heelwork as I'm trying to get her used to other handlers so she will be more responsive to the patients during the pet therapy sessions. So she takes the leash and moxie responds brilliantly to her. She was heeling Moxie in a weave pattern through a line of dogs performing down stays. Two of the dogs in the class are less experienced and are still learning the meaning of stay. One of these dogs is friends with Moxie, so when the trainer walked Moxie past her, she broke her stay and tried to initiate play with Moxie. This commotion made the next dog break his stay to move out of the way. Meanwhile the trainer is trying to heel Moxie through the mayhem and Moxie turns her head to watch the dog that is coming up behind her. The trainer leash corrects her. Moxie cowers down and turns her head away (sending her best doggy calming signals) and what does the trainer do, she gives ANOTHER leash correction. I was alarmed to say the least. I mean, all she needed to do to get her back was to say her name and "heel" in an upbeat voice and Moxie would again trot happily next to her. Fortunately, once the other two dogs were back under control Moxie recovered and finished heeling. The whole thing probably only took a couple of seconds, I just couldn't believe the trainer didn't read the situation better than she did.

The positive outcome was that Moxie did work for this other person. She did recover from the correction and we were able to end the night on an up note. So all's well that ends well I suppose.


Oscar's mummy and daddy said...

Well done Moxie on your drop on recalls.

As for the trainer, grrr.

Hey, we have some BIG news, come and see!

Katy x

Debra Kay said...

Good job both of you!
I'm a little worried about correction and Prissy-she's tiny (3.5 pounds) and if you don't know what you are doing, you can really hurt her. A verbal correction-like aaaaaaa in the right tone is enough to put her back on track. She's not a soft dog mentally, but physically she is fragile.

JJ said...

Did you say anything to your trainer about "correcting" your dog like that without asking you if it was ok to do so?