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Well, today Noelle and I talked it over and we decided to start training toward a CD, so we decided to go to Novice class. Tonight we went to the fourth AKC club we've tried. The first club was way too intense. The vibe in the whole place felt like, if my dog isn't OTCH by the time he turns three, I'll commit suicide. I felt stressed out in there. The dogs were stressed. The people were hyper-focused. No one was enjoying anything.

Bleh. No.

Our second club was disorganized. I never really felt like the instructor had a clear idea what we were training from week to week. I'd work really hard on down/stays at home, and then the following two weeks we would work on heeling in class. Okay, let's work on heel at home then. Next week, long sit.
Facepalm. Structure, I need some structure. I need somewhere else to train.

We traveled 45 minutes each way to an obedience club in the next county to get Noelle's CGC. That was a long stressful drive in the dark. Fine to do for the CGC or an obedience trial, but not weekly.

The fourth obedience club is two towns west. They meet in the 4H building on the county fair grounds. They have drop in novice/open/utility/rally classes. Novice class is 45 minutes. It was six bucks a class. Whaaat? Super stressola cola club was $20 a night. Six bucks. OK, but how can it be any good if it's so cheap. Let's find out.

Noelle had a rough time in the ring at first with new place, new, dogs, new floor, new ring for the first 10 minutes of class. Everyone else's dogs were heeling and Noelle was focused on everything but me. Then she settled in and I got full eye contact heeling. It was beautiful! Heeling with speed changes. Heels with three steps sit, two steps, sit, heeling with about turns. Noelle got very happy once she figured out we were heeling. I was happy, too. We got praised for our eye contact for and our connection with one another. Made me happy all over again.

We did figure eights around two people and their sitting dogs. Oh boy. Noelle has never done this. She didn't want to sit and stay at my side with an interesting dog walking by. She was much too wiggly as the other dogs passed. Oh no. What kind of chaos is she going to bring to the party when it's her turn to walk figure eights?

How about, peppy heeling with focused snappy eye contact? The trainer was shocked. The two other people were shocked. You've never done that before? Noelle just snapped in and enjoyed heeling with me around the people and dogs. I think it's because we work around stuff all the time. Leave it is a default behavior, and so is zigzagging. We do that stuff around cherry pies, piles of muffins, loaves of french bread, with people, strollers, and shopping carts in the way. All we're gonna do is go around two people and two dogs? A figure eight was easy for her.

If that was too easy, we were in for it next. Stand for exam. Oh boy, we have a lot of work to do with this. I learned to hold Noelle behind her legs and feed her a treat while the instructor touched her. It was awkward. We suck at this right now. We'll work on it, and work on it, and work on it, and maybe when she is 942 years old, she'll have it.

Long sit. Noelle lasted 2 minutes out of three minutes before she wandered over to see what I was doing. I'm lonely, hi Mom. No, stay. That was a bit of a minor issue, ditto with down/stay. But, it was her first night. Normally she's very good at long stays. So, we'll get there. Other dogs were having problems, too.

First recall off leash, Noelle ran to me, bounced off my knee and sat. Then she did a leaping finish and landed on her butt with a cheeky poodle smile. Second time she anticipated the recall by a split second, but once again stopped and sat, then finished with another leaping spin and sit.

The trainer, who was laughing at Noelle's poodle spring loaded finish, said, "See you next week."

You'd better believe you'll see us next week. Look, this class was a blast. It was hard work getting Noelle's attention especially at first. It was hard work keeping her attention during the beginning, going around the ring heeling with all the other dogs. She gets bored with down/stays and long sit/stays. And gets far too excited with the stand for exam.

But, once she's switched into the on position, Noelle is a pure joy to behold. We loved this class. Both of us had a ball. Noelle wasn't nervous, and was just relaxed and happy, happy, happy the entire class.

The trainers at our new club make everything so clear. I understood what was working and what wasn't. It's the perfect balance of, what we're doing here is important focused work, but it's not a pressure cooker. It's the kind of place where Noelle can shine. I'm looking forward to next week.

Go Noelle, Go!
 

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Oh, I am so glad that you found a class that works for you. Sounds like my kind of class, too. There is a lot to be said for a class that keeps a dog happy while it's working. You know, the stand will come with confidence. Some dogs respond well to a slight touch as a reminder on their flank, while many of the herding breeds are better of with a hands off approach. I am sure that you and Noelle will have it conquered in no time. Kudos to you for continuing to search until you found the perfect fit.
 

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I am thrilled that you and Noelle have finally found a place where you can really accomplish your goals and do it with a smile! Wishing you continued fun & Good Luck!:cheers2:
 

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That sounds like fun - and the underlying advice not to take the nearest class, or to give up completely if the nearest is not right for you, is excellent. I am so glad that you have found the perfect class - training a service dog must get rather lonely at times, and it will be good for both of you to be in a group of people who really understand and appreciate how hard you and Noelle work at it, and the amazing results.
 

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This club sounds a lot like mine. Our dues are $35 a year and you can come for as many drop in classes as you like at any time on our schedule for $12 a class. If you take two classes on the same day it is $18 and three would be $24.

My novice classes are basically the same as the one you took, but run for 30 minutes (although if I have no beginners we often run over). I also do figure 8s the way your class did them. It is great for all of the dogs involved since the dogs with handlers who are the posts have a great chance to practice focused attention. Noelle will figure it out as she gets more familiar with the place and the routine of the class and will be rocking it before you know it.

I am thrilled for you and know you will make great progress and get that CD. You might ask the instructor to start to incorporate the anticipated changes in the novice stays. There will be an individual sit stay where you retrieve your leash and return to your dog as happens in rally excellent. The groups stays will be on leash with handlers holding a 6 foot leash and facing their dogs out at the end of the leash. Since the recommendation is that there will be a set up that will have more dogs per group we anticipate that will mean dogs in the middle of the ring in two rows with their backs to each other. I am starting to practice this set up for Javelin since I am certain having a dog sitting behind him will be a challenge.

For dogs that are wiggly for the stand for exam I have the teams start with a sit for exam. I also have the handler go just in front of the dog and stand toe to toe. Keep Noelle's attention focused on you and have the instructor stand next to her without touching her. Once she can keep attention for this then have the instructor touch her on the head and withers. Once she is good on that have her stand and stay still without being touched and keeping focus. Then you can have the instructor touch her. Once you are at this point you can start to move away until you are out at the end of the leash and take the exam. Then you can take the leash off.

Also if you have any thoughts on going beyond the CD do start teaching her to take and hold the dumbbell and to work away from you. Look at "Javelin's Road to Ring Ready" and the "Intermediate Obedience Workshop" threads for specifics on how to do these things. Let me know if you want the links to find those threads.

You and Noelle already have a great connection as a working team and I know you don't have to prove that with titles, but I find obedience to be a beautiful dance with your canine partner and I am sure you will enjoy it as such too.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you for your vote of confidence, Lily. It means a lot coming from you. I've never tried competing in obedience. This is going to be an adventure.

Stand for exam, to Noelle means, "get super excited because someone is going to pet me, roll over on my back for a belly rub, omg, I think I love you." We barely passed the CGC exam for the same reason. Picture a kid with ADHD who drank three shots of espresso, gobbled a wad of cotton candy, jumping on a trampoline, and you're about halfway there on Noelle's level of excitement. She just goes bananas when someone is going to pet her.

We did a sit for exam first in class and then I tried holding Noelle in a stand. We will inch our way forward, but this is going to take a long time. Noelle will be two on Halloween. Funny, a Christmas name for a Halloween dog, but I got her at Christmas time. Anyhow, Noelle loves the ring and I'm trying to make sure I don't add any stress or anxiety. Maturity will help stand for exam along with working on a standing stay.

Right now, my biggest issue is getting her attention quickly when class starts. We play focus and attention games outside of the ring, but she still needs a long warm up inside the ring before she's ready to focus. All the other dogs and handlers are spot on and Noelle is still sniffing the floor, poking her head through gates, ooh, what's that in the corner, noodling around, unable to pay any attention to me until she's ready.

Obviously we can't have a 10 minute warm up session in the ring during a trial. I want to break her of the noodling around the ring habit. I want Noelle to know the second we pass through the ring gate, she needs to pay attention to me and noodling around is forbidden.

How would you suggest I approach that? To me it seems like crossing ring threshold needs to be a trick in and of itself. You enter this space with me and work with me in this space. I know what I want to see from Noelle, but the how eludes me.
 

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We used to train entering the ring and setting up as a separate exercise for just that reason. You may think of an exercise as starting when you give the dog a command to do something, but if your dog thinks of it that way then there is no reason to be calm and attentive until the exercise actually begins (until you give the first command). If you want the calm attentive behavior before the exercise begins then you have to train that. For your dog the exercise should start before you enter the ring and end after you give a release. That way you can warm up outside the ring and the first exercise will begin before you even enter the ring. The second exercise should begin when you start to move towards the the next position, not after you get there and are fighting to get her attention back again.
 

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As reraven said you can treat the ring entrance like an exercise in and of itself. I do practice ring entrances with both Javelin and still with Lily. We set up outside the gate, get focus and then I say "let's work" and we go into the ring keeping our connection until we have crossed the threshold and I stop to remove (or pretend to remove) the leash. In addition to practicing ring entrances AND EXITS, we also practice what my trainer/coach calls ring choreography, the work of getting from place to place and exercise to exercise while keeping focus but also building in some stress relieving tricks like touches and spins.

I haven't had a chance to do videos lately but I will try to get some on Friday to show you some of what we are talking about here. I'll let you know when I post new videos.
 

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I'm so glad you found a wonderful training club. I too started with a cruel, over priced trainer so I kept looking and found several great places for training - I now go between 2 clubs and all my trainers keep it fun. I still complain that I'm driving an hour on mainly highways - but it's worth it when you have the right class.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Next Monday I'll make sure I have Noelle's attention before we enter the ring and really pay attention to crossing the threshold as a trick to train. Thanks for your help and support. It really means a lot.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
We're back. Today I was running late, forgot I needed cash for class, went to the ATM, broke approximately 934 traffic laws, and pulled into the parking lot a minute late. Noelle and I ran through the parking lot. Class had started. Oh well. They were heeling around the ring.

Thinking about Noelle's ring entrance, I made her sit and watch me, then we joined the class. I had her focused attention within one or two laps around the ring, so that went much better. Heeling and about turns went well in the group. Figure eight went well. Stand for exam went better than last week. I still held her belly, but I think next week I'm going to try letting go. We need to work on a standing stay. Stand, stay, walk around the dog and return, just like a sit/stay or a down stay.

Speaking of the long sit, she got up once and wanted to say hi. The second goof was when she slid from a sit into a down. I came over and fixed it back into a sit. Long down she did five minutes without getting up, whoo hoo! A Parson Russell Terrier whined through both the long sit, and the long down. Noelle was puzzled by the sound. A German Shepherd Dog was talking, and I swear, he said, "Mama don't go."

I am supposed to work on more square sits by only rewarding the really good square ones. And on recall, getting Noelle to come all the way to me and not sitting too early. We have work to do and I'm looking forward to it.

Was it the most focused class we've ever had? No, we got rushed and I was more stressed on the way in. Noelle was flirty and wanted to make some new doggie friends. Was I glad we went? Of course! Was it fun? Absolutely! Will we be back? Yep!
 

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I am so happy to see that you had another great class even with the hectic arrival. When people come late to my classes I encourage them to do as you did, take time to get organized and focused then jump in. For square sits with Javelin having a platform for him to sit on helped him to lose his sloppy puppyish sits. If you make it just a little wider than is needed for a square sit they will pick up the feet that are falling off since they realize they feel uneven. It doesn't have to be very high, just enough for them to feel if part of them is "falling off." I have a thick one I use at home and a more portable one I take with me to classes, lessons and matches. The portable one is made from two layers of kiddie play mats cut down the width and length I wanted. You can use mats like these and cut them with a utility knife. I used duct tape to hold the pieces together. I will get it from my vehicle in the morning and measure it and take a picture (maybe even with somebody sitting on it). In addition to the squaring up of the sits the platform also helps them to stay on the sit. You don't need it for the down for most dogs.
 

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Here are sit platform pictures, without and with a sitting dog. My kitchen floor tiles are 12" by 12" so the platform for Javelin is two feet long and a bit less than one foot wide. For Noelle it would be smaller. You can use a folding contractor's ruler to figure out dimensions.

Here is the platform.

Javelin's sit platform.jpg

Here is a sloppy sit. He usually corrects these himself, but you can also tap the side of any foot that is hanging off gently to make them think about it.

Javelin crooked sit.jpg

Her is a better sit with all four on the platform. I don't care that he isn't centered, just that no legs are hanging off. Please forgive the appearance of his "lipstick."

Javelin on platform .jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks everybody for cheering us on. A platform makes good sense. Sit this way, not that way. I will have to make something like that. Working on getting Noelle to come all the way to me is going to be interesting. She sits too far back. The trainer suggested putting the food lower. I am considering putting food on the end of a target stick and only rewarding her for very close sits. Noelle is shorter than a standard, so it's tough to reward her position without leaning down.

In preparation for one day retrieving a dumbbell, I'm starting requiring Noelle to bring the tennis ball to my hand, sit, and finish at heel before I throw it again. She likes to drop it at my feet. Sorry, Noelle, that's not how we're going to play. She's picking up on the new rules very fast.

Noelle is a fun dog to train. She's merry and joyful, and just delightfully fun to be with. She will work for food, toys, my laughter, and even my ridiculous singing. One of our focus games is If You're Happy and You Know It. I wasn't sure if Noelle actually recognized the song or not, so while she was resting at my feet, I started singing. BOING! Noelle sprang up. That's our happy fun treat game song, let's play! She actually knows If You're Happy And You Know it. How fun is that?

If you're happy and you know it you will sit
If you're happy and you know it you will sit
If you're happy and you know it and you really want to show it
If you're happy and you know it you will sit

I use all the different commands in my song. Sit, stand, down, heel, etc. Silly, but effective. It sets us up to have a fun time together, because training is fun. And I want to bring a happy dog with me on every adventure we have. Noelle is a happy dog and I don't want competing to stress her out. So by playing if you're happy and you know it before we enter the ring, I remember dog training is supposed to be fun. Fun for the dog first, and fun for me second.

Noelle likes it when I sing to her. When we groom, I sing to her as a reward for staying still. There's a musical freestyle class near us. Since she likes music so much, I think I might have to teach this dog to dance some day. But, right now, we're focusing on obedience and it's fun. Yay!
 

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You could try using little bits of american cheese and seeing if it will stick to your knee as a target for fronts. I've seen people do that with good outcomes. Of course it means you need a pair of going to class pants that you won't care too much about the appearance of. If you do make a platform you will find many uses for it.
 
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