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Discussion Starter #861
Today I remembered that Noelle is a play driven dog. I engaged her play drive the entire time we were in the ring. One of Noelle's favorite games is dog shoving. One hand on her chest, give a gentle push. She jumps backward, and comes charging back for more. Then we did a heel pattern. And I rewarded her with dog shoving. One hearty shove, and more heeling. She had a ball. Noelle loves to heel.

Then I got out the dumbbell. My criteria was the retrieve, so I dropped the requirements for a square sit and a smooth hand off. I just threw it, and she ran toward it and... sniffed the floor. Facepalm. How can I make this more fun? Next throw, I held her back and roughhoused with her, preventing her from getting it. Then I released her. Bam! Straight for the dumbbell, grab, and bring back. She came flying! Tail waving. Just pure joy. So, we did that again. The more I played, the quicker she brought it back.

I finally put the pieces together and figured out what went wrong with my training plan. I have been a fun vacuum! FACEPALM! I've been focused on getting everything square and pretty. I forgot about fun and happy. No wonder Noelle is scratching her ear and sniffing the floor. Who wants to work with a fun vacuum? I've been sucking all the fun out of our relationship by setting higher and higher expectations. I need to fix our relationship in the ring first, and then work on perfecting exercises.

Will we get square sits and pretty heeling? Yes, of course we will. But, I need to sprinkle high expectations in with fun. Say we're doing dumbbell fetches. We can work in groups of five. First two, throw the dumbbell, don't let her go get it, roughhouse and release. Third, AKC regulation retrieve on the flat. Last two, roughhouse again. We'll keep that pattern until she's joyful about the dumbbell. Then, our first one will be AKC regulation and the last four pure play. Then I'll switch it to formal, play, formal, play. That way, the playful toss is reinforcing the formal exercise.

Ear scratching and ring sniffing are signs Noelle is unhappy about something. I never considered she was unhappy with... me. Sorry, Noelle. Sorry, friend. Forgive me.
 

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[Edit] Your reply above posted as I was writing my answer below. Congratulations! Play is clearly important to her!

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As it happens, we were practicing retrieves with Hobbes in class on Friday. The students who hadn't gotten started yet were shaping the sniff, take, and hold. Hobbes has passed that point, so his assignment was to go out a very short distance to fetch the dumbbell (placed, not thrown). But there was an open paper bowl with a piece of hot dog in it about 3 feet to the left of his dumbbell.

I did need to redirect him a few times, but after several repetitions and successively moving the dumbbell a little closer to the dish, he successfully brought it back when it was placed immediately next to the dish. Then to end that session, I did not send him to the dish but picked it up and handed him the hot dog from it.

I was talking to a friend (obedience judging mentor and owner of a succession of flatcoats), who said she has proofed scent articles with a treat inside a tea strainer placed in the middle of the pile.

If I were to work on the sniffing issue, I would approach it as not a training issue but a proofing issue. Her sniffing might be her way of showing she's feeling pressured and doesn't quite have confidence to finish the job.

Here's what I'd try, especially since I've been learning more and more while training the new guy ...
  • Start much closer to you with short throws or place the dumbbell. Build confidence in the task at hand without the pressure of distance from you.
  • Consider changing the cue. This one seems to mean "go way out to the dumbbell and sniff the floor."
  • Change locations frequently, not just in a training ring--garage, parking lot, parks, hallways, stairwells, whatever is safe and available. Use a flexi for safety if the space is wide open.
  • Place smelly distractions in different locations near or along the path to the dumbbell.
    • Not just food, either, though outdoor locations will provide their own distractions.
    • Get a tissue and ask someone with a dog to let you rub its feet with it. Then place it out on the floor/dumbbell area.
    • Have another person scent a pen or pencil to put out as a distraction.
    • Dog toys that other dogs have slobbered on.
  • Jackpots for success (of course).
  • Slowly increase the distance to the dumbbell.
 

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Discussion Starter #864
Today at training Mr. Fox made an appearance. I forgot my training pouch in my car, and I only had a few minutes to train before my next class started. If Mr. Fox is the reinforcement, Noelle is 100% in the game. Dumbbell fetch went off without a hitch. Heel free, figure 8, command discrimination and drop on recall. Full on, fully engaged in the game.

If I make it fun, Noelle is right there with me in everything. I've also discovered I can put Mr. Fox's severed tail in my mask, under my chin. Guess who makes continuous eye contact? Very handy for rally. Ha!
 

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An unexpected bonus from wearing a mask!
 

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Discussion Starter #866
Mr. Fox is in my mask has certainly changed Noelle's attitude. Her flow in Rally was much better. She stopped to scratch less often. Obedience though... She blew me away. Dumbbell fetches were rocket fast both on the flat, and over a high jump. Broad jump, beautiful. Heeling, lovely and smooth. Figure 8, head up and connected, speeding up when she was on the outside. Command discrimination Stand/Down/Sit, perfection. Drop on recall, speedy and accurate.

Who are you and what have you done with Noelle?

It was very strange. I felt like I had someone else's trained dog in the ring with me, not my floor sniffing, scratching, distracted dog. Instead, she was just with me, over and over, doing what we practiced. I think by bringing Mr. Fox back into the picture, my reinforcement is worth working for. The funny thing is, though, during obedience, Mr. Fox wasn't even in the ring with us. She just connected with me and I connected with her. Today was fantastic. A few dozen more where that came from and we'll be trial ready for sure.
 

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Wow. How impressive. Good girl Noelle.
 

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Discussion Starter #869
After we worked on directed retrieve with two gloves, left and right, I decided to see what would happen if I added the middle glove. I sent Noelle to glove one and she ignored the middle glove and got glove one. I sent her to glove three, and she got glove three. I sent her to the middle glove and she got the middle one. Clearly she understands the, "Get the glove mama is pointing at," game. Not only that, but she likes it!

Scent articles went well. She always gets the dumbbell I want, never the wrong one, never drops it, always brings it to front. However, yesterday she seemed like she was bored. I'll put them away for a few weeks and bring them back. I have to remember to consider her feelings.

We worked on go outs, directed jumping, heeling, dumbbell retrieves... It was fun. I think we had a communication breakthrough a few weeks ago. I remembered to be more fun and less strict and formal. Noelle shuts down if I'm not any fun. Today on one of her dumbbell retrieves, I ran away from her and she chased me while carrying the dumbbell. I pretended I didn't want it, which made her more determined to bring it to me. Her tail was flying, always a good sign.

Noelle still stops and scratches during set up, though. I ask her to get into heel position, and she does, and sits square. Then she scratches her ear. Since she doesn't scratch obsessively outside of the ring, I am assuming it's a stress response. I wonder if I am not reinforcing set up well enough? I have a bad habit of treating getting into heel position like a pre-game warmup. It's not. Getting into heel position and sitting squarely is a behavior in and of itself. And I think I screwed that up by treating it as unimportant. I've loaded the word, "READY!" with boatloads of treats. So, when I say, "Ready!" she's staring at me. But, get into heel? I messed up somewhere. Noelle is letting me know something is bothering her.

Any ideas on how to fix the ear scratching? I'm willing to transfer cues, play with Mr. Fox, treat her with filet mignon, bring out sock puppets and hold a puppet show...
 

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As Martha (mashaphan) said treat set ups and your exercise to exercise moment as separately trainable exercises. Javelin and I are doing lots of that work lately! Don't rush to enter if she shows those stress signs in training. It will be worse in trials than in training or matches.
 

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You might try teaching her a flashy "flip" finish followed by a repeated nose to hand (touch-touch-touch) and then you do a happy dance.

You could also get in front of a mirror so you can work on a "watch" duration when you don't have eye contact (one-way attention), like when you set up before starting an exercise. You reward duration.

I don't know how she would accept teasing, but an online class I'm in suggests a "you missed it" game: When she scratches or her attention wanders to somewhere else in the room, drop a treat or toy in front of you but get to it before she can. "Oh! What happened? You missed it!" followed by what the instructor calls Krazy Kookie, have Noelle chase a treat or toy in your hand and after a few moments let her catch it. The instructor, Debby Quigley, emphasizes engagement first before you work on precision.
 

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I use a release where Javelin is invited to "give a hug" before setting back up at heel. It is basically a jump up and is about all the excitement we can introduce and still get him to collect and reset. I practice "exercise finished- jump up release-get close (heel position)" many times every day we train. I can take that into a trial ring which is why I do it.

I also always have an eye on the dog when they return to heel to go to the next exercise. My trainer (and I agree fully) believes that if you expect attention from the dog you have to support good attention by returning it. I never look at her if she is talking and Javelin is at heel ready to work. I look at him clearly enough that he and I are having eye contact. Trainers, handlers and judges I know understand that you are not trying to ignore them. Instead you are supporting your dog.

If Noelle does her ear scratching and doesn't get to release her tension, what does she do next? For Lily if she doesn't get to let go of her stress sufficiently the next thing that happens after a big yawn or sneeze is that she takes off on me and tries to rally with the judge. You know what kind of a rabbit hole that leads down to (NQ).
 

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I have been doing a game with get into heel position. Not sure if it would be helpful. I saw a video where someone was using this to build engagement and focus to prepare for going in the ring and decided to try it.

I have her going around me in clockwise circles while I step around and swivel my hips and arms like I am using a hula hoop to encourage her. Then freeze and "front!' poodle (hopefully) skids to a stop in the front. Around and around again 'place!' stops beside me. Its not producing spectacularly straight sits, and we look very silly, but Annie thinks it's a fun game, gives me lots of attention, and is getting better at distinguishing between the two words.
 

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Discussion Starter #876
After scratching, unless I am able to stop it, Noelle's nose finds the floor and she goes on a sniffing adventure. Scratching seems to happen when I leave her for drop on recall or command discrimination. I think my leaving makes her uncomfortable in some way. And scratching occurs during set up.

Since Noelle stresses down, I'd like some kind of jumping up, but I don't know how to train it. I've seen the flashy flip finish where the dog jumps up and then sits. How is that trained? I think Noelle would love to learn how to jump up and touch my hand.
 

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I thought I'd be able to find a video of how to teach a flip finish (with a jump) but didn't find anything I really liked. So I experimented with the boys a little bit at lunchtime.

With a treat in my left hand (they already have a command for "get in" for heel position), I'd command the heel position at the same time I lured them up and back with a circular motion. I think with a little dog like Noelle it might be easier--I have deliberately avoided teaching a jump finish for fear these lugs would knock me off my feet!
 

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My flip to heel just sorta happened.. I guess my dog is just very exited about his heel.

I had the foundation of spin on him, which I think helped a lot! Somebody who has a dog who knows it, should record a video and post it here! ;)
 
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I think Betsy Scapicchio usually has her BCs and goldens do nice flying finishes. She has lots of videos so maybe look her up. She knows what she is doing, has lots of OTCh dogs.
 

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i, too, think flipping is largely instinctive, but it can be taught. I have noticed that Otter jumps to front on Adv Call front if I make a "wilder" 'higher " motion with my signal than a more sedate one (terrible word picture, hope you understand;)) I had to teach am "arm's length" touch as Otter was dangerously close to breaking my nose:rolleyes:, so that may have helped. I also try to keep him fairly excited during training.

Engagement is so key. i would love to have continual eye contact, but everything else is SO much more interesting than mom!:sneaky:
 
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