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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've gotten in a very popular class at my club with the most boring name of heeling and retrieve. No one wants to leave this class so it's hard to get in and the reason is it's so much fun. I'm only supposed to be auditing, but someone is not able to come for a month so I've been allowed to work my dog in the class and since we are doing so well, I'm hoping I can continue to work her.

It's really a proofing class, the teacher is so creative. There's a quarter jar - you have to feed the jar if you finish or front your dog unless you are told to do so. The idea is that you train perfect finishes and fronts separately. I haven't had to feed the jar yet, but OMG it's quite the challenge to do something and not finish or front if it's something we normally do so.

Here's some of the things we've done:

Dumbbell retrieve - we had the jump in the middle of the room and we were doing retrieve on the flat on the right, then over, then on the left ..... and never let the dog come into that sit in front. Babykins always jumps over and back with the jump, but I wasn't sure what she would do with throwing on the flat on both sides but she retrieved as I asked her to do. Most of the dogs had problems with the jump.

Then we threw dumbbells into the area where lots of the agility equipment was stored - jumps, weave poles, gating and other stuff jumbled up in several layers. The dogs had to go into that mess and puzzle out how to get their dumbbell and come back with their dumbbell. This is where nose work has really helped. In the past my dog would be tentative and a little nervous to go into that kind of space. With nose work, she has learned to follow scents into the weirdest and oddest location and the payoff is a ton of treats. All that rewarding in nose work has paid off. She didn't bat an eye lash, she just dove right in and grabbed her dumbbell. In the house I'm looking for those kind of odd spaces to throw her toys when I reward her for going through weave poles etc. in the basement.

This was one that I was shocked that my dog did - I had no idea she would do it. We threw the dumbbell but didn't send them...... instead we walked past the dumbbell to the other side of the room and called them to front. They had to run past their dumbbell and come into front. She did it. Okay then it got harder..... we left them in sit position and walked back to the other side of the room past their dumbbell. We had to call our dog into front and when they were near their dumbbell tell them to pick up their dumbbell and come in.... OMG Babykins did that. I was so proud of her. This was done with two teams working on either side of a barrier so it simulated when you are competing in a ring next to another ring. For the dogs that are so addicted to their dumbbell she had those people throw the dumbbell to the side so the dog didn't have to run past it.

Another dumbbell exercise.... let your dog see you put a food treat on a chair. Then set your dog up about a foot away from the chair and toss. As the dog is coming back in with the dumbbell turn and walk to the chair to get the food. The goal was to get the dog to keep the dumbbell in their mouth as you moved towards the treat. Most of the dogs spit the dumbbell out as soon as their owner went to get the food - and ran to the food. I was so happy Babykins kept her dumbbell in her mouth especially because she's not so crazy about keeping her dumbbell in her mouth. But everything we've done in class she's held onto it until I took it from her. I think it helps that sometimes I have treats in my pocket or hand, and sometimes it's on a table nearby or the fridge so she may be used to watching me reach for a treat.

For heeling we did AKC rally signs.... but only the ones that are heeling. No sits, downs, pivots - nothing that makes you stop moving. And we had to do it quickly. Next week we will be doing it with the metronome. I've never done AKC signs but I figured them out, they were obvious even though some were different. Guess what sign was there..... that famous new sign 320 Side by Side 360°Left Circle - While heeling, the dog and handler will stop forward motion and make a 360° side by side left circle. I don't spin my dog but two years ago I taught her spins for trick dog test. And my agility trainer reminded me that I do send her to spin around a cone to train a tight turn on a jump - so she knows to complete a turn. As I signaled her to turn I figured I might as well turn too.......OMG we did it perfectly. Most of the people in the class couldn't figure out the sign and I was asked to repeat it a few times. One of the people in the class is an AKC rally judge and she said we did it perfectly. That was the highlight for me. And it made it for her going a little wide on the figure eight (oops, we need lots of work on our heeling). I think the other people in the class had a problem because their dogs didn't understand that they had to finish the spin and instead they would fall out of the spin to get back into heel in whatever way they could.

I can't remember anything else. I am so thrilled that Babykinsis doing so well. I was afraid if she messed up too much they would want us to continue to audit and work on stuff at home.

Next week we're working with our gloves. I'm also working hard on our drop on recall. I wonder what creative proofing she will have with these?

I feel like I'm at Disneyland - only better because I have my dog with me. I've never had a class like this. Maybe bits and pieces within a more traditional class, but not all proofing fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sounds like a wonderful experience for you and Babykins. I was so impressed that she did so well with such complicated exercises.
I know, I’m shocked and each time she does it. We’ve never done anything like this, it’s a real challenge. Our bugaboo is heeling, that I think is our weakness so I’m hoping this exercises helps that heeling in close.

It’s the kind of class I wish everyone doing even beginning puppy class has....obviously puppies would be sitting and laying down and coming basic stuff.
 

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Sounds like a really unique class. Good job Skylar and Babykins. I’m going to save your post as an idea for my club, not that we would qualify to take it.

Do you have any tips for how you convinced Babykins to keep the dumbbell in her mouth, since she doesn’t like it? I’m struggling with that and have just started a grad novice class.
 

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That really sounds like a great class! I wish we had something like that around here. Congratulations on getting a chance to work in there and on doing so well. I can't wait to hear more next week. Tell me everything!
 

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Wonderful sounding proofing! Making it fun while also harder than actual trial exercises is awesome.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Sounds like a really unique class. Good job Skylar and Babykins. I’m going to save your post as an idea for my club, not that we would qualify to take it.

Do you have any tips for how you convinced Babykins to keep the dumbbell in her mouth, since she doesn’t like it? I’m struggling with that and have just started a grad novice class.
My Babykins is a wonderful minipoo...... but she is not a retriever - she wants me to chase her. In the last few months she has independently decided that since I've never chased her to get a toy back, that returning it and dropping it 2 feet away is a good idea because she can get a treat for that. I don't know how I trained her to be so good with the dumbbell - it's as if some pixie fairy sprinkled magic dust.

I have worked on the dumbbell in different ways - breaking it down into the retrieve, hold and handing it to me. I've held her under her chin (gently, she is very sensitive and wouldn't tolerate any rough handling) while I petted and scratched her head and ears as a reward saying "hold" and rewarding. I slowly increased how long I would hold her mouth shut.

I've rubbed hamburger and chicken on the mouth part to encourage her to take the dumbbell. We're limited due to her diet - otherwise I would have tried smelly tastier things like cheese or braunschweiger. To this day she hates to take the dumbbell in her mouth and usually keeps her mouth shut - so I've abandoned this method.

There's also the ear pinch and some gentler versions - I've avoided them because she's sensitive. I wouldn't do the painful one, but the gentler version starts with just touching and petting the dogs ear and treating so they are used to you handling the ear and associate it with good things. Then you do a very gentle pinch, not anything that is painful. Some people in my club do this method with good success.

Normally when Babykins comes in front with her dumbbell she wants to spit it out quickly. I've been slowly extending the time before I take it from her mouth. I started by bending over and catching it as she was dropping it. She didn't get a treat if it fell on the floor. I slowly transitioned to remaining standing before I bent over to pick it up the way you see at trials. In the last few months I was taking a little more time before I would reach in the take it. And more recently, as she was coming in to front, I would take a few more steps back - increasing the time she had to keep the dumbbell in her mouth - before stopping so she could front and give me the dumbbell. In class the trainer is encouraging us to not only take steps back but to also let the dog pass through our legs while holding the dumbbell. Or for us to pivot quickly so now we and the dog are facing the same way and to run a little with the dog holding the dumbbell. I'm sure we'll do more things in the class and I'll post them. Seems the key is to keep that dog holding onto the dumbbell and doing unexpected things with it in their mouth so at trial they will hold onto it until released.

The one thing I can't do is hand her a dumbbell and get her to hold it for any length of time. She has to run to get and take the dumbbell - there has to be some turning on of prey drive to excite her enough to pick it up.

I hope your club can offer a class like this. I was speaking to the trainers helper and she said it's a lot of work - not physically, but mentally thinking of different exercises. The main trainer has decades of experience, she's an AKC judge and has taken all her dogs to Utility - plus she's had all kinds of breeds and has faced all kinds of challenges with her dogs that makes her very special teacher. She watches everyone like a hawk and her constructive advice is incredibly helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks Click and Catherine,

I'll post what we do each week. I don't think what we do is secret - it's the kind of things people do to proof. What makes this class special is that the trainer is creative and pulls all these proofing exercises into one class. And because I'm still so new to competition obedience, it's all new to me.
 
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Skylar - I also wanted to thank you for the training advice re the dumbbell. Very informative. I am just now starting out with Asta and the dumbbell.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Asta’s Mom, I’m glad it’s helpful. I’ve gotten some wonderful training help here from others and it’s great to have this community to share what we learn.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
More fun in today's class and a real challenge for next week - wait till you see this one.

We did another heeling rally course - only this time to a metronome. Nothing like weaving through cones and turning 360's and turning right or left marching on time. It was interesting to watch some of the others. Some people didn't connect with their dog which shocked me - and they were called out on that.

We then did heeling with distraction - OMG what a distraction. We took turns walking next to someone's dog (I had Babykins with me, most people had their dog, not all) and we were to call their name, tell them to stop, pull at their clothes, call their dogs name - to be a really, really obnoxious distraction - not just quietly walking next to them. We just heeled a straight line, turned around and walked back. I was lucky my dog actually heeled and kept her attention......which I didn't expect but I did use a food treat to keep her attention on me. Next week will be even worse... the distraction person will be throwing food and treats - I don't think we'll be able to heel with that. And we have to wear a skirt. A while back a judge was wearing one of those tattered bohemian skirts with tendrils fluttering everywhere and most dogs were either fascinated and heeled with the judges skirt, or they were scared and afraid to move. Should be very entertaining to watch. The goal obviously is for you and your dog to focus on each other the whole time and not let the judge in the ring be a distraction. I just don't wear skirts, don't have one - but I do have some gorgeous sari's and I'll bring one that I can wear over pants to be my skirt temporarily. Bonus points because Saris end up with a section that you fling over your shoulder and that can move too (the way you wear a Sari is regional).

We did directed glove work. First there were bowls on the floor and people standing around with their dogs. One of the people had treats for your dog .... we had to sit and direct our dog to the right bowl and as the dog came close someone would reward the dog by tossing the treat in the bowl and then you called your dog back for more treats.

After this we did a single glove recall. First sending out 15' and then 30'. I've never sent Babykins out that far for a glove and she's terrible about not wanting to hold on...but somehow the extra distance got her excited. She ran out full speed ahead to get the glove and full speed back holding it and handing it to me. I was so sure this was going to be a huge failure because I'm still teaching her to hold the glove long enough to hand it to me.

We ended with dumbbell tossing over the jump...... first a proper toss over the jump. The second toss was hard - instead of tossing it over the jump which you are supposed to do - the teacher put out a wing from an agility jump and it was off to the side. We had to toss our dumbbell to the wing to the side......not over the jump. Most dogs watched where the dumbbell went and immediately took off to the side, not going over the jump. I was thrilled that I was able to direct Babykins over the jump then she turned right to grab the dumbbell - and here's where agility came into play, I was able to tell her to jump back when it wasn't the natural path to take. It also helped that we had done that directional glove work before because sending her over, I made sure to direct her attention to the jump and away from the dumbbell. The trick was to direct your dog to jump, then direct them to find and take the dumbbell and then direct back over the jump.

One of the more experienced people has trained her dog to turn it's head and look at her after the dumbbell is thrown and before she sends her dog over. The trainer pointed out this was a smart idea - that way your dog is going to follow where you send them. So we need to work on that.

And here is the challenge for next week - and it's a doozy. We were all given those really cheap flimsy plastic eggs people fill to add to Easter baskets and hunts. We have to train our dog to retrieve this Easter egg. Even worse, next week it's going to be filled with dog treats. OMG. Most of us started to train in class as she was handing the eggs out. I got Babykins to take and hold it - but she started to play with it and opened it up - it's really thin and flimsy. I think I'll go and buy more in case she breaks a few in practice.

So has anyone taught their dog to return a cheapo, flimsy plastic Easter egg? Any suggestions?
 

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Noelle would flunk this class. All those distractions would melt Noelle's mind. I am really, really impressed with both of you. Such incredible progress. Great job. Wow!

As far as retrieving an egg? Um... Get lots of eggs to practice with. As far as the dog treats go, I know what Noelle would do. Open the egg, get the treat herself, then bring me both halves. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
This Monday's class was a real hoot. OMG the fun we had.

It started with another rally course. There was a gating set up in the middle of the room - three sides of a square. The course was set up in two sections - one went in a u shape around the outside of the gate and the second half of the course was a U shape around the inside. We were in teams - one team went around the outside and then into the inside while the other team started at the inside and moved to the outside. As soon as the first person had finished a few signs, the next person in line went in. There were a few signs where we downed our dog etc. but most were just heeling. We did this on leash once and then twice off leash.

I learned two things - 1) we all learned that our dogs were heeling much better off leash compared to on leash. Off leash the dog realized they had to pay closer attention to us and, we knew we had to pay closer attention to them. 2) For myself I was pleased to see that Babykins wasn't distracted by all the dogs in front of her, behind her and on the other side of the accordion gating. I was concerned she would zoom. I think she picked up the cues that the other dogs were working and she had to work too. I've been working her off leash as much as I can when I get some time in the building with a few dogs and sometimes in class as part of getting her ready for taking the Novice exam. OTOH, the trainer wanted us to hold our leash properly - in our left hand and I've always held it in my right hand...... OMG our heeling on leash was a disaster. I wasn't the only one. After the trainer mentioned something that had been told to me many times before but this time I think it will stick. The leash is not there to keep our dogs with us, properly held the leash tells us when our dog is out of position. There should be little slack in the leash. I've been using my 6' leash from Novice -I should have been using my rally leash which is 4' so I don't have the bulk of the 6' leash bunched up in my hand. I'm going to look for a 3' leash since I think that's a better length from my dog's neck to my hand held in position on my waist.

We are competing this weekend and I don't want to mess up anything with switching how I hold me leash until after the trial is completed then I'll work on making the change. I'll start using my shorter rally leash in my Beginner Novice/Novice class and I'll keep the 6' leash in a pocket handy in case I need it.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The fun started with eggs. I had trained Babykins to retrieve the flimsy Easter egg then I hid treats in the egg once I had a good retrieve for an added challenge.

I wasn't prepared for what happened in class.

There were two large baskets filled with various sized eggs. Each egg was filled with chocolate for us.

The game was each team heeled with their dog to the basket and let their dog choose an egg then the dog had to carry the egg to the other side of the room where there was an empty basket for each team where the dog was to drop the egg.

I was so embarrassed. Babykins was sniffing at each of the eggs, she was pawing at them, she was checking them all out.... but she wasn't taking one in her mouth. In the meantime the other team was getting ahead of us. Finally the teacher said to take an egg out of the basket and place it on the floor and let her take it which worked.... we ran to the second basket - only she was afraid to get close enough to it to drop the egg into the basket. I had to have her drop it near the basket and then put it in myself. We ran three times and each time I had to take the egg out of the basket and put it in at the end - she was find holding and running with it.

Our team lost - but both teams got chocolate and two people whose dogs did a fabulous job got chocolate bunnies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
We ended with various dumbbell proofing.

We set up our dogs in heel, dumbbell in hand and threw the dumbbell backwards - as discretely as possible. Babykins, after I threw and sent her she ran forward a little confused - she heard the dumbbell land but couldn't see it and didn't figure out it was behind us - I had to point to behind me. Then she ran quickly to get it. We were not allowed to turn to our dog or move our body - we had to stand looking forward. Thank goodness I've trained Babykins to come in front from anywhere. She came in front with that dumbbell perfectly - they way I hope she would do in competition. One lady in the class shouted out how beautiful it was - and I was happy to hear that because this lady is a stickler who aims for perfect scores and she's been competing for many years. Some of the dogs immediately ran behind but most were lost like Babykins and needed help - most dogs couldn't return the dumbbell from behind. Some of the people are working on Utility, most on Open and a 3 of us are Novice level. I wonder if the dogs that immediately ran behind and retrieved where the utility dogs?

Then we tossed it forward and someone's beautiful granddaughter stood next to the dumbbell as a distraction - and we were all sitting around in a ring with our dogs. This was cute, most dogs retrieved but with the dumbbell in their mouth went up to the little girl and gave a sniff. Some dogs went to her and ignored their dumbbell. Babykins gave her a look but did her retrieve.

The last distraction was something I've never seen before. Maybe others here have. It's a ball that flashes blinking lights in different colors, makes loud noises (sounds like you are picking up 2 radio channels simultaneously), moves in random movement. To top it off the trainer's dogs had attacked and tried to destroy it so it was taped up and some of the tape was loose and dangling. This toy was a huge distraction, it was giving me a headache.

Everyone took a turn throwing their dumbbell near this obnoxious toy. The dogs reactions were incredible - some just chased after the toy, some took the toy and ran with it. Everyone was laughing - it was so funny. Almost all the dogs tried to grab this toy. Babykins is often nervous about new things. I was shocked that she ran to this toy and tried to retrieve it instead of her dumbbell. I was able to tell her to take her dumbbell and she did retrieve. There was only one dog in the group that was scared of the toy and started barking. She had to put her dog on a leash and move far away from the distraction to settle her dog. The person who assists training this class is my trainer for WCRL rally and she later told me she would not have done that challenge without first letting the dogs run to sniff and check out the distraction first.


And in my Beginner Novice/Novice class the trainer had us do a heeling maneuver to help dogs heel that I've never done before. We heeled with our dog and had the dog clockwise spin - as soon as the dog was coming out of the spin we turned a right angle - the dogs had to speed up to get back into heel. She also had us try doing it with a left angle from a counterclockwise spin, but we were the only ones who could do this. There's a lot of newbies in this class.
 

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Can I come join your class? It sounds super fun! Glad you and Babykins are enjoying it.
 
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Noelle would flunk this class. All those distractions would melt Noelle's mind. I am really, really impressed with both of you. Such incredible progress. Great job. Wow!

As far as retrieving an egg? Um... Get lots of eggs to practice with. As far as the dog treats go, I know what Noelle would do. Open the egg, get the treat herself, then bring me both halves. Good luck!
I think if we had taken this class last year, we would have been kicked out. Babykins just wasn't mature enough.

I'm incredibly pleased with how she is handling all these distractions. I think it really helps that most of the dogs in the class are in utility or open - and all are good workers. I'm envious at how beautiful some of them heel. I think she has picked up the vibes that she has to work too.

I've also done a lot of Catherine's 5 cookie games both in heel position and while heeling to encourage that focus when heeling.

Lastly I've been lucky to be asked to join a group of more advanced people who train an hour before our Beginner Novice/Novice class. It's a small group of people and everyone is working their dog off leash. It's helped me with working Babykins off leash around these dogs. At the beginning I worked recall with her on the side of the wall behind the gate. Then I worked her with some directed jumping which she loves in the ring and slowly worked her up to an hour of working off leash.

Between the 5 cookie games and working with a small group off leash I think prepared her for this class where there's 12-14 people working dogs. Experience and maturity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
MaizieFrosty I wish all of us had a class like this. There is so much joy, laughing and the trainer is so experienced, so knowledgeable and adapts everything to each dog. When a dog has a problem with an exercise, she knows exactly what the handler needs to do. Plus she's judge so she knows what the judges are looking for.

I've seen a huge progress in Babykins retrieve. It's a miracle I trained her to retrieve a dumbbell. She refused to return any toy - she zoomed with a toy and wanted me to chase her which I never did. Recently she started to return her toy - dropping it at my feet but refusing to put it in my hand. Now she's bringing toys to my hand, not just her dumbbell. And that silly egg - OMG she was bringing that back to my hand. Since this class I can have her run in heel along with me with her dumbbell in her mouth, she's not spitting it out as quickly as possible. I never did any ear pinch, even the modern gentle painfree pinch - my dog is too soft, and I often wondered if it was a mistake. Now I know I made the right decision.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'm also thrilled because the person who assists this trainer is my trainer for WCRL Rally - and there's a small cohort in my rally class who are at that Novice/Open level. She's started to teach us some of the open exercises for training. We're working on the send over the broad jump.

Plus she's starting to incorporate some of the fun proofing exercises in our class.

The club where I train for Obedience has a very old fashioned approach to training - you're in the Beginner Novice/Novice class until you get that Novice title. In fact there are people in my class who have their Novice, they haven't moved up yet. Then you're in the Open class until you get that title. You finally move to the Utility class - yep, you guessed it, when you have the Open title.

But that's not how people train now - those who know, start their puppies on all the exercises - that's how Catherine has been training Javelin. I wish my club trained like that - but between my proofing class and my trainer in Rally, I'm finally getting what I need.
 

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MaizieFrosty I wish all of us had a class like this. There is so much joy, laughing and the trainer is so experienced, so knowledgeable and adapts everything to each dog. When a dog has a problem with an exercise, she knows exactly what the handler needs to do. Plus she's judge so she knows what the judges are looking for.

I never did any ear pinch, even the modern gentle painfree pinch - my dog is too soft, and I often wondered if it was a mistake. Now I know I made the right decision.
How lucky to have such an amazingly skilled and experienced instructor! And I'm so glad you have used force-free methods with Babykins. There is never a need for force. Today I saw a woman in my club jerking her dog angrily with a choke chain for leaving a down stay, and a man in my group forcing his dog into a down by stepping on the lead. :argh:
 
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