Wednesday, 4 May 2011

It’s been a clicking success with Stig!

Over that past few months I have been getting a bit frustrated with Stigs jumping. He can jump and more frustratingly I know he can jump really well but if the pole is in the way he would just knock the pole and not really even try. People had told me to compete with him. ‘The more he does sequences he will pick his feet up.’  Hummmmm.. Everyone knows their own dog, if Stig thought this was ok then he would carry on knocking. Guaranteed!

What should I do?

Stig clearly thought that knocking the jump wasn’t that naughty. It was clearly my own fault. Stig has a good jumping style but he was just flattening out. I feel I had him on medium too long. Maybe I just got too carried away doing puppy/young stuff! I had taught him that there was sooo much value in jumping each jump, on medium. Now he was on Large he was just flattening out. The thinking cap was on, how am I going to re teach him the value of the pole without knocking the high value he has for taking the jump?

The clicker of course! I prefer to use a vocal marker ‘yes’, used in the same way as a clicker for marking the correct behaviour, or marking a good behaviour in the ring.

So why did I choose a clicker and not the vocal marker I normally use?
The vocal marker, I feel is more exciting compared to the clicker. I feel the clicker and no voice keeps my dogs that little calmer and they learn quicker that way. (That is a personal opinion for my dogs.)

I feel Stig learns better and quicker at home he seems to be more wound up and off his head everywhere else. It would make more sense to train him and teach him a new behaviour at his calmest state of mind. I brought the one jump home and the re training began.

I hadn’t used the clicker for a few months so I wanted to refresh him on how good that click was.

Stig’s favourite thing?
I would usually recommend using treats when clicker training (as the reward associated with the click.) Stig however LOVES food, just not when he is working, no smelly cheese, liver, chicken or sausage comes close to a raggy, they don’t even get a sniff! So after each click he got that amazing game of tug!

All clicker refreshed and ready to go.

I put Stig in front of the jump and let him jump it. EVERY time Stig cleared the pole he got that game of tug, not just a tug, the best tug game! When he knocked the pole I simply ignored him. I wouldn’t tell my dog off, he doesn’t know what he has done wrong. Although he doesnt get told off anyway. I want him to learn through trial and error how he earns his toy, I don’t want him to worry about getting something wrong, I want him to simply try harder and think harder how to get his toy.  Once he has worked out what gets him his toy and what doesn’t he should want to try harder to perform the behaviour that gets him that awesome game of tug.  

I did 5 minutes once a day for a week, then 10 minutes every other, once a day for the following week. I didn’t take him back into a class environment until I knew he had the idea. Stig was getting a big success rate. I took him back and I couldn’t quite believe the difference in him, I was truly shocked. I know he had a good success rate before but with that bit more excitement I was half expecting a fair few poles but a lot better then normal. He was brilliant, he knocked a few, but he was trying which is the most important think to me. ANY dog can knock poles, but the fact he was trying and trying hard was a massive improvement.

Bring on Vyne.

Stig had two jumping class at Vyne. First course was straight forward 3 jumps straight and then around the outside across the middle to the end. It seemed to wind him up. He knocked about 4 poles. So that shows I have to do more work on the one jump after really winding him up. So although it wasn’t the best run it has given us something to practice. Maybe he was a bit calmer in the class even though he looked mega excited. The second course was very compact at the start which is what he needs, It seems to make him think a little and keeps him a bit calmer as he is not blasting from the start. More similar to home. Stig went clear, few wide turns, and very slow for him. I didn’t want to push him I wanted to give him the chance to think about each jump without me distracting him by having to sprint off. This course did exactly that. He finished 2nd. Extremely proud! He did it.
Stigs Run...

Yes it was a bit scrappy few big turns, could of qued his jumps earlier but i wanted him to concentrate on the jump itself not what he was doing after untill. some confusion on the cross after the second tunnel, but i dont care. :-p That will all come very soon, im sure.

So this following weeks training will be more work on that one jump with a bit more excitement and more drive to the one jump. Then its away to start the long drive to Tumbridge Wells.