Monday, October 24, 2011

Steadying June

As a breed, Tollers have been known to lack impulse control. June is an on again, off again poster child for this trait. I have worked especially hard to steady her in agility because she is lightning fast and I often need a good, solid lead out in order to set her up correctly for a course. I must have been feeling overly confident about her start line stays last November when we competed in Ohio, though it could have been the long ride out there or the extra restraint she had to exhibit as a house guest. Regardless, our first run of the weekend was an Excellent Standard run that was best managed by leading out from the first few jumps and calling her over. At least that was my plan. June had other ideas. She was over three jumps and had her nose and a paw in an off course tunnel before I even realized she had broken her stay. I will say this for June, she has excellent brakes and steering, and came off the tunnel immediately though it was too late to salvage our run. Obviously we went back to emphasizing start line stays in our training after that. I also find it helpful to remind her of my presence by doing front crosses, especially during our first courses of a trial weekend, to stress the importance of taking direction from me while running a course. In our Zen agility moments this isn’t necessary, as June directs wonderfully from behind and running her in this manner is definitely a less breathless endeavor for me.

Steadiness is an issue for June in field events as well. In fact this is the main point holding us back from attempting the higher levels of fieldwork, as steadiness is a requirement in the higher stakes. June finished her SHR title last fall and I can now confess my arm was sore after that weekend from holding onto her as I sat on a bucket, waiting for the birds to hit the ground. No judge’s comments regarding June will ever say “lacks enthusiasm”.

I’ve received lots of helpful advice from members of my HRC training club on steadying June. Unfortunately almost all the advice involves some type of positive punishment, from shock collars to riding crops to running out and scaring June away from the bird when she breaks. I simply can’t bring myself to employ these suggestions. They just don’t feel appropriate for a dog who lives to run and retrieve. What I have been focusing on, and what I believe will be the answer in the end for June, is a form of negative punishment (,  When she breaks, I take away her retrieve. She’s a smart dog and has been catching on, though it still is a long, challenging process. As always, most of what’s holding her back is my lack of consistency and effort as a trainer. I’d better work on that!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Eta the beautiful and talented

It's been a busy year for Eta. She completed her  AKC CH, WC, CD and RN titles. This made her eligible for the NSDTRC USA's Rusty Jones and Versatility awards. We are very proud of Eta and very grateful her co-owners Mike and Mary have put in the training time to allow her to shine in so many areas. This fall Eta also completed three JH passes, only one more to go! These are some of the photos Eta's owners have sent me of her recent exploits in the field.