Monday, March 16, 2009

Quinn and Cooper at the Mike Ellis seminar

I was only able to attend one day with my dogs, and just couldn't decide who to work. I decided that Quinn needed attention first, as he has become quite challenging to new helpers. He flies around the blind and leaps up, face high to see what kind of a reaction he gets. If he sees the person flinch, then he is horribly pushy, jumping up and even nipping. I had noticed that when we worked with Greg Doud, after being pushed BACK by Greg, Quinn became a gentleman. I wanted to test my theory on Michael, who is taller than our usual helpers and has more presence. Sure enough, Quinn ran in, did not get the reaction he hoped for, and settled down, never jumping and nipping. He did get a little pushy and we discussed some possible remedies for that which I may employ on my usual helpers since they do not have the same presence as Greg to be pushing the dog back.

After seeing what the response was to having Michael as a helper (and I might add, the "outs" were exceptionally clean and fast, just as they are on Greg) I decided to move on to other aspects that we have been training in the schutzhund routine. Quinn was the only dog training in schutzhund at the seminar. All the rest were ring dogs. As the ring dogs worked, people photographed and filmed and followed them around the room. When it was Quinn's turn, suddenly it became lunch time. I had no crowd! Now, the negative aspect of this is that one reason you attend seminars is to have groups of people around your dog as you are working, standing at the blind, etc. I did not have that.

Another aspect of working a schutzhund dog at a ring seminar is that the ring routines are quite long, and move from obedience right into protection work. When those guys start their practice, you might as well grab a chair because you're in it for the long haul. Therefore, so as not be be cheated time-wise, I stretched my session out until Quinn tripped on his tongue. I did continue to work from the send to the blind, to the call out (the magic triangle), to the escape and finally the transport. I was very pleased with Quinn's work, and of course, Michael's helper work is always excellent and Quinn got nice, strong fights. You develop a level of comfort when working with particular helpers, understanding their training "language" and reading their indications with a nod. New handlers go through a struggle of having to verbally communicate or have communicated to them, what they need to do, and that slows the process. With Michael, I see his lock up coming off the grip and he glances at me and that is my signal to "out" the dog. It was good practice to move from exercise to exercise. My personal reminder is to have our helpers make an exaggerated leap back on the rebites; otherwise, Quinn tends to get lazy and while his grip is full, he isn't punching as he can and should. I will practice that as well in my toy play. One of the other exercises I need to remember to do reinforces the dog punching through the helper, by using the bite wedge. Sometimes the "tools are in the toolbox", but you have to move one to see the one that was there all the time!

I had the choice of what to do with my second session, and I opted to work young Cooper on the leg sleeves, or jambierres. There were several factors that led to this decision, and was, in fact, the reason I could not decide which dog to work orignally. We have been working on Cooper's grip; having him hold a full, calm grip for extended periods of time. His tendency had been to pull back (huck-a-buck is the term our K9 handlers use), hunching up and yanking backwards. Who knows where he thinks he is going, but he is hell bent to get there and pulls very hard! However, that pull takes him from a full to a 3/4 grip, which is no good. We have worked on having him punch in and keep a full grip. Watching one dog work, I heard Michael comment to an observer that a dog taken to SchH3 without a leg foundation will never be able to reach the upper levels of ringsport if you switch. They need the foundation to feel comfortable and satisfied with the grip, and to understand the gripping style of turning the head properly. Cooper had bitten leg sleeves as a baby but then we moved away from that. I decided it was time to teach him properly so that we have that to return to later, but as a learned behavior. The big question mark-- and the one that would decide if we continued in that vein or not-- was whether he pulled himself off the grip when on the legs.

In the end, I was very pleased with how Cooper handle the leg bites. He turns his head nicely, is bring good activity and power to the grips and did NOT pull himself off of them! Instead, he continued to punch in and want to fill his mouth, so I was very happy with that. Michael would slip the jambierre and we would reinforce the hold and carry or cradle, the same as I had done on the bite pillow, so it was a good transference of skills. Since the time to teach an object guard is before the dog knows a bark and hold, and since he learned to go to an object and turn when he was young, we will revisit that before I teach him the bark and hold. Things are progressing nicely and I hope to have a very well rounded dog. He certainly is fun to work!