And the Beat Goes On

It’s always a good time when freestyle’s on the schedule.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend another seminar presented by Michele Pouliot. I got so much out of the first one that I couldn’t wait to attend the second. Not to mention we had scheduled a private lesson as well; something I’ve never done before!

The seminar portion Saturday covered training tricks and choreographing routines. It was neat to think of how a ‘basic’ behavior can be utilized in many different ways making it appear more complex. While I didn’t learn a ton of new things, I got a great reminder on some of the stuff I already knew but had forgotten. I always love jump-starting my brain that way. It was fun working on back-chaining as well both with our dogs and our “human dogs.” Clicker training people is always a blast and it was no exception this weekend.

I also got to work Risa a bit on Saturday which I had not expected. This was nice but it really showcased how little we’ve worked in distracting areas. Risa was very interested in what the other dogs were doing. Not in a reactive way. . .a curious way. But it still made training with her difficult! I was impressed that I was able to have her off-leash among the other dogs and not have to worry about her wandering off or getting herself into trouble. Still, some focus would have been nice!

She was pretty well-behaved over the weekend but, unfortunately, had several reactive moments. I don’t know if it was because I was a bit more lax about it or if she’s still a bit stressed out over having Jagger in the house. Hard to say. I’m usually more on my game than I was this weekend though none of her reactions made me upset. I totally brushed them off and just made a mental note to be more careful next time! She did, at least, meet a friend’s dog and greeted him nicely.

It was great simply to hang out with my freestyle friends again as well. Everyone is so supportive, friendly, and just fun to be around. Even those I don’t know very well felt like fast friends. Some of us even stayed after the seminar was over to eat dinner, chat, and watch freestyle videos. I didn’t want the night to end!

Sunday morning, we were the first private lesson. Fortunately, people had told me on Saturday that I should have a game plan for what I wanted to work on during our lesson. It’s a good thing too or I wouldn’t have been prepared! Since I know I am terrible at foundation work and that Risa has only a vague concept of her positions (left-side heel, right-side heel, and front), I wanted to work on that. Especially since I had no idea of how to go about teaching behaviors behind me (which is required in the higher levels). We spent the first half of our session working on platforms which I had never done before. Risa took to it like a duck to water and had no trouble at all getting the concept. I’m totally sold on using platforms to teach positions now. I can see how quickly and easily it helps the dog ‘get it.’ Part of what I’ve struggled with teaching Risa to front is that she gets crooked. She tends to lean or scoot to her right because she has been rewarded off the left side of me more. The platform eliminates that issue completely. As long as I’m lined up square to the board, she’s straight!

After the platform work, I decided to work on focus. It seemed appropriate since Risa spent a fair portion of the platform work wandering away to sniff. 🙂 Michele gave me some great tips and she proved to be a great distraction as well. She started off small just making kissy noises and calling to Risa while I clicked Ris for looking at me and called her name if she didn’t look back. We were able to quickly escalate and make the distractions even tougher. By the end, I had Risa’s eyes locked on mine. She didn’t even twitch an ear while Michele yelled “Hey,” walked back and forth, and whipped around a stuffed animal on a string. It was pretty impressive! Risa can give really good attention; I just need to be more consistent about asking for it and work her in more distracting environments.

Ris did have an issue during her lesson when a dog walked through the facility. I was totally unprepared; everyone was told to keep quiet and not be moving about during the lessons. So Risa took off, rushed towards the exit of the ring (it was closed) and barked at this dog. I would bet money that, during a trial, this wouldn’t have been an issue. There is so much going on then that Risa wouldn’t have noticed. But, in a quiet room, this stood out like a sore thumb. Sudden environmental contrast indeed!

During and after our lesson, I got a lot of compliments about my clicker training and good timing. I felt so good hearing that. 🙂 Though I also thought that maybe I just watch my dog a little too closely!

Now I’m even more excited about continuing on with freestyle. It is truly my favorite dog sport for so many reasons. I can’t wait to get back into training!!

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
This entry was posted in Canine Freestyle, Dog Sports, Dog Training Seminars, Michele Pouliot, Reactivity, Training. Bookmark the permalink.

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