Training direction, guidance needed

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Postby Leslie H » July 4th, 2009, 12:15 pm

This will be long. While it is in part about weight pull training, it's really related to training philosophy/choices.
Soleil is almost 4. She was supposed to be a bitework dog, but she's too wimpy. She is a high drive, reactive dog. I started her weight pull training poorly, posted her, let her watch Xanny while Soleil went nuts. When I started pulling w/her, she just wanted to run, or would get frustrated and bark jump and bang. This was brief (a month or 2) and then a very talented trainer stepped in to help me out. I started doing more drag weights, teaching to be slow and steady. When she was on the track, she still wanted to bolt. Over the course of 6 months or so, her patience improved, and she learned to pull on the track fairly calmly.
We started competing, and in competition, Soleil still had a short fuse. When the weight got heavier, she would start to bark and bang.She could pull for about 12 seconds. Over the course of the year, she got calmer, and could pull for 17-18 seconds.
The next season (last year) she did quite well between March and June/July. She was not quite reaching her full potential, but darn close, even pulling 20-21 seconds. At some point during the year, I lost use of the track, and could only do drag work for training. Soleil did not have much time off, and I kept her conditioned for most of the year. I got too competitive, and pushed her hard on crappy tracks. By October, she was going downhill. She was reverting to barking and banging sooner and sooner. Instead of stopping her immediately, I would let her go on a while, hoping she'd settle down a bit and pull, so we could win.
I gave her from Oct to March off, except for a little training and 1 competition in Nov. Drag weights were going fairly well, no track access. Started competing in April, she's down to 10-12 seconds before she starts barking and banging. While training, she gets wound up before I release her, but she does not bark and bang. I've started correcting her for the wound up barking ( I started w/verbal, no reasponse, then flat collar jerks, she'd get spazzier, then a nudge in the head w/a sneaker, some response). But, she pulls correctly when released in training, in competition she often backs up and starts banging.
So, I'm at a point where I need to make some decisions. Almost all of Soleil's weight pull training has been positive. I think she still enjoys pulling. But, maybe it's too overwhelming for her little brain. Some people have advised me to do some serious correction with her on a training track. I'm not sure I'm willing to go that far. This dog is not just a working dog, she is my pet. It may be possible that I can become a more adept trainer and learn to calm her down. I can stop weight pulling, we've started in agility, she's enjoying it a lot, and my trainer (pure positive) thinks she's got a lot of potential. But I wonder if the same thing might occur, if she'll get so wound up she'll be dysfunctional w/the pressure of competition.
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Leslie H
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Postby katiek0417 » July 4th, 2009, 12:53 pm

One thing I've learned is that the more amped up I get, the more my dog gets amped up.

Also, I've learned not to allow anything in training that I wouldn't allow on the trial field.

So, one I think you need to remain calm and in control when you're training with her. With Cy, when I get all nervous and freaked b/c he's screwing up, it goes downhill...

One of the best things i learned for jumps (which may apply if you're working on agility) is if the dog starts to screw up, down the dog, then take it back to the beginning and do it again. Keep it calm, and keep your head on straight, don't start yelling at the dog and freaking out!

Also, I think part of the problem is that you did let things slip during training with weight pull. I think if you stay on the right track with agility and stay calm always during training, that will eventually translate to the trial ring with her. Remember, dogs are creatures of habit. If she's never allowed to get out of hand, then she won't think about it on trial day!
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

Katrina
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Nisha CGC, PDC, PSA TC, PSA 1 - Crazy Malinois
Drusilla SLUT- Pet
Nemo - Dual-Purpose Narcotics
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Axo - Psycho Puppy
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Postby Leslie H » July 4th, 2009, 12:57 pm

http://s185.photobucket.com/albums/x102/lhaller/?action=view&current=DSCF0003.flv
Thanksgiving 07


http://s185.photobucket.com/albums/x102/lhaller/?action=view&current=SOLEILSATURDAY.flv

http://s185.photobucket.com/albums/x102/lhaller/?action=view&current=Soleilsunday.flvThanksgiving 08

It doesn't help that she was able to get the cart moving, particularly on the last video, by banging and barking. And, I let her, because I wanted to win.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8oVEJApPwg&feature=channel_page

For contrast, my trainer's young dog.
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Postby DemoDick » July 4th, 2009, 2:17 pm

If she's pulling calmly during training but goes spastic during competition, it may very likely be you. As long as your training environment closely resembles an actual pull, there shouldn't be anything to cue her that the pull is "for real," unless, of course, your behavior is different and you are keying her up.

I know the effect that handler behavior can have on a dog's performance due to my own experience. I have severe trial anxiety. It's actually Associative Anxiety, and competition is really the only time I get like this. In training scenarios, I have scary, almost pinpoint control of Connor. In trials, not so much. Instead of smooth and loose, I get tense and tight. My body language changes, the dog reads it and OB goes to hell. The dog gets stressed and neither of us have any fun. Performance suffers.

It's something I've worked very hard on, and honestly the best thing I did was work to stop obsessing over placings and points and just not take competition so seriously. This is difficult, as I enjoy competition and hate to not perform to the best of my ability. But really, the dog doesn't care about ribbons or titles or placings. If the dog is handler oriented, it just wants to see Mom or Dad happy. But we're not happy when we work so hard for a year to improve performance only to see it fall apart on trial day. So it becomes circular and gets worse and worse.

One thing you might try is to video all of your training sessions. Then video your handling at an actual pull and compare the two. You may be surprised to find out what you do differently at a competition and how the dog reacts to it. I sure was.

Of course, this is assuming that your behavior is the primary cue that clues the dog in to the difference between training and trial. It may not be, and the dog may be making the association using something else entirely, or it may be a combination of both. The one thing you have control over is yourself, so I would start there.

Hope this helps.

Demo Dick
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Postby Leslie H » July 4th, 2009, 8:04 pm

Unfortunately, the training environment does not resemble the competition environment. Demo, you saw me train w/Soleil. That was an unfamiliar environment, and while she was more wound up than at home, she hit the harness and pulled without hesitation. So, in training, I'm not seeing the behavior I'm seeing in competition.
I know I am more wound up in competitions. I always have an adrenaline rush, even when I'm trying to calm and unemotional.

I do have the opportunity to train next week in an unfamiliar situation, w/a few other dogs, and a wheeled cart. I expect I will see some of the behavior I only see in competitions. I can correct the snot out of her if I want, but I'm not sure I want to go that far.

In agility training I'm pretty calm and upbeat. I'm wicked uncoordinated, so if I don't approach the whole thing w/humor, I might as well not bother. My instructor's still threatening to tie my arms to my side.
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Postby katiek0417 » July 4th, 2009, 10:56 pm

I think Demo brings up something very important...when you stop freaking out about points and winning, your dog does so much better, and you have so much more fun.

It's so easy to get caught up in the moment where you want to win, and you want to title...that's it's easy to also lose focus on what's important. And what IS important is that Soleil is your dog, she loves you, you love her, and at the end of the day you're just having fun with your girl!
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

Katrina
Sacha CGC - Dumb Lab
Nisha CGC, PDC, PSA TC, PSA 1 - Crazy Malinois
Drusilla SLUT- Pet
Nemo - Dual-Purpose Narcotics
Cy TC, PSA 1, PSA 2, 2009 PSA Level 3 National Champion
Axo - Psycho Puppy
Rocky - RIP My Baby Boy
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Postby Leslie H » July 5th, 2009, 11:48 am

Thanks guys for the advice.
For now, I think I'll go w/light correction, just stop her as soon as she starts jumping, praise the hell out of her when she engages correctly. Lots of treats, she's super food driven.
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Postby TheRedQueen » July 5th, 2009, 10:46 pm

Personally, I'd click for calm...heavily reinforce the good behavior, and mark it well...so she understands what she's getting reinforced for. :D

I've been doing a lot of clicking for calm behavior, and it's sooo much easier than anything else I've done...because it keeps me calmer too. I tend to get overexcited too...so having a clear game-plan, and clicking for the calm behavior keeps me chilled too. lol

I click the dogs anytime we're somewhere that they get anxious/excited/overwhelmed/etc...vet's office, training, etc
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby DemoDick » July 6th, 2009, 8:03 am

Leslie H wrote:Thanks guys for the advice.
For now, I think I'll go w/light correction, just stop her as soon as she starts jumping, praise the hell out of her when she engages correctly. Lots of treats, she's super food driven.


I think you're going to be surprised at how well this works for her. She's a different dog when she's in drive, and needs a bit of checking to keep her head on. Let us know how it goes.

Demo Dick
"My first priority will be to reinstate the assault weapons ban PERMANENTLY as soon as I take office...I intend to work with Congress on a national no carry law, 1 gun a month purchase limits, and bans on all semi-automatic guns."-Barack Obama
"When in doubt, whip it out."-Nuge
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Postby Leslie H » July 6th, 2009, 4:32 pm

If I was talented, I'd do the Bridge and Target conditioned relaxation. One of my friends suggested a 2 x 4 upside the head. I don't click, but I use verbal markers, so I think I can teach the term "easy".
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Postby Marinepits » July 6th, 2009, 4:57 pm

Leslie H wrote:One of my friends suggested a 2 x 4 upside the head.


For you or Soleil? :wink:
Never make someone a priority in your life when that someone treats you like an option.
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Postby Leslie H » July 6th, 2009, 7:31 pm

At this point, me, for not using it on Soleil.
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Postby katiek0417 » July 6th, 2009, 8:28 pm

Leslie H wrote:At this point, me, for not using it on Soleil.


:ROFL2:
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

Katrina
Sacha CGC - Dumb Lab
Nisha CGC, PDC, PSA TC, PSA 1 - Crazy Malinois
Drusilla SLUT- Pet
Nemo - Dual-Purpose Narcotics
Cy TC, PSA 1, PSA 2, 2009 PSA Level 3 National Champion
Axo - Psycho Puppy
Rocky - RIP My Baby Boy
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Postby Leslie H » July 16th, 2009, 10:19 pm

I was able to train at Ellie's where they have a cart. In a strange place, w/a cart rather than drag weights, and a number of dogs pulling, Soleil did start barking and banging, when the weight got a little heavy. I'd say no, go in and stop her, walk her backwards while the cart was reset, and start again.
It went fairly well. She probably pulled 15 rounds. She started barking at maybe the 8th round. After I stopped her, she was good for a couple more rounds, then the weight started getting up there. Most times, I'd just start her and reset her once, and she'd pull it through correctly. The last round, she stopped and barked near the end. It was quite heavy at that point, I knew I was pushing my luck, so I had Bill push the cart a bit at the start, and then when I saw her slowing down a lot, so we could end on a positive note. I did no correcting except grabbing her harness to stop her and saying (well yelling, it's hard to be heard over her barking) "No".
This may work. I learned she is worse if I grab her collar, better if I grab her harness at her shoulders, especially if I give her a little pull downwards and forwards as she's starting. Of course, you can't do this in competition. Still, I felt like we made some progress. I hope to go there again the week after next. Ellie and Bill were a big help.
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Leslie H
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Postby furever_pit » July 19th, 2009, 9:35 am

I just saw this thread and think the information here is very interesting. I have been having a similar problem with Dylan in WP. He wants to run with the weight and when it gets too heavy numbnuts just starts barking. He wants to go but he's not sure how.

I haven't started using corrections yet either, mostly cause I'm pretty sure this whole issue is my fault and not the dog's. I've backed Dylan way back on the weights (sometimes I have him pull nothing but the sled) and I started walking next to him to see if that would slow him down. It does a little bit but he also goes right into an attention heel, even tho I have never rewarded him for that behavior while he has his harness on. :rolleyes2: So what I have started doing is putting his lead on his flat collar and I loop it under his front legs and I hold it. I will walk beside him but tell him easy as I hold onto the lead and apply light pressure that makes him bring his head down.

Anyway, I would be really interested to hear just how you went about teaching Soleil to slow down. Maybe I just need a different method to get through to Dylan.
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Postby Leslie H » July 19th, 2009, 2:34 pm

After my poor initial training, I met my trainer. He had me back her way down. I started off with a 10 foot length of light chain. I had my leash on her flat collar. The goal was that she would walk slowly, calmly, head dropped, but no sniffing, in a straight line. I tried to avoid any leash corrections or pulling on the leash, mostly verbal cues. The weight was so light it just gave a little resistance, so she didn't need to think about working really. It was more like an obedience exercize(sp). I did this daily pretty much, for 10-20 minutes. After a couple of weeks, I added another, slightly heavier, 5 foot length of chain. Eventually, we worked up to where we are now, pulling somewhere between 35-50# of combined weight, about 25 feet of chain, and between 3-6 window weights. All training is on grass. I train about 3x a week now, because when I ask her to pull, it's really heavy. I do not have use of a track, which sucks, though I hope to go back to Bill and Ellie's again. On the track, I can have have her do lots of repetitions, and control the weight more precisely. It's also closer to what happens in competition.
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