So this weekend I am at this: http://www.posidog.com/sjw/ . I didn't attend the Friday event, just today and tomorrow. I'd never really seen Steve and Jen at all, but every time I mentioned their names, I heard, "OMG they're awesome! I'm so jealous!" And now I see why. They are SO much fun. So charismatic. And so sweet together, too.
PosiDog, the training club this is at, is an outstanding facility. It's very spacious and the staff is SO accommodating to, uh, special needs dogs. They're letting a few of us crate our dogs in an office area so it's quieter for them and they're blocked from each other's sight. They have a ton of lightweight visual barriers that they have set up to designate several working areas. The area for the "banana bunch" (space sensitive dogs wear yellow bandanas, and we're all in one group, working one at a time, so we've been dubbed the "banana bunch" ) is completely enclosed so the dogs can't see out at all. They also let me bring Inara over to the club last night so she could check it out so it wouldn't be as new for her today.
Inara was pretty amped up this morning - not barking very much, but definitely not paying attention to me. I considered it a miracle when I managed to get a glance from her. But by the end of the day she was giving me lovely attention.
S&J are alternating lecturing (I use that term loosely) with working. And the way they're having us work is so odd to me, but it's really working. They're having us use a "training triad" - handler, trainer and coach. The handler handles the dog, the trainer provides feedback to the handler, and the coach monitors the feedback between the two to make sure it stays respectful, positive and helpful. They're having us write out training plans before each and every working session. I hate training plans, but I have to admit they're helping. Our first working session of the day we just did 5 reps to get a baseline. My plan was to work on our Attention Heel, but that was a no go. My goal was reduced to "get Inara's attention." It was really nice because after my baseline session, one of the girls told me what a beautiful calm energy I exude and another girl said that it's obvious Inara and I have a really good bond. That was really nice to hear.
After our first session, each working session consisted of 5 reps, 3 times in a row with feedback from your trainer and coach in between. It was a really bizarre way of working for me because it only took about 5 minutes to do your 3 sessions, total. But it was working.
During lunch, I inhaled my lunch and then spent the rest of it working with Inara. Most of the dogs were put away so we were able to work in the main area a bit. At the end of lunch, one of the staff members came up to me and handed me a big bag of Fromm's treats. She said, "this is for you because I'm just so impressed with how you're working so hard to make Inara comfortable and happy in this space." It was so nice!
After lunch, they asked for a volunteer to do their 3 sessions in front of the whole class, on video, with feedback from S&J themselves. I raised my hand, of course. So Inara and I got to strut our stuff, and thank god she actually did pretty well! It was kind of nerve-wrecking having everybody stare at us and videotape us, but Steve said he was extremely impressed with my poise and how calm I was with Inara. He said that it's pretty obvious she could easily be worked to over-arousal, but that my calm, relaxed way of working with her really was beneficial. He also asked me to get some video of us working later down the road and send them to him because he anticipates we'll go far.
So then I put her away and they played the vids of us working up on the screen. Several times for each video and we all analyzed what I did well and what I could have done better. We noticed that I'd taught Inara a pattern (I'm good at that ) - I was just walking around waiting on her to provide eye contact, and it turned into "change direction, tight leash, loose leash, eye contact, treat, repeat." So I had a new goal for our next working session: kill the pattern!
It was a really fantastic day and Inara and I are whipped. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.