Monday, June 27, 2011

Pay attention!

Cuz that’s where the problems started over the weekend.

Our dismal showing at the Hawkeye trials has left me wondering how in the world the wheels could fall off so completely. As usual, I have more questions than answers but that seems to be the way it goes in the obedience game.

Yes, Phoenix and I have recently changed training methods and I agree that might be partly responsible for the state of disobedience we very ably demonstrated. Expectations are changing in his training world and this weekend’s misery could have been fallout from uncertainty. Confusion does not create a sharp, confident dog. I really didn’t expect serious ring carryover after only 5 weeks of our new training approach . . .

. . . but I DID expect him to watch me and move around the ring with me like we were connected because this is something I have always emphasized in training. It’s not a new concept. Even if we blew everything else out of the water, I hoped we could at least look like we’d seen each other before and maybe liked each other just a little bit.

Since this connection was really the only thing I was looking for, that made it even worse when it didn’t happen.

Trainers vary on the concept of “attention” — what it is, how to get it, how to keep it, etc. While methods of teaching it differ greatly, most trainers agree it should become an automatic response. If you are interacting with your dog, you are elevated to the status of She Who Is More Important Than Cats (anyway, that’s my goal). You should not have to beg, plead and constantly remind Fido to “watch.” Fido needs to be responsible for his own little self without being nagged. If he has to be reminded to "watch," that means he wasn't watching in the first place. Uh-oh. Naughty dog.

I don’t have this automatic attention with Phoenix. Yet another case of thinking I'd trained something, only to find out OOPS! It's not there.

Maybe we had it once, then lost it. Yes, I’m sure we had it when we were doing HIT run-offs in Novice! Where did it go?! Once again I don’t know if this is a situation of A) I thought he’d learned it but in reality he hadn’t, B) he learned something entirely different from what I thought I’d taught, or C) I didn’t maintain it, so the behavior gradually deteriorated.

So in addition to everything else, we need to do some remedial attention work. Fortunately, that is going to blend in very naturally with my "become the cookie" plan.

My horoscope this morning said “You can’t possibly have all the answers yourself. Ask friends for help.” I thought that was hysterically appropriate.

1 comment:

  1. Since he had such great scores in Novice, I'd have to guess that had it and it wasn't maintained. But since he had it, he'll find it again.

    I was thinking about maintaining criteria the other day. I was thinking about agility, but it applies. At our last trial, Layla held her contacts which is great. But I really want her to hold her contacts and look at me - not pause there and look around at the crowd. I realized that the more specific and more lofty your expectations, the harder they'll be to get and to maintain.

    I'm doing a lot of attention work since I'm doing a lot of you-know-who's theories. It's hard! But you're right, the point is to have it become automatic. Maybe one day :)