May 2012

Online Obedience Class

This summer, we are presenting an online obedience class. The class is open for 10 working participants. You can also join as an observer. As a working participant, you will follow the class with your own dog (one dog per working spot) and post video for the entire class to see. Thomas and I will of course comment on your videos and help you through all the lessons. The observers get to read and watch all material from me, watch all the posted videos, ask questions and join in on the discussions.

This is a obedience class, much like the one we do IRL at home. The class will be based on the exercises from the FCI obedience trials, but the online class is also open for those who do obedience in other organizations. It will be great for anyone wanting to get the most out of their obedience dog using reward based methods, from the curious novice to the experienced competitor. It is a great advantage if you have done our online foundation class, or if you have the similar foundations in play, shaping and self control.

The class will run from July 9th. A new lesson with text, video and homework will be posted every other Monday, for a total of 8 lessons. Every lesson has a theme, go to the Obedience Class page to read more about the themes.

Scent Discrimination – Day 4

We have had a few days break from the training, so this is the next session after the previous blog
post (I’m behind with blogging, so this happened a couple of weeks ago). I had someone helping me giving Squid treats today, to be sure that she did not search for the smell of meatballs. It worked out fine; she did not seem bothered that the article did not smell like food and marked on my scent. The session in total lasted for under 3 minutes, but she still seemed a little tired at the end. I should probably keep the sessions even shorter. Maybe four repetitions per session and do it twice a day. In the end she froze briefly at the wrong articles, even though it is still very clearly when she finds the right one. I am not happy with that, but I will see if shorter sessions make her better next time. I think I will also place the articles on the grass, as I am pretty sure she can search at the row without using the wall to define it.

Scent Discrimination and Retrieve – Day 3

My plan seems to work pretty well! Placing the scented retrieve articles on the stone paves did increase the risk that Squid would use her eyes, but I trusted that she was set on using her nose, and that seems to
be right. I got a new idea and started the session with Squid picking up treats between the articles,
which seem to help her getting a defined search area.

To find the matchstick between the articles was very easy and with a nice flow this time. To find the
article with my scent on it was hard the first times (she moved the articles to mark the matchstick
lying under it), but in the last repetition you can clearly see her marking on the article even though
she’s moved it so the matchstick is visible. Yey!

But it doesn’t feel good that my hands smelled like meatballs. How can I be sure that she is searching
for my scent and not the scent of the treats? For the next session, I think I will ask someone else to
reward her so that my hands can stay clean.

Teaching Scent Discrimination and Retreive – Day 2

Today we continued Squids training on scent discrimination and retrieve. I have decided to move quickly forward, but always keeping track of the development so I can adjust the training if needed. Today we trained on grass, which demanded more nosework than the surface yesterday. I started adding scented retrieve articles without my scent on it. The short term goal is that she ignores them and just searches after my scent. Here is the main part of today’s session:

The training got a little messy as it was hard for her to find the small piece in the grass when she didn’t have the search area defined. I moved us quickly to the row of scented retrieve articles, thinking that it would define the area, but she still floated out a bit (I have removed some of it in the video). It also made Squid tired and I think that is the reason why she picked up one of the articles at the end. She doesn’t look that sharp in the clip. I also have to decide what to do when she grabs one of the articles. I wonder if I should do nothing at this stage of the training, just wait for her to put it down again and find the piece of matchstick. The same goes for when she might freeze her nose on the wrong article. I think I’ll start with that and see how it works. If it turns out to give a lot of false marks, I’ll have to change something in the training to avoid it.

For the next session, I’ll prioritize to shorten the time of the search. I like the idea of letting the row of articles define the search area, but I’ll have to find a way to explain it to Squid without her wasting a lot of time searching at other places. I wonder if I’ll try it on the stone paves again and see how it works. If it makes her search faster without using her eyes, it is definitely a good idea. If I also put the articles near a wall and I stay at the other side, it should define the search area more.

Teaching Scent Discrimination and Retrieve – Day 1

It is almost a year since Squid competed in obedience class II and won a first price. Since then, we have not been doing much obedience training at all. But it is a shame to not use all the nice things she can do, and the long term goal is for her to become an obedience champion. Squid has got all that’s required to become a good obedience dog. I am pleased with the basics she’s got, except from her heelwork where she might always be a bit too enthusiastic, and she has got great energy and focus.

The one exercise we are hanging behind on is scent discrimination and retrieve. I have started training it several times, but it has just ended up as a couple of sessions until I have forgotten it or started training something else. For example, it looked like this a year ago. Actually, I am not sure if we have trained this exercise at all since then.

To get us started this time, I decided to try out a new method. I also decided to film the training and blog about it to raise my motivation. The new method is basically the same as with the Post It-notes, but it is easier for people to understand and go through with. The point is that Squid uses her nose to find a piece of a matchstick with my scent on it, and marks it by freezing her nose on it. The important thing on this step is that she uses her nose and not her eyes to find the piece. This is our second session, I did one yesterday while I waited for the barbeque to get warm. Since Squid is already good at freezing her nose and understands to use her nose instead of her eyes, I think we can go a little bit further with our next session and add some distractions.