Friday, August 24, 2012

Distractions, Distractions, Distractions...

First off...Happy Birthday a few days ago to Klink! 7 years old!  Whatta kid! I think I'll keep her ;-)
I was talking with several of my students about distractions...they are trying to get to as many new places with their dogs as possible.

But lets face it, we live up here in NO MAN'S LAND of agility...unless you are willing to drive 2-3 hours one way...we are really limited in what we can do as far as exposure for young dogs.

We get stuck in the idea of "NEW AGILITY PLACES"...but in reality, the generalization process (which some dogs really suck at, others are quite good at accepting) is just NEW PLACES. Period.

New places, new sounds, new smells...all novel, all interesting. All can distract your dogs.  

My dogs will go to one class usually before I trial them. Just to mainly see their reaction to what they will be faced with. In regards to "new places and agility"...otherwise, I do a TON of distraction training at my a park, on hikes, in a neighbors yard. Etc Etc Etc.

Gamblers is a GREAT place for exposure at trials (if you have that option in your venue). Just run your dogs over all the contacts, get them exposed and working well on the new equipment. And no freaking if they mess up. Seriously....NO FREAKING. 

I use my other dogs as distractions all the time...if you don't have another dog...GET ONE! Just kidding. Get a group of people together in your back yard!

So...I thought I would put a list of things I do in my yard to really work on my dogs focusing.  Focusing on the task and the handler eliminates many things, startline issues, contact issues, noticing novel things etc. Your dog will be running and focusing on their job, and you and NOT distractions!!!
Hope this helps some of you!

Stays with other dogs--sits & downs. Add in toys squeaking, balls being thrown, you running away, etc etc name it. I will have my dogs do stays near the sheep pasture...Yes I am aware you all don't have sheep. FIND HIGH DISTRACTIONS. Think outside the box!

Recalls with dogs in stays...and vice versa. I will also make my dogs stay while I am working another dog. No this doesn't happen overnight, will happen :)

Running all my dogs together and playing---recall them one by one out of the pack. Reward heavily.

Contacts & Weaves need to be completed regardless of what is out, food, other dogs, tunnels after the obstacles...etc etc etc. For many dogs that are Manners Minder trained (aka we call it the robot of happiness!). That little bugger can be used in a MILLION WAYS to proof stuff!  For example. MM after weaves....first out at the end of the weaves...then slowly moving to the side to where the dog has to weave and then actually turn to the right and left 90 degrees for the MM...challenge yourself and your dogs.

Tugging and doing obedience or tricks with dogs running around. Focus focus focus. If a dog is focused and IN DRIVE....they notice a LOT less.

Group recalls---line dogs up, lead out, recall...your dog should come TO YOU, they should not pass you, or do a fly by...but come to you and get their reward and remain focused.

Think of all the major distractions you can...for my dogs, the barn door is HUGE (aka agility land!) the pool, sheep, the cats...visitors, my other dogs getting fed and they have to work!! If you have to write them down!

I really work at challenging my dogs focus. I have all herding bred BC's. VERY motion's a necessity. And the by-product is when they are young they don't need the actual "agility exposure"...they need just exposure. 

Sure..if you can get your dogs to a ton of new agility places...that's GREAT! DO IT! But for those of us who can't or don't want to drive all over the have to get inventive and think outside the box.

Then I will take all these fun things (yes they should be FUN!!!) to a park, outside of a playground with kids playing (not so near that the kids want to come visit), the pet store parking lot----any parking lot for that matter (watch asphalt temps and please do this on leash!!!!!!)...nature trails, neighbors yards, even moving equipment to a part of the yard where the dogs have never done agility before can be enough to make it "different".

I'd love to hear other ideas for distraction training!!!!!

A major HUMAN distraction for me this week was my Ace...he is having small strokes...losing some abilities and I am having to watch him fade...this is the WORST part of dog ownership next to having to let them go. The canine spirit burns so bright that it doesn't last as long as the human spirit...all that love, forgiveness and enjoyment of life is so amazing an animal they are. I am grateful I get to share my life with them...even though it is shorter than I want.
 So I will enjoy my boy...lay in the sun with him. Pet his soft fur and look into his cloudy eyes...kiss his head, and listen to his quiet breathing...if he wants to stay outside all day, I'll let him. If he wants to roll in the grass, I just might join him. He was the first...the one that started it all, the one that put up with my mistakes...he was, and always will be the one :) I love you Acer're a part of my heart, a part of my soul...and I am going to make sure I cherish your life...soak up all the moments I can. As you are still here with me, and I am blessed for that fact. Many people don't get that luxury.

Gratuitous Klink picture again...because I am crying right now. 
 Gonna go lay in the grass with my boy :)


Charlene and Storm said...

oh poor ace, its so unfair how little time we have with them isnt it :( i love what you said about how they burn so bright it doesnt last as long.

Make every second count

Lots of Love

Charlene and Stormy

Diana said...

I did all the training try to get Java to run that I cant get her to stay. LOL. Every time she see agilty equipment, that means "go" to her. LOl Oops. Having trouble fixing it too. Maybe I need to break down and buy the MM.

Happy Birthday Klink!!

Sorry about Ace. What a sweet picture you posted. Enjoy the day.

manymuddypaws said...

I agree that the hardest part of dog ownership is watching them age. It's heartbreaking for sure. :( We all feel your heartache.

Knotty Dogs said...

I can't believe Klink is 7. Wow. And I'm so sorry about Ace. This part sucks. I'm here if you want to talk.

Anonymous said...

Peace and comfort to you and Ace.

Practice at the same time as someone else, like running short sequences on opposite sides of the ring.

Original_Wacky said...

Oh Ace... that picture of him make me want to lay beside him and tell him how lucky he has been to have you, and you already know how lucky you are to have him. I wish there were words I could tell you to ease things as he goes through this, but I know there aren't.