Monday, 22 August 2011

Taking a break ....

Chester and I haven't been doing quite as much training recently to try and pass our 'naughty' phase.

We still do lots of heel work, stop, recall etc and that's still brilliant. We can heel off lead past most dogs now as long as they aren't too tempting! I did have to laugh when I was walking Chester past a dog in this way and a man with a little dog asks if he was friendly. He should have been more concerned and the fact his little dog was growling at Chester. Chester was more concerned and staying close to me in case there was a chance I might throw a ball for a reward!

Times like this don't make me worry so much about not having him castrated. He's well trained enough not to go running after the best looking female or standing up to the biggest male in the field! It is such a rare occurrence I can easily divert him onto something more interesting like hunting or retrieving and I'm knowledgeable enough to know when I need to stick him on a lead. It's mostly other people's dogs I need to worry about!

Had a couple of lovely moments over the past few weeks - one where Chester was skipping/looking like he might dive towards and elderly couple with a dog off lead. I put in the stop whistle and he did an instant sit/stop and just waited until I went up to him. The couple were very impressed! His stop is always good but I think it's good to challenge it when he's right on the edge of sprinting off or sniffing out the nearest rabbit. I think he's almost out of the puppy phase now and can learn to ignore people, joggers, cyclists, other dogs without me having to worry. I like the adult Chester :) On our runs in the morning he is mostly on lead as we're running on the roads but along the canal I can take him off, put in a heel command and he just free runs next to me. It's a nice feeling.

While walking I'm always directing him off to search in specific areas or into cover/woodland. I'm not sure exactly how I'll use this but sure it'll become useful somewhere along the line. I also put in a stop when he is ahead of me then send him to the left or right to start searching (he'll go straight out for a retrieve). Usually this result in him running slightly towards me and then out but the other day he went straight out at a right angle and started hunting. YEY well done Chester!

Retrieving is going well also. Lots of nice deliveries to hand when we're out. Been continuing the hold practice in the garden and can get a lovely sit/hold while I walk around the garden and then walk back towards him. Hoping I can build this into a present.

Looking forward to group training on Sunday. Trying to persuade trainer to get a rabbit pen so we can practice jumping :)

Also been having some fun at the river on the hot days. In this video - Chester knows the ball has gone over the other side of the river but hasn't seen where it is so a bit of hunting a he finally spots it (then appears to fall over?!)

Friday, 12 August 2011

Not getting anywhere?!

I haven't done too much training since the last working test just to give things a break and start a fresh. I always keep Chester's heel work, recall and stop spot on so we're not slipping here.

We've been doing a few retrieves a week and going fairly well. His enthusiasm is back and he's delivering nicely. I haven't pushed him onto learning new things.

However ..... went to a training session last night. Sort of a 2 on 1 with another dog there who Chester gets on well with. Thought it would be a good distraction but we would get more out of it than a group session. Did some steadiness exercises - both dogs did well. Gave them a long retrieve to let off some steam then back to it. Practiced some 'back' commands. A quick test to see if Chester really understood the command - walked out, dropped the dummy so he couldn't see and then gave the 'back'. He didn't! Came back to me. Oh well, more learning to be done. Same exercise, where he sees me dropping the dummy and the command is understood well.

I also wanted to do some work recalling away from the dummy as this is what we encountered on the last test. We really didn't do too much of this as it's not sensible to do a recall and then a 'back'. A bit confusing for the dog at this stage. I'll have to work on the recall away from the dummy separately.

So all going fairly well until ..... Chester on his way back with the dummy, diverts off to the side and decides he's not going to give it back! I'm glad it happened so trainer could see and hopefully help! First thing was to whistle him in .... he did come in but then diverted off to the side again. Then tried the ignore. Didn't work too well until I walked to the other side of the field, he dropped the dummy and came over to see what I was doing so I grabbed his collar in a 'I'm really unhappy with you' way and he went back on the lead. Felt a bit disheartened as it's really naughty behaviour with little consequence for Chester and little control from me. Also unsure how to fix it as it's not happening all of the time. Any suggestions welcomed!

Until this is fixed we can't really enter any working tests as I can't guarantee he won't repeat this behaviour. Chester has always been one of those dogs who is on the 'edge'. When he's working well, he'll work fast, respond in a split second and is totally focused on me and what I want him to do next. It can easily tip the other way where he's so quick he can be easily distracted and head completely off track. What I don't know is if this is the dog he is or the way he's been trained? I tend to lean towards it being part of him but there's always room for improvement with training :) The only thing I can compare him to is other dogs I see who tend to be more stable in their working. They aren't as sharp but they are more consistent. I think maybe this is preferable!

On a side note - we were observing the behaviour between Chester and Jack his training buddy. Chester has always got on quite well with Jack in that they will run around together but not play too much and get OTT. There's never been any trouble if we've sent them both off together hunting to find tennis balls or dummies. A really steady pair :)

Slightly different yesterday in that they had a bit of a tiff. They got a bit caught up with each other and neither was particularly impressed. We gave them some time off lead to sort their differences out. Nothing nasty but it wasn't the usual behaviour we see from them. I think it was because we were static, not walking and in a fairly enclosed space. Chester is entire and Jack is castrated. Chester particularly brave but pretty submissive with other males unless they are slightly younger in age and entire when at the most there's hackles up and a bit of growling. I can usually spot these doggies and just pop him on the lead for safety and we ignore them. It got us onto the subject of castration and whether I would consider it for Chester. Personally, I wouldn't have given it a second thought but my boyfriend suggested we leave it and see how things go. Generally I am happy as we don't have any aggression problems, he occasionally humps an unsuspecting female but never chases after them. There is no dominance shown towards us or other people in the house or when out on a walk. I'm happy with that :) However, I do wonder what sort of dog he would be if castrated? I think there must be some frustration there if they've got it but don't use it! Our trainer said he had one of his dog chemically castrated, noticed a big difference at first in that he was too lethargic but gradually it evened itself out and he was the same dog, just a bit calmer. I don't think we'll ever get Chester done (unless for medical reasons) but it's always in the back of my mind.

Wow ... what a lot of waffle! We have entered another test on Sunday but I think with the dummy problem we can't really enter. A shame but sensible I think!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Vizsla Working Test

Entered our second working test on Sunday. Feeling a little more confident we drove to Oxford and met some familiar faces :)

First up hunting - nice open ground. Chester's preference over a wooded area. He ran out a little too far to start to missed some of the ground but then quartered well. Judge asked for a recall but I put in a stop and then called him as this is the usual way we stop hunting. No comments from the judge (I don't think she said anything to anyone!) so would be interested to see the scores.

Seen retrieve - the overall opinion was that this was a long distance for a puppy and some dogs might not make it. No concerns there for Chester but he didn't mark it particularly well. Was about 1m off, spotted it and came running back. Ran straight past me and dropped it. doh!

Memory retrieve - walk out to marker on heel, leave dog, walk to next marker and place dummy, walk back past dog to original position, recall dog then send for dummy. I knew straight away I had never called Chester from a dummy so he was likely to go back but not too much I could do about that. As predicted, lovely heel work and a wait but on my recall he looked a little confused but went back for the dummy. Then it all went wrong and he ran round in circle with the dummy. Very very naughty!! The judge was not impressed and neither was I.

At this point thought I might go home but attempted the water after lunch.

Water retrieve - short distance, thrown by the judge. It was a hot day so Chester went in to cool down then ate some weeds. I gave him the command to 'get on' which he actually understood (!) and swam out to the dummy. Bought it almost all the way back but dropped it in the shallows. Not brilliant but at least it wasn't terrible!

Feeling very sorry for ourselves and our embarassment at the test we made up for it slightly and got a confirmation test done of which the comments were really nice:

'Super young male of 15 months. Quality head piece and chiselled. Super expression, eyes need to darken - quality bone and feet. Good lay of shoulders, strong ribs adequate quarter at this stage. Good tail set, needs to relax in top line. Good coat texture, moved ok, just needs time to fulfil his potential.' Graded: Very Good

What a shame I don't actually plan to show him!

Having decided we shall never enter another working test a friend persuaded me to enter another in a couple of weeks as she really wants to enter the Special Beginner class.

No idea how it's going to go. I'll do my usual training before then but I think I'll be even more nervous this time!

Got my scores back from the first test we did and they aren't terrible (for a beginner!!)

Hunting 29 (highest ws 34)
Water 7 ... oh dear
Seen retrieve 5 ..... oh dear again
Memory retrieve - 20 YEY full marks

I think consistency is the key and we're certainly not there yet!

Onwards and upwards!