This week we worked on heeling, and stays. There are two things that will kill us at the obedience trial - actually being at the trial and the stay exercise. Monday 'looses her brain' at first when entering a place with a lot of other dogs. I was hoping to get her down to the Iowa Pet Expo this weekend to practice and do some desensitization, but sadly Des Moines has a pit bull ordinance and we wouldn't be compliant so that was a no-go. This weekend was also the grand opening for Petco here so I am hoping to head over there with Monday when I get back from Washington.
StaysMonday hates stays. Seriously. They are her least favorite thing and I can't really blame her. So we are slowly increasing the distance I walk away from her. She is fine with me leaving and walking a straight line away from her (like when doing a recall) however, it's when I start to walk a circle around her that we have a problem. So we have started practicing that with low environment distraction and low duration since I am increasing distance and difficulty (moving). At this point I am not worried about the fine details (sitting straight in heel position, me returning head on, returning to heel position by walking around her) - we are just working on the basic 'stay where I leave you' issue :).
HeelingMonday actually has great heeling behavior, I just need to work on being formal! I always forget about arm position and I want her to get used to working while I am silent. In beginner novice, you are allowed an 'encouragement' command during heeling I think, but it is still much different than how we usually practice heeling. I need to learn to keep my mouth shut :).
Another thing we worked on was reducing my reinforcement rate. I am usually a high reinforcer :) and I need to get out of my patterns. I like giving cookies, LOL. But in the heeling video above I did not have any cookies on me and I didn't reward her with any. I just used praise and attention. In the ring I won't be able to have treats to rely on so I need to get used to not relying on them now. I also need to get her used to longer stretches of work for less reinforcement. While I am reducing the quantity of rewards, I am actually increasing the quality. Monday is HIGHLY food motivated and it doesn't take much to get her excited so I pulled out some her favorites - Buffalo Bites and string cheese (she doesn't get these on a regular basis).
I made sure she knew the highly valued reinforcer was available (on the table behind the camera) but I didn't carry it on me. Which made it easier for me to not reinforce her so much. If I don't have it on me I can't give it to her! This, of course, is all about human training :). Luckily, Monday has enough natural drive and motivation to do things with me, that we can go pretty long between 'rewards'.