I have forgotten all about the blog, but of course life has continued. The training group had a break for 2 weeks wich was perfect for us. We had made several mistakes and I had to get my thinking straight.
Our number one mistake was going too fast for comfort. Bella is not always the best judge when it comes to what is a comfortable distance. The trouble was that we had good contact, she was good at disengaging when she started to reach her threshold and she was really responsive to me wich she has to be if I am going to be able to help her. This we ruined with introducing her to all the people while the dogs were in their cars. This was a really good situation for her and she loved it and did really well, but it set us up to fail in that all the people became such a strong reward for her and it made the “training grounds” seem safer then it was. What happened was that she was dead set on being right in the middle and I ended up loosing my contact with her. I couldn’t compete. And at first just one dog came out and it was ok, but there things shift really quickly and she became overwhelmed and I had to carry her away. I should have known better!
The trouble is that I should have kept my priorities straight and worked from a distance while the dogs were out and focused on habituating her to all of it. Then when all of the dogs, noises and people was ok then we could have done a people session. So while the training group was on break we went there several times to walk and then train so she will build up an association to working there and to calm down any expectation she might have with the place. We had much fun there and also worked on relaxing on a mat wich we often do in the woods or at home. And now this place was so quiet and calm that we could do it.
So we had done the work of rebooting the place and we went back last sunday for a new training group session. She at first started stressing and wanted to run over to them but we were far enough away that I got her working and I started just getting contact and rewarding her for simple cues like following me, turning around to walk away and some targeting. Nothing complicated but just to get her connected to me again. So when she calmed down I let her go closer until I saw her tense up, then we turned away and we did some short training and we headed for a perfect spot a bit hidden away but with a good visual of the others. She did so good! She easily followed my cues and could easily disengage again. It seemed like she understood that we were back to working the same way we had in the beginning, of course I can’t know this, but she seemed to loosen up so much and seemed relieved. So this will be our way of work from now on. Stay in the distance with a good exit at hand and work on staying connected and let her look and digest. We also were there for a very short time to really make sure not to over do anything.
Other then that we have just been working on recall a lot or a lot is maybe not right. We have worked on it with a lot of focus and planning! Any time I have a chance to surprise her with something I make sure I use a recall, and if she is very eager and fast on a walk then I make sure to use that to get super speed. We don’t really do a lot of recalls but I make sure that my timing is right and my reward is highly rewarding and we haven’t lost a recall in a looong time. She darts off like a bullet and I felt really bold trying to call her off 3 running deer. To not make it seem more impressive than it was, she had already been slowly stopped in the longline but she was standing in the field watching them with no tension on the leash when I called her and there was no hesitation! She turned on a dime, jumped over a creek and came crashing into me. She was showered in treats and after that I made sure to let her follow after the deer, but she chose to keep close and walk by my side with small glances in their direction. Today she got a fresh scent in her nose and she flew into the woods and it’s been a while since I have seen her that exited by a smell. I called her and again there was no hesitation, she turned on a dime and came straight for us, but on the way she caught her scent again, so another call and she was back on us. Brilliant little Bella. She got lots of treats and then I let her go back to the scent. I really didn’t want to be a party pooper and she got all exited again and ran off like a rocket, so a second recall and same again, she came like a bullet! Then she had lost interest in the scent and was exited to just walk on. I am proud! I’m proud of both her and me and finally I seem to be getting the same recall with her that I had with Kaktus. But training it has certainly not been then same wich is what makes it so fun.
Lately we have had just long walks in the woods. Driving to different places, checking out new paths and just relaxing and enjoying being out. Bella still gets to choose a lot of where we walk. If I have a preference then I ask her if she will follow me and sometimes she does and other times I just get a short pause before she runs off in the direction she wants and I follow 🙂 She knows it’s not a cue, the choice is hers and it truly is a question. Some days we have breaks from long walks and do more inside and it usually follows the weather. She loves going to new places and sometimes when she heads off from a tractor road and into a path she stops to see if I will come, if I do she does a little exited jump and a little throw of her head like a playful horse and she runs to check out her new path!
Tomorrow is training group again and I am very curious how she reacts this time. We will at least take it slow and rather to more distance and connect than risk pushing it.