Monday Morning Training

This morning the training guilt demons were twisting in my mind, telling me there would be no progress unless I braved the hot weather and trained daily again.  It was still somewhat cool at nine a.m., only a mild 87 degrees with a heat index in the 90’s.  The oak trees provide a bit of shade and there was a slight breeze.  When Levi sees me take out the jumps he always gets excited.  Something different, treats and games.  River parked himself under a bush.  Don’t even think of asking him to do anything in weather above 70 degrees.  He’s on summer vacation slash retirement until the icy cold returns.

 So what to work on today, a mix of Open and Utility for Levi and a mix of Open and Novice for Mickey.  I set the broad jump up with all the bells and whistles and aides to ensure Levi jumped in an arc and in the middle without slamming into the jumps.  In his eagerness to perform he usually does the crash and burn type jump, even in the ring.  The bells and whistles will stay for his entire career, a gentle reminder to focus, step-step-step-jump-land and turn.  Two perfect jumps and we were done.  Show off!

 I forget whose seminar I attended, maybe Connie Cleveland who said to always start a training session with something the dog likes.  Makes sense.  Levi adores retrieving.  So we did a few retrieves over a 22” jump and on the flat.  He hates waiting for my command to retrieve.  I’m so slow.  Again.  Focus, Levi and wait for me. 

 There was enough of a breeze that the humidity was still bearable.  On to some Utility signals.  Levi has had some problems in class with signals between the jumps.  I must mean for him to jump the jumps since they are set up, right?  He sits on the other side of the jumps looking so nervous, trying his best to do the right thing.  The mommy in me feels so sorry for him.  He looks so pathetic when I tell him he is wrong when he takes the jump instead of dropping or sitting on my signal.  Then I think of blown entries and money down the drain.  Back to business, Levi.  Focus, I think to myself.  Today I discovered in the back yard Levi will start toward the non-existent jumps when I give signals.  That was an eye opener for me.  He truly is trying to go to either the left or right, not understanding my signal of simply a drop.  I released him and we did some play drops.  Good job.  Yes, he knows the signals up close.  He’s just confused.  Then I did something different.  I left him on a down, went across the lawn and gave him a sit signal holding my signal.  OH!!  He sat up and remained sitting.  Yes!!  He got it.  Wouldn’t you know it was my fault?  I was being too wimpy with my signals, clearly confusing him.  Or so that is how I see it.  We’ll work on that more tonight with the jumps up, returning up close to him, then backing up so the jumps are in the picture.  I think we may have cleared a Utility training hurdle.  We need to work more on being a team.  That means I have to do my part and give him clear instructions. 

 Not to be left out, Mickey did a perfect broad jump, again with all the bells and whistles.  He only has to jump directly across at this point.  It is nice to see him clear the 40” spread with no problems, given his bad hips.  Should I ask him to work since he is not structurally sound?  Exercise is good for him; sitting around twiddling his paws is not.  Just like us humans.

We went on to retrieving work.  Today is the first day I asked him to jump a mere 8” height with the dumbbell in his mouth.  I compare it to walking and chewing gum at the same time.  He clearly had some hesitation the first time.  But none the second time.  What a smart dog.  We worked on Rally moves and the new method of teaching the stand that my instructor showed me.  Now Mickey has no problem understanding my down signal from the side versus my stand signal.  See, again, teamwork and me doing my part. 

This is fun and after training sessions I feel a runner’s high, energized.  I’ve always thought that if I had a big air conditioned/heated training building in my back yard I’d train too long.  It is just so much fun.

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