Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gearing Up for the Regionals

We did not enter the Western Regionals, so Riff will not be competing.  :-(

But my friend and trainer LP would like to have some company during the long drive, etc, and has invited us along.  YAY!   :-)         She will bring her fabulous dogs Wit and Clever.  Clever is too young to compete, so the weekend will be all about Wit.  Riff will be learning more about how to behave at a trial.

You would think Riff already knows how to behave at a trial.  After all, he'll be four years old (!!!) in November.  He has a few titles, too.  But since the beginning of April 2011, he has been at exactly one (1!) trial - SMART in April 2012. 

We've had almost a year-and-a-half off.  He hasn't been around all the action and nerves of a trial in a long time.  Especially a big trial.  And Riff never has been one to rest quietly in his crate while other dogs play with toys close by. 


Riff is built for running, and he loves ACTION.  He is incredibly fit these days, thanks to a daily off-leash jogging routine, and agility practice.  Basically, he's ready to roll.  Will he behave in Prunedale?  He is a very sweet dog, but he can be reactive.  Can he possibly learn how to sit and watch dogs play?  I'd love to be able to walk by an agility ring, and the dogs playing tug near an agility ring, without worry.  And I'd love to sit near a ring, relaxing with Riff. 

In the past I've kept him on a pretty short leash, or in a Sensation harness, with a toy in his mouth and treats nearby, when we walk by a trial ring.  It's a good way to handle him, when getting ready to run a course.  We go to the practice jump and stay busy.  When we line up near the gate, we play tug if we're more than five dogs away, if there's enough room.  If we're less than five dogs away, I ask him to sit and look at me (the treat/Pez machine)...and stay calm and focused.  (I long ago discovered that if he's "calm and focused," we stand a better chance of having a successful start-line lead-out.) 

If I'm just hanging out, watching the trial with friends, Riff is generally in his x-pen, well away from the action, or in a mostly-covered crate.   Or resting in my friend's RV.  My main strategy during these down times has been:  Why put him (ie: us) through the anxiety of being ringside? "training plan" for the Regionals is the spend some time jogging with him on the nearby trails.  Play fetch with him in the exercise area.  Occasionally walk by the rings and see how he behaves (with tug toy and treats at hand).  Encourage him to be calm and focused.   If possible, I will spend some time in a chair, not ringside, but perhaps within viewing distance of a ring, or near the exercise field, and encourage him to be calm and focused while we sit there.  If we're near a ring, I prefer to do this while people are building and/or walking the course, because he has a lot of success during those times.  Reward! I'd like to try this while dogs are competing, too - when dogs are walking back and forth.   I  don't want to disturb strange dogs/handlers...but may set something up with a friend.  If he misbehaves (ie: by lunging toward another dog's toy), I plan to spray his nose with Binaca (and say "eh!eh!" in a mean voice).  Then start over again.  And hope all he needs is an "eh!eh!" if there's another lunge.  If he behaves, I'll reward him a LOT.  If things are looking good and consistent, I may bring my chair a little closer to an active ring.  Is this a good plan?  I hope so. 

Do you have a favorite way to train a wired-for-sound dog to be calm ringside?

Or do you just leave him in a calm environment - away from the rings - during a trial?

Please feel free to talk to me about it, if you see us working on ringside behavior at the Regionals.

In the meantime, I've signed up as a worker-bee, I'll keep Riff as exercised and as comfortable as possible during classes....and I hope to watch you-all run some mighty good courses! 

Excited to be going to the Regionals!  I look forward to seeing everyone.   Woohoo!!!!


kiwichick said...

See you there Celeste!

vici whisner said...

See you there!! Can't wait.

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