Monday, August 9, 2010

Thoughts on Obedience

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about starting Marge in Competition Obedience.  She has been doing really well in her classes at the club (her reactivity is way down), and our bits and pieces of Obedience practice seem to be well-received by her - and I enjoy them, too.  Lots of people at my club tell me that we'd enjoy it, it'd help us in our other training areas (Rally and Agility), and that my dog would be really good at it.

I never really considered it up until now, likely due to all of the stressed dogs and unhappy handlers that I see at shows and run-throughs (and, quite frankly, the over abundance of people using compulsion on dogs who aren't performing correctly BECAUSE they are stressed).  But then, I see people like Petra Ford training her heavily titled, National Obedience Champion Lab, and I see how much fun they are both having.  The dog isn't stressed to be in the ring.  He isn't simply complying with her requests to drop on a recall or take a jump. He is thoroughly enjoying it, and it is really wonderful to see.

Marge and I did some heeling pattern practice with a friend last night, and I have to admit, I was really encouraged by how well she did.  Honestly, her only heeling problems are lagging on the right turns and the about turns.  She has great attention and sticks to my left side when we are practicing heeling.

Her fronts and finishes have come a long way, too.  We could still use some work in those areas, but I don't think it's anything that can't be fixed by training under a good instructor.

And, her stays?  They're solid.  After some proofing (i.e. performing stays with groups of new dogs), I would feel extremely confident in her ability to perform a set of Novice sits and downs.  She isn't stressed at all during them - last night, she actually put her head on the floor on the 3-minute down we did after Rally class.

This leaves one thing - the Stand for Exam.  It is, perhaps, the biggest reason why I'm still hesitant to go on with Obedience training.  Marge has come SO far in regards to her fears of people.  I'm afraid of jeopardizing that.  Maybe it's an irrational fear, maybe it isn't.  I'm not really sure.  I know how I'd train it (in baby steps - teach her to stand in place while a "judge" circles around her - she's got this down already, then to stand in place while a judge walks up to her side and then retreats, then a pat on the head, then a pat on the head and shoulders, then all three pats).  But I'm just worried that more experienced people will tell me that my approach is bad or something.

I'm likely going to observe a class at my club to see what I think. I never thought I'd do it - and Obedience will NEVER take the place of our heart sport, Agility - but maybe we'll give it a try.


Sue August 9, 2010 at 2:05 PM  

I think it's wonderful that you're considering obedience. You've come such a long way. It always seemed to me that obedience was the ultimate team sport for dogs. You have to work so closely together and trust each other and understand each other.

I hope you try it.

Cyndi and Stumpy August 9, 2010 at 2:18 PM  

The more you/I/we do with our dogs, the better we build our bond.

Back when I was training seriously, I swear my dogs could read my mind. There's no feeling like that in the world, when you're that in tune with someone/thing. I,m pretty sure the dogs weren't reading my mind. but were tuned into the slightest queue I might give off. All which they learn to look for in the type of training.

Go for it! It doesn't mean you have to compete. But I think the more you do with Marge, the more accepting she will be of different stressors.

Jules August 9, 2010 at 2:35 PM  

I think you should go for it - especially if you are both enjoying it. I am actually thinking of doing a comp. obedience class with Bug prior to starting agility again...

Deborah August 9, 2010 at 2:47 PM  

I say give it a try because then you won't have any regrets! Marge and you both seem to be prepared for this next step!

Two French Bulldogs August 9, 2010 at 3:22 PM  

Good job Marge. Mom is about to send you Lily if she doesn't listen soon
Benny (& Lily)

Amy / Layla the Malamute August 9, 2010 at 3:29 PM  

I'm glad you're considering it. Marge has such great attention which is the hardest thing to get. As for the stand for exam, they released a new AKC title called "Beginner Novice". There's a "sit for exam" rather than jumping right to the stand for exam. You'd sit her in heel position (on leash), walk out to the end of the 6' leash, the judge would just touch the top of her head, and you'd return. It at least would provide a little bit of a gradual step instead of jumping right to the stand for exam (even with the baby steps).

As for the "more experienced people" telling you that your approach is wrong, I deal with that too, as you've read. One time a normally nice older lady did that. We were practicing recalls, Layla came flying at me as happy and excited as I'd ever seen her, and sat a fraction off. It wasn't atrocious, but it was slightly off. I praised her like crazy because I was so proud of how happy she was to come to me so quickly, and the other woman ran over to our spot (interrupting our little praise party) to say, "I don't know why you're praising her, she was crooked." Oh well!

I know what you mean about the unhappy dogs and stressed handlers. They seem to be prevalent, but there are the others who make up for it. A lot of the big name people told me that I'd never be able to train Layla to retrieve without an ear pinch "or worse" (not even sure what's worse, and I don't want to know), but they were wrong. She doesn't do it perfectly yet, but she's a happy little retriever. Somewhere along the way while they gain all their awards and titles and notoriety, they lose their compassion and common sense.

I hope you decide to try it. It is a lot of fun and it helps the other sports a LOT.

mayziegal August 9, 2010 at 3:39 PM  

Hi Marge and Miss Sam! I'm SO sorry it's been so long since we've been by. Things have been awful busy and your posts always have such good information and so me and mom want to gives ourselves time to think about what we want to say to you and not just rush through.

Anyways, I think if you're thinking about it, you should give it a try. If you or Marge don't like it, you don't have to keep doing it. You'll just never know until you try.

And guess what? We haven't told anybuddy but you this yet but mom got a call from the place where we train and they're having this thing called "Romp in the Park" this weekend. And they have different demonstrations of stuff and they wanted to know if me and mom wanted to come do one of the Rally demonstrations! Well, we said yes but mom and me are kinda nervous now. I've never been in a situation like that before and I don't know what I'll think of it or if I'll be able to concentrate. And mom - well, she's still having problems with figuring all the signs out but hopefully they'll be easy and she won't mess us up.

Anyways, we're just gonna keep thinking abouts you and Marge as our inspiration and hopefully just go and have a good time. Keep your fingers and paws crossed for us!

Wiggles & Wags,

Maggie Mae and Max August 9, 2010 at 3:45 PM  

As long as you both are having fun then go for it!

Woofs and Licks,
Maggie Mae

♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ August 9, 2010 at 4:32 PM  

Dogs love to be challenged. If you and she both have the time and the desire, then go for it. You might just be surprised.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

Chris and Ricky August 9, 2010 at 6:15 PM  

We did a lot of obedience before we ever started agility and my teacher always said we should get our CD and that it is a great way to bond with a dog plus the dog learns the immpulse control and stuff necessary to do well in agility. We haven't entered a trial yet though. I think your ideas on how to train the stand for exam are excellent and I wouldn't concern myself one bit about what people say about it!

Dexter August 9, 2010 at 6:37 PM  

If you really want to try, then go for it. What is the worst thing that could happen? The main thing is to have fun.


AC August 9, 2010 at 7:13 PM  

You have such a great perspective when it comes to training and I think you'll figure out the best thing for your Marge.

PS-LOVE that picture of the two of you.

houndstooth August 9, 2010 at 8:04 PM  

I grew up with an Australian Shepherd who LOVED obedience! I swear she could be anywhere on our seven acres and she'd hear me take that training collar and leash off the hook in the house and come running. She'd circle the car until I'd open the door for her to get in on class night. We had the best time doing obedience. If I'd had agility around to try with her, I would have, but we didn't have that as an option. Obedience can be so much fun! I hope you and Marge really enjoy it!

Muttsandaklutz August 9, 2010 at 8:15 PM  

Oh yes, my vote would be to go for it! Knowing you from your blog, I'm pretty darn sure that you would know what approach is right for Marge and that you would have no qualms, put in the situation, about speaking your mind and making sure the instructor knows what's acceptable. I think Marge would be a fantastic obedience dog!

Never Say Never Greyhounds August 9, 2010 at 9:19 PM  

Go for it! I love the challenge of keeping obedience fun and rewarding!

The Army of Four August 9, 2010 at 9:25 PM  

I think you two can do anything you put your minds to!!!
Tail wags,

Lauren M. Davis Folk Art! August 9, 2010 at 11:36 PM  

Hey Marge you are such a sweet girl and I think if you feel you wanna go for it you should!!!! We wanted to let you know theres a award for you from us on our bloggie!!! Big Hugs, Sharky, ET, Duchess and Lauren

Lorenza August 9, 2010 at 11:43 PM  

Yes! Give it a try and see how it goes!
If Marge does not feel good and comfy you just can take her away.
I hope she likes it!
Take care
Kisses and hugs

Golden Samantha August 10, 2010 at 1:29 AM  

Hi Sam - I was just coming to look for your blog and look what it's about! The photo shows such a beautiful position. O M'Gosh... don't think that Sammie's stressed by these things... but more like I am in the actual comps! I think Marge would be great at obed. - can't believe she put her head on floor for 3 min. down! Brava! I think Marge would be wonderful and YOU are such a great teacher... she TRUSTS you so much and yes, perhaps the Stand for Exam would be tough, but you seem to have a great training plan to ease her into the requirements. I'd totally support your enthusiasm and hers... you can always stop if it goes sour? And we are still doing obed., for sure - at this point, even Avalon is started and seems to love it! I have Avalon more pegged for agility, which I know nothing about (as you know!) It's just that I haven't had anyone with me for a long time to take pictures! Will stay in better touch - sorry it's been so long!
Hugs xoxoxo
Sammie and the crew here!

Kathy Mocharnuk August 10, 2010 at 2:04 AM  

I also vote that you try to obedience provided you like the classes and the way they are teaching things. I am finding that I am getting some really happy fun things doing more obedience stuff with my dogs but making sure to put games into everything really often. I saw Petra and her dog at the AKC invitational doing obedience and wow, that inspired me to not do obedience unless I can get that type of attitude. I started off dog training when I was a teenager but they all did compulsion based training and it really turned me off, but doing Susan Ainsley training levels and now the Susan Garrett foundation eclass, I am thinking obedience might be something I might like to try too!!! I would not worry a lot about the stand for exam yet, you never have to trial to have a good time, and you can take it slow, you have overcome so many things with Marge and done things that might have seemed impossible at one time, but you have done it, so .......I am sure if anyone can figure out how to work that one out you and Marge are the ones that can do it.

Sara August 10, 2010 at 6:30 AM  

If you both enjoy it, why not? I just wish they'd change the name from "obedience" to "follow the leader" or "simon says" :) Get rid of that negative vibe! LOL.

Scout and Freyja August 10, 2010 at 9:26 AM  

Above all, you know Marge and you love Marge, so I know you will make the right decision for her. It is remarkable how far she's come with you by her side and how deep the bond has become between the two of you. You'll know if obedience trials are the right thing to do for Marge - you always know the right thing.

andrea August 10, 2010 at 12:04 PM  

cool - if you think you'd love it you might as well test the waters .. :)

it's not my sport - though I do love watching it well done but I think it's cause the detail gets to me - I was playing with brody and sally's flat work the other day thinking - geez maybe I should do rally/obedience .. they like it more than I do

Dawn August 10, 2010 at 3:18 PM  

Why not try a fun match, where you get to try it out? you could tell the "judge" during it that you're working on stand for exam and Marge has fear issues, then they could try the going up to Marge thing and it wouldn't be a real trial with a real trial expense!

We have trouble with stand for exam too, Katie either runs up to the judge or shys away. SIGH!

Anonymous August 10, 2010 at 3:38 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gus, Louie and Callie August 10, 2010 at 6:48 PM  

We think obedience would be great.. More socializing..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

NCmountainwoman August 14, 2010 at 8:01 PM  

Our last Springer Spaniel was terrible at "Stand for Exam." Her little butt would start to wiggle whenever she was approached. We practiced and practiced, using every neighbor and friend we could find and that helped a lot.

Kari in Alaska August 15, 2010 at 12:42 PM  

I say as long as Marge is still having fun with it you might as well!

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