Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Running Silent... or... Shut Up!

Wow, there has been a lot going on lately, and I have been extremely busy. Last week we had 68 degree weather, 2 inches of snow the next day, more 60+ degree weather, then 3-4 inches of snow the following day. Crazy weather! We don't know if it's winter or spring. It was because of the snow that I broke my camera. :( Teddy was having so much fun playing in the snow and chasing snow balls, that I was going to get a video of him. About 10 seconds into the video, the camera slipped through my hand and landed face first onto my sidewalk. I was really mad at myself for doing something so stupid, especially because I needed to try filming our freestyle routine for the video competition the next day. Luckily, it was just a point and shoot camera that also took video and not a fancy video camera, but I found out that it would cost just under the price of a new camera to fix it. Such is life!

Last Sunday afternoon I took Teddy to a fun match in a nearby suburb. The weird thing was that it was held in a parking lot of a grocery store off a busy state highway. It was a great place to work on distractions with all of the people (and kids) coming to see what was going on, the cars in the parking lot, and a lot of motorcycles flying by. I was a bit concerned because they didn't even have enough ring gating to complete the ring, so there was a corner formed with red tape. I decided it would be best to perform the heeling on lead. I was surprised to find that Teddy did pretty well on all of the other exercises, even with a very narrow high jump for the retrieve over the jump.

Teddy finally met my parents' new puppies. He didn't really care for them, I think he didn't really know what they were. It was pretty funny to see him try to avoid and ignore them. He would look the other way and back away from them. He's used to being around goldens and labs and corgis in his classes. I'm not sure he realized they were dogs. When the girls finally got brave enough to sniff his feet, Teddy would pick his feet up high, like he didn't want them touching him. Silly boy! We'll try again, they need to make friends.

OK, now back to the title of this entry. We had a great agility class this week. Our instructor had us walk the course, and then she told us that we could give only a beginning command. We had to run the rest of the course completely silent. I was a little surprised by this. I've always heard that dogs cue more off of our body language than our verbal commands. I have believed this to be true, but I didn't think it would really work for my dog. Teddy is the kind that is easily distracted and is difficult to retain his focus. I thought he needed verbal cues to keep him on track and to bring his attention back to me. I, and everyone else in our class, was shocked at how well Teddy stayed on track and even ran faster. It was a real wake-up call for me. I need to shut up and make it easy on Teddy, so that he doesn't have to filter out all of the excess information. I had a revelation, and I'll see how his progress continues with limited verbal commands. The only thing that we had a problem with was the weaves, and that could have been because he just didn't want to do them. I think we need just need to work on this. I would love to see video proof of this, but it's too bad I broke my camera. I challenge all the agility people out there to try running a course without saying a word. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.


Ginger said...

Teddy is so gorgeous. His reaction to his new "cousins" made me giggle. And reminded me of when my SIL got her toy poodle. The largest of my three, Cosette, was scared of her. And would do the paw lifting thing, too! Very funny!

They all got used to her and now they love little Chloe and she loves visiting her "cousins." In fact, when her mom asks if she wants to "go see the Cousins," she makes a beeline for their door, then heads straight for our house once the door is open.

Theodorable said...

Thanks Ginger! I'm glad that there is hope for these guys! :)

Anonymous said...

It's kind of a late comment, but I just read your "running silent" blog. I had this same revelation about two years ago when I saw handlers in Excellent calling out wrong obstacle names (like chute for tire, or tunnel for the teeter), but the dog still did the correct obstacle becuase that was where the handler was "pointing". It made me wonder what the dog was REALLY listening too. It must be terribly distracting for a dog trying to run the course and to hear their person rambling in words they really don't comprehend anyway. I imagine it's like "blah, blah, blah, blah, teeter, blah, blah, blah over...". Don't get me wrong. A dog can certainly learn obstacle names, but 99% of the time, it's where you are pointing that matters, not what you say. Now I run silent and only open my mouth when I need to, like a call-off. I've found that Kyra pays more attention to my body cues and really listens when I do speak up to say "HERE".


Theodorable said...

Thanks Gene! You are so right. I was really surprised at the difference it has made so far. I'm going to make a conscious effort to keep my mouth shut- difficult for me, I know! :)

Poodlebugs said...

You? Keep your mouth shut? Now THAT's what *I* want to see a video of! LOL!

Couldn't resist it!

Theodorable said...

I knew I set myself up for that comment. Any of my college friends would back you up on that one. In the dorm, quiet hours didn't apply to me. :) And in my circle of friends if you lose your breath, you lose your turn!