We haven’t been training much, but Java was hitting her mat like a pro. Any distance, any place. True, we only used racing to a food bowl as a reward, but it looked awesome. Until she got back and tummy problems and it all went downhill. 😦
We didn’t do any RC training for 3 weeks. Even though Java seemed fine in the evenings I didn’t want to risk making her uncomfortable and getting that associated with training. Then after three weeks we tried again and – BAM – Java hit perhaps 50% of the time. Say whaaaaaaaat? And it wasn’t just the first session. It looked like she wasn’t even trying.
Concluding that the dog isn’t trying is a very risky thing – it could be very unfair to them if they actually WERE trying and they can’t tell you you’re wrong. So I brushed it aside. Surely she just forgot how to adjust (as weird as that seemed to me). She used to do best if we did one session every day, we’ll do that for a week and she’ll be fine.
Then I got a little
lazy busy and we only did two or three sessions that week. Not much improvement.
Luckily our weekend getaway place had a perfect lawn with a perfect little slope so I could even start doing hill RC work if hits got close to 100% again.
Unfortunately, we had trouble on the road and arrived after dark. Next day, it rained all day, but cleared at night. I don’t know what got into me, but I decided to do our first RC training in this new place in the dark, on a slope next to the cottage, lit only by the porch lights. Java did BEAUTIFUL hits! She was excited, she was fast, covered the mat nicely with her stride and only leaped over it once. I was feeling very excited about our next training!
Next day we woke up into a sunny morning. The lawn was waiting for us. Java took food in the morning, didn’t seem nauseous, we were good to go. First try, poor speed, leaped over. Next try, leaped over. I dragged the mat further down so it was on the flat. I got some hits, but also some leaps. Disappointed.
I got Ruby out, did some sends to the mat, impulse control, threw toys for him and had a blast. He is such a fun dog to train 🙂 Then I thought what the heck, this RC training is going so poorly I might as well break the rules and reward with toys even though she’s likely to look back at me IF she’s going to hit at all.
First try, great speed, but leaps over, looking back at me. Next try, hit, possibly looks back a bit while moving forward, gets toy thrown. Next try, another beautiful hit, focusing forward more. And so on, about 8 hits in 10 tries. 😀
I didn’t get it. What happened here? Food is not working anymore, but toys are? And why did food work great on Friday evening?
Here’s my sister’s theory. If a dog is nauseous, even a little, food will have a lower value, won’t it? And if this behavior of hitting the mat is mentally difficult for Java, then she will need a really good incentive to think hard. So it’s possible that on Friday evening food had a higher value because Java felt 100% OK (she was also fast, which is another indicator of both food value and how she felt). The next morning, however, food had lower value. Remember, Java’s nausea always came on in the morning. Java was slower. She didn’t try as hard. But toys were still high value and it was worth it to try hard to hit.
I don’t know if the above theory is true. It could be. Or it could just be that random breakdown of behavior that happens so often with RC. Three weeks without training can change the behavior.
Just in case I did stop training RC in the mornings for a week and got a better % of hits. Then we started some hill work*. First try was a leap, the rest were hits, and in the end she got three beautiful jackpots. 😀 Of course I got all excited about this, but the next session was on the flat with a different setup and it didn’t look half as good. I really thought that once the dog got the idea of hitting the mat and learned how to adjust stride to hit, the performance wouldn’t randomly change like it does with running the plank. Boy, was I wrong. I must be crazy to be training this. Well, at least it gives me something to
complain write about, right? 😉
* hill work: putting the mat on a gentle slope (currently much less than a dog walk). I put it in the middle of a slope, not at the bottom of the hill (my slope doesn’t have a well defined “bottom” anyway). There is no reason to leap over anything except when she wants to avoid the mat. The plan is to work up to a steeper slope (probably a bit steeper than a dog walk) and then move to a hill that will have a similar contact to ground as the dog walk so that Java will have to learn to run all the way down to hit the mat.