Monday, January 27, 2014

Things I've Learned and What I'm Thinking - Brockle and Protection Work

We mill around, sipping coffee in cardboard cups, laughing and catching up. The dogs are let out of their kennels to stretch their legs and warm up, one by one, or in small groups that are known to get along.

Each dog runs to the "pee spot" and does just that, getting their first praise of the day for peeing where they're supposed to. They weave in and out of the group, receiving praise, pats and friendly greetings.

Brockle, who was so stranger-wary when we first teamed up, now trots up to his favorite treat lady, accepts a kind stroke or a cheery "Hey Brockle" with a happy wag of his tail. He is fired up and ready to rock and roll, but obediently goes to his bed in the back of my car when I call him.

What I've learned:
This first of the morning ritual is important. The dogs all pee at the pee spot because it smells good. When they receive the universal "Good pee!" they are not only learning to pee on command, but starting the day doing things right, just by doing things naturally.

The dogs socialize with their handler, the decoys, the trainers, spouses observers, etc. Everybody is the same, and all people are treated with respect.

What I'm thinking:
Brockle is learning to trust my reactions. If I'm relaxed and social, so is he. So, how much of his anxieties and fears are mirrors of my own? Watching him become a happy, solid, confident dog gives me a surge of peace. His insecurities aren't the only mirrors.

We start the day by bringing Brockle out so HMT and Bianca can check our obedience work. Brockle bounces and grins and turns himself inside out to perform each maneuver. What we lack in precision we make up in enthusiasm. HMT gives me some tips on correcting his crooked sit and Bianca talks to me about what's coming next, the off-leash down stay while another dog works.

What I've learned:
Brockle's bounce won't hurt him during our initial, Basic Handler test. He is young, the road to Schutzhund is long, and the judges will enjoy his enthusiasm. He throws him self into every maneuver like a crazy dog, keeps his eyes on me, and responds with lightening speed. These things are what they want to see.

I am too quiet and not assertive enough when I give my commands.Sigh.

What I'm thinking:
I wiggle inside like my dog does on the outside when my trainer and his wife say "Good job!"

One by one, each dog is brought from kennel or car and works with his handler, and a decoy. The dogs waiting in their kennels for their turn, bark and whine with excitement. Each work out is finished within minutes, sometimes one or two, sometimes five, rarely much longer. This is an experienced, knowledgeable crowd. They watch each dog work with intensity, and discuss what they see, and then ideas for improving the dog, the decoy and or the handler fly fast between them. The teasing, catcalls and harassment wait for the brief down times between dogs. Everybody contributes, everybody learns to take a bite, and those who can, are learning to decoy. Everyone has something to offer. The discussions are lively and I am the greenest in  the group.

What I've learned:

Keep my mouth shut, observe and listen. Think things through, then ask careful questions.

What I'm thinking:

While I don't mind not knowing, I hate being stupid. I want to be worth educating. I wonder why they keep me around.

Brockle and I come out to work. Decoy Jim wants to focus on Brockle's prey drive. HMT agrees and watches from the sidelines. Decoy Jim goes back to the tug, easing the mental pressure on Brockle. He immediately jumps into the game, hitting the end of the leash with authority, barking a loud warning and going in for the bite on the tug.

He fades again like he did last week, sniffing the ground, presenting his profile to the decoy. This week, we're ready for him. The decoy throws the tug, Brockle locks onto it when it lands and begins to bark as the decoy swoops in to pick it up. When he bites, it's without hesitation and he carries the tug in a proud victory lap.

What I've learned:

Through reading about the body language of dogs, I have learned that anxious dogs who want to placate a threat (the decoy) will look away, sniff the ground and otherwise appear distracted.

A dog that is guarding his person will stand lengthwise in front of them, looking out.

When Brockle bites, he is all about defense. He is protecting me and is not seeing this bite work as a game. He barks in a high, nervous yap, and bites with a shallow, front of the mouth bite. This says he's feeling insecure.

What I'm thinking:

Brockle is unsure of his role at this point. He has made it clear he will whomp some butt if the bad guy gets too close, but he's not happy about it. He is trying to placate the decoy.

Brockle is a civilized dog who knows it's wrong to bite people. "Hey man, why don't you settle down, maybe a game of fetch?"

I worry that we're scaring him.

What I've learned:

Brockle's behavior is understandable in a young dog and a surprise only to me. He understands the concept of defense, but not the concept of prey. Once he gets it, he will get into the game.

"Brockle is confused, not afraid," Bianca told me. "He wouldn't have been so happy on the field this morning, while you were working obedience, if he was afraid. He is always eager to come out, a frightened dog wouldn't be.

Brockle is sorting out his job and is telling me what he needs. The Cool K-9's team understands this. Our work-outs are fun, short and to the point. Dogs are encouraged and praised and we always quit on a high note, no matter how small it might be.

What I've learned:
Trust my trainer.

What I'm thinking:
Brockle is thinking too. He's freaking awesome.


Holly said...

So, is this the post you referred to when I made my remarks in the post about Brockle disengaging from the decoy?

If so, do you wish a discussion? Do you wish input? Or what?

How does this relate to the Bob Bailey post I referred to?

mugwump said...

Holly- Settle. Stay.
I said I read the Bob Bailey post. That's all. It was simplistic and had absolutely nothing to do with what we do in our training group, so I felt no need to discuss.
Your remarks about disengaging came from your weird need to prove how right you are by making my choices wrong - not actual knowledge of how I'm training my dog -- which I provided a little of today.
Last week's post post was based on a series of photos I put together for fun, the thoughts were only what was whipping through my mind as I experienced the situation.
You have already stated what you would do.
Now, by reading this, you know where we're coming from.
I wish absolutely nothing from you, your comments are always entertaining though.

Holly said...

Janet, I have no reason to care if you are right or wrong. I was simply making an observation, in regards to what I'd do. As you pointed out, he isn't my dog, and I don't care if you do well in the test or not. Tho it costs a bit to enter so I thought you would want to do well. Of course you may choose not to go beyond the BH test too and if that is the case, bite work will be for fun only and if THAT is the case, it will not matter if he disengages when the decoy presents to him.

I misunderstood you apparently, as I thought when you responded previously, this post would have something to do with the BB link.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, I very much enjoyed reading this. The only one of your thoughts I don't comprehend, and which seems to me to be so out of tune with everything else you said, is:
"While I don't mind not knowing, I hate being stupid. I want to be worth educating. I wonder why they keep me around."
I don't get where this comes from. Do Brockle and yourself a favor and delete this line of thinking. (Anyone who can wiggle inside is worth educating.;)) No, seriously, congrats to you on Brockle - and vice-versa! -irmgard

Becky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becky said...

" I don't care if you do well in the test or not..... Tho it costs a bit to enter so I thought you would want to do well."

I would think there is more than one right way to successfully approach Schutzhund, just as there is with horse training, or any kind of worthy pursuit.

Holly said...

Becky, you are right there are often more than one way to approach/solve a problem.

Janet, one question. You said you read the BB post, then said it was simplistic and had absolutely nothing to do with what you do in your training group.

did you truly think it had no applicability to Brockle choosing to leave the decoy and go for the food on the ground?

Holly said...

or perhaps I view his choice as a problem and you do not?

mugwump said...

Anon -- I should have expanded a little more on this. Our group is an invitation only deal. The knowledge is vast, the trainers and decoys have been working dogs for years, if not decades. The newer folks are learning to decoy, so they can be of use. The idea is to exchange information between each other, analyze and tweak the dogs and decoy for each other.
I am the greenest greenhorn in the group.I don't have insights yet, at least not right away. They have let me take a bite for the experience, but for some reason they don't think Parkinson's and decoy should be used in the same sentence. Personally, I think any dog worth its salt should be able to nail a sleeve waving and snapping like a flag in a hurricane,...but whatever.
So, when I say I wonder why, I really do, as I have little to offer...yet.
I am incredibly grateful to have the experience behind developing that many titled dogs, plus police and military training, all at my fingertips. But it's also why I listen hard, and think before I ask. I am very, very lucky to be working with these people.

Whywudyabreedit said...

What a fun journey with Brockle! Hopefully more time in pray drive mode will make this a very fun game for him.

It totally makes sense that he was giving calming signals to the helper last week and this, actually a very cool thing for him to be doing given what a hot mess he was when you got him. Knowing how you run your house, I can imagine him thinking that defusing the situation would be what you would ultimately want!

De-escalation of a tense situation is a really neat behavior for him to have, hopefully he will learn to leave it in his back pocket while you are on the Schutzhound field =)

Whywudyabreedit said...

How lucky to land in such an experienced group of handlers and trainers too, congratulations on that! I love getting to participate in activities with people that are way more advanced than I am. Humbling, but the best way to learn a lot fast, and luckily you can pick up a lot just watching.

mugwump said...

Whywudya - I feel the same way. Obviously, Brockle was not bred for this job. But we are both having so much fun it's unexplainable.
For me, personally, to have a dog stop and think when he's confused, instead of react, is perfection. Plus, in the first set of photos, he very clearly looked back to me for assistance, instead of exploding in an uncontrolled reaction.
This is the original reason I got help. I definitely got my money's worth.
I was afraid protection work would make him more aggressive, but was assured, by people I trusted, that the opposite would happen. And looky there, they were right on the money.
I am a competitive beast, and I like being the underdog. I told HMT a little about Sonita, so he gets who I am.
Brockle and I will go as far as we can with this. The difference between the old me and the new me? I mean as far as we can get while still having fun and staying true to who we are.
HMT and crew don't consider Brockle's hesitation anything more than an interesting bump. They have worked much more tentative dogs through the same thing.
Why he's interesting them is because he isn't afraid,he just doesn't get it. He's thinking.

Whywudyabreedit said...

Plus hitting bumps provides much better learning opportunities than smooth sailing! Somehow smooth sailing does not seem to be the great teacher that hitting bumps is =)

When I was checking out clubs as a young 20 something I went to one club where the helper used all defence and no prey drive. He had one german shepherd hiding behind the handler...

I had a really nice Rottie pup that he kept offering to work, and I kept politely saying, "no thanks, I just came to watch." I believe that his approach with that dog would have some lasting affects. What happened with Brockle was actually kind of cool, and can be worked through without incident.

That was the worst club that I checked out, and I ended up finding a great one to train with shortly thereafter.

I am more of a process oriented than a competition person. I got my B, and that was it. I trained every week, did tracking every weekend, and obedience training every day with my dog. I was offered 10,000 for the dog as a 2-year old and everyone was pressuring me to compete with him. At the time I was training guide dogs full time and I would have had to increase my training committment to prep for competition. It wasn't worth it to me.

Just wanted to give you an idea where I am coming from with my comments. I have some experience, and I have trained with some very talented trainers and handlers, but I am not an accomplished competitor at all.

I am so excited for you to be having such a good time in this sport! It really is engaging, and brings together some really fun people.


mugwump said...

Thanks Nanette, I appreciate your insight.
I have no clue whether I will like competition. At this point it's fun. I became a cow horse trainer because I wanted to learn cow horse and couldn't be a non-pro. Showing went with being a trainer, so liking, disliking had nothing to do with that particular phase of my life. It was just doing.
What I do like is conquering the challenges laid out by the tests.
My appreciation of the people I'm working with goes further than being wowed by their knowledge. HMT and Bianca seem to be truly enjoying watching me process all of this. They like stepping back and letting me wrestle with what I see and how I translate it. Then, they come in with what they know and we have some kickass conversations.
One of our decoys has a much slower, more conservative approach to the dogs than HMT. They don't pretend their differences aren't there, not by a long shot. But the respect between them is enormous. They concede to each other often, but will step in and state their case too.
They balance each other.
It's fascinating to watch.
I would love, love, love to find that kind of balance here. A way to share information without chest pounding insulting others.
I am well aware I get pretty snippy when I feel condescended to. OK, really snippy. return, I am trying, really, really hard to present my views without disparaging someone else's.
I think you, along with many others who read here, are trying to do the same.
Which I love.
POV presented with fact, research, experience....what conversations we could have!
Trolls are welcome to shape up and return, or we can use them to sharpen our fangs on, whichever they prefer.

MichelleL said...

I love reading your new adventures with Brockle and all that those adventures offer.

Don't know a darn thing about the work you two are doing but I do know it makes you happy and I like happy.

Holly said...

I am sorry if you think I am a troll or pounding my chest. I certainly did not intend it that way.

Half Dozen Farm said...

I loved this post. :D That's what I looked like at the end. And I think that's what it's all about.

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