Saturday, March 10, 2012

First Obedience Trial: 22 sleeps

I signed Cohen and myself up for our very first competitive obedience trial due to take place April 1st (aka April Fools Day). It felt like an appropriate day to kick off our competition career.

My CD class has given me enough confidence to sign up. I tend to fear failure so much that I never want to even try. Now I fear failure slightly less.

Based on my experiences in class, we don't have much to worry about in each of the specific exercises. The biggest hurdle will be motivation and reinforcement in the ring. Like so many other "reinforcement" trainers I've fallen into the trap of relying too much on food, and at much too high a rate. On our last class we did the competition "for real" and I could see Cohen losing interest as she realized I would not be feeding her at all in the ring. She actually left me once between exercises to go see if Adrian would pay her instead.

It's a tough problem for me to work on since I so easily fall into the mindless reinforcement trap. I barely even notice myself popping kibble into Cohen's mouth any more. I think I'll be able to eek by with passable (good, even) performances for the first little while, but unless I change my approach I'll end up with a ringwise dog.

It's totally like me to start planning for the worst before the game has even started. So I'm going to stop worrying about it for a little while.

Wish us luck!


  1. Good luck! I think the treat-dispensing problem is a common one a lot of people can have. It will just take time for you to figure out how to reward Cohen without treats in a way that she finds rewarding, without treats.

  2. I'm working on the same thing with Elli! I've always had food off my body once behaviors were learned but even then she totally knows when it's there and when it's not. Denise Fenzi is a great inspiration for what I'm doing with her now: becoming the toy/reinforcer.

  3. Wishing you guys luck!

    Luce and I did a ton of Rally before going into the obedience ring, and I'm glad of it because it gave us all those successful ring experiences for me to lean on. Our biggest struggles were always 1) my head and 2) her attention :)