Ms. Lyra managed to rip all of her pads off running around a wet pool deck, so she’s lying around looking very sad right now – no training until she’s chipper again.

Ms. Cisu has offered to substititue in for a training blog today.  For those who are not familar with Cisu and her story, you can read about her here:

Cisu currently has 57 points towards her OTCH.  In Utility she’s usually around 195 and in Open it’s more like 197.  Over forty classes or so that makes for slow going, because I live in a relatively competitive area.   Due to her age and my lack of perserverence, I’d say there is a good chance we won’t make it – that’s ok.

The biggest challenge with Cisu is keeping her calm and unstressed in the ring, and the presence of the judge triggers her to “stress up”.  To work through that, we are working with a metronome.  I first heard about using a metronome from Terri Arnold, who uses it to create a smooth rhythm in heeling.  For Cisu, I use it to duplicate aspects of my trial demeanor.  For some of my students, I use it to help their dogs get comfortable with the “mad face” that many people inadvertently adopt in the ring – followed by treats, toys or play.

Following the metronome requires concentration on my part, which triggers the “look” that I get when listening to the judge’s direction.  To make sure I’m struggling a bit, I pre-select a place for different maneuvers.  For example, in this session I halt on every beat of three.  So…after three beats I halt.  Then it’s six beats.  Then nine ….when I get to 15 or 18 I start over.  Following a preset rhythm forces me to complete the maneuver when I’m supposed to rather than when it is comfortable for me – that skill is essential for good ring handling.    I already know that I struggle to halt smoothly when the judge (or metronome) directs me as opposed to when I feel like it.  If you watch my face, you can tell I’m concentrating – I look a lot like a handler taking outside direction.  I know that Cisu feels the change, because she’s more pumped up when I use a metronome.  This is excellent, because it’s very hard to work on a problem that only happens in the ring.  With a metronome I am able to duplicate her stress-up behavior at home – to some extent.

I have a high reward schedule (breaking out of heeling) because I want her to associate my “look of concentration” with having fun.  This would also be a good place to bring a toy or food into her training, but in this session I used fetching her dumbbell and play/praise as her reward.

You’ll also see I alternate heeling with a couple of other exercises to prevent either of us from becoming bored.