9 Weeks 3 Days- More Retrieving

Sep 12, 2004 | Stitch's Story

We work on retrieving again. A slow start because I expect her to start where we left off. She touches the dumbbell a couple of times but I’m not going to click until she takes it and holds it. So she touches it a couple of times and wanders off, then comes back and flings herself at the couch a few times. Finally she tries Sit and Stare. By that time I’ve screwed my head back on and I click her. Three times for that, four times for touching the dumbbell, then she starts grabbing it again. Duh. Very good session. Then I put the DB in various places on the mat behind her. MUCH better response than before, actively seeking it, running to it, bopping it hard enough with her nose to move it around. Then I keep her busy with the treats and put it somewhere else. A few seconds of thought, then she goes hunting for it again. She’s gonna love that sucker like a mother before we get done with this!

Fascinating to think of all the small communications she doesn’t know yet. She doesn’t know when I touch her tail to play with her, and when I really want to touch it. Same for her muzzle and her paws. She doesn’t know when I’m asking her to give me something ($50 mail-in rebate card) and when I’m inviting her to run away (bit of crumpled newspaper). The easy answer, of course, would be to “never let her win” and not play with her at all. What a bore. What a sorrow. What a terrible lack of communication. We WILL learn these things. These are not “big lesson” things, but things that are taught every time I put my hands on her. Every time she approaches me. Without thinking about it, we have learned that she cannot jump out of my arms – something she CERTAINLY didn’t know two weeks ago! But when she struggled, she “earned the prize” of staying in my arms until she settled. I have never put her down unless she was calm, and now she’s assimilated that little-dog queen-riding-on-her-elephant attitude when I’m carrying her. “Assimilated” brings to mind “Resistance is futile” – just as true for puppies as for Borgs.

What a glorious thing is an 9 year old dog. Can’t see the main llama herd this morning, so I take Scuba and the ATV out around the outside of all the pastures looking for them. No discussion required. She leads me out all the way, three strides ahead. No matter how fast or slow I go, she’s always three strides ahead of me. An extension of myself (but her beautiful body works). We find them relaxing in deep grass where we couldn’t see them from the house. Then she leads me all the way back again, joyfully scattering the feral cats when we come back into the yard.

Pursuant to my “small communications” speech, the first half of Stitch’s breakfast is spent on show stacking on the grooming table. I start her in a semi-stand facing right with my left hand securely gripping her left thigh and hip. Feed her a lot, one at a time, in this position. Gradually I start giving her a kibble, then pulling my hand away for half a second before giving her the next one. Pretty soon she’s standing waiting for the next one instead of following my hand away, so I can give her one, then reach for the next one instead of having them all in my hand. Then I’m able to let go of her thigh and “make the ring” with her tail while feeding her one and then another and then another. Quick study!

Right now she’s carrying a size 13 running shoe around, growling like a jungle cat and trying to shake it to death.

Then we work again on Go To Mat (my cue for this is Hit The Rack). I’m very pleased with her. She’s In The Game immediately, trying to figure out what to do, quickly moves to experimenting to see what she needs to do next or if she REALLY needs to do THAT much – do I HAVE to step on the mat with all 4 feet, or would it work if I stand close to it and look at it really hard?

I’m glad I know where I’m going with all this. Today I’m understanding all those people who have asked “Do we work on one behaviour until we’ve learned it, or lots of things at once?” and the answer, of course, is ummm, yeah. If I didn’t know where we were heading, this training would feel very disjointed, yet I AM working on one thing at a time – though the time may be only a minute or two. And we ARE working on lots of things at once, though never more than one thing in any given minute.

In two weeks we’ve worked on Come, Settle, Kennel, Go To Mat, Touch, Zen, Bite Control, Housetraining, Going Through Dog Doors, Go To Sleep, Be Held, Stack, Let Me Hold Tail/Paws/Head, Find Food On Floor, Find Food In Hand, Sit, Down, Stand, Follow, Leash, Collar, Eye Contact. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some. Oh, UH!