14 Weeks 1 Day- Balancing Problems

Oct 15, 2004 | Stitch's Story

3/4 of breakfast is spent on down contacts. I’ve run the gamut on what behaviour I want on down contacts – I don’t like 2-on-2-off, it looks freaky in the small of the back. I don’t like stopping for a sit or down on the contact, it works great until the dog comes down the A-frame at speed. Scuba’s been through it all with me changing my mind every season and has no idea what to do with a contact. I’ve decided I’m going to get the dog thinking about the spot where the ramp meets the ground, then over the year I’ll move that spot out from the ramp a bit. So I start by putting 2 kibbles on the ground right at the bottom of each ramp. The first 10 times I also put 2 on the platform between the ramps.

Once she’s going up and down, my only job is to make sure the kibble fairy only leaves kibbles in the spot when the puppy comes down a ramp, NOT when she dekes around the trainer and runs over on the grass. We get her looking at the kibble-spot without much loss of speed over the ramps.

The remaining 50 kibbles are spent on a quiet hold on the wooden dumbbell. What a clever puppy.

The vacuum’s running while I’m writing this. A month ago it didn’t mean anything. Two weeks ago it was too scary to be in the room with. Today she can hand-wrestle me, attack Scuba carrying a toy, and solicit pets from the vacuumer, but she’s not QUITE comfortable with it yet. Her playing is over the top, much more growling and barky than normal. Still, she can lie down, scratch her ear, wander over and watch the machine going back and forth, go get a drink of water and come back to lie near Scuba.

For an hour while I’m working on the computer, I put a leash on her, bring her up on the couch for a cuddle, then require her to lie on the couch beside me while I’m working. When she’s quiet, I stop for a minute now and then and pet her and talk to her. She yaps half-heartedly for five minutes about the unfairness of this situation, then stops and simply lies there looking around. After a while she falls asleep. She wakes up several times during the hour, whimpers briefly without yapping, shuts up, gets a cuddle, and goes back to sleep.

Early afternoon we have to go drive around in the field again. She rides on the passenger seat. She yaps a bit, but settles when I pet her. After a bit she only whimpers when we start up after we’ve been stopped for a while. At one point I get out of the truck and leave her in by herself for a couple of minutes. When I come back she’s got her front paws on the centre console and her back paws on the seat, and from there she can’t get up or down. She looks pathetic. If she knew she could, she could gallivant all over the cab, but she doesn’t know that yet. I put her front paws back on the seat and she’s happy to lie down while we go back to the yard.

3/4 of lunch is spent working on Sit and Down. We do 30X Sit, using our cue “Park It” the last 25 times. Then we move to Down. My goodness gracious, we have produced an EXCELLENT default Sit over the last week! It takes 10X luring, and then another 28 clicks before she’s confidently offering Downs, and another 10 before I can confidently start using the cue. Then another 50 Downs. Then I start randomly asking for Sit and Down. She’s figured out that she doesn’t have to Sit first in order to lie down, but she starts forgetting about her butt. We could catch a very nice bow, but that would only confuse both of us and I ignore the bows and wait for Downs. We’ve got another quarter of the meal to go when she starts gagging, so we run outside and forget about the rest of lunch.

I feed her supper in the truck cab. The truck engine is not running. I put some on the console between the seats, some on the floor on the passenger side, some on the passenger seat, and some in my hand. I sit in the driver’s seat. I put her on the seat, and she crouches for two minutes while I feed her from my hand. She’s OK to eat what I offer her. Then I play a game on my Palm and ignore her. Another minute of just sitting there, then she starts leaning closer and closer to the console and finally decides she can probably eat the food on it. Then she eats the food on the seat, and then she’s feeling pretty good, so I pick her up and put her on the floor. She appears to think the floor is a chute into a shark tank, but once she’s down there she quickly eats the food. I’m still playing my game, and after a minute of thinking about it, she climbs from the floor onto the seat. I continue playing for another 10 minutes, petting her and talking to her occasionally. She lies down on the seat, yaps a few times, then whines intermittently. When she’s been quiet for a while, I get out of the truck, and she decides she can climb over the console into the driver’s seat so I can lift her out.

I think about how this fear of vehicles could build up if I didn’t do the right thing with it, or if she never went anywhere but to the vet because “she’s afraid to ride in the car”. Anytime I see any kind of fear or refusal, I have to automatically balance it out. “My dog doesn’t eat in cars” means she’ll be fed in cars until she’s comfortable with it. “My dog won’t let me hold her paws” means that what we’ll be working on until it’s second nature to her.