15 Weeks 1 day- Basement

Oct 22, 2004 | Stitch's Story

After being afraid to go down the basement stairs yesterday, Stitch gallops down them this morning, runs over and flings herself down on the blanket. Go To Mat. I can’t help but think about all the years I wasted on traditional training, weeks and weeks of trying to get a puppy to go up and down the kerflushinner stairs. Weeks and weeks.

We work Go To Mat X20, me telling her the name. Then we do some Watch Me X20 (I have no voice cue for this yet. I want it to be a default behaviour – and Heaven knows, it is! – but I also want to be able to ask for it as we get to the point where I can ask her to look at something else and then at me. But I won’t introduce the cue until she’s got a good 10-second grip on my eyes.

Then random Sit, Down, Go To Mat. The Go To Mat cue still requires a moment of thought now and then, but Sit and Down are EXCELLENT. X30 with no errors.

We move on to one of those huge tennis balls. It’s 8′ away and it takes her 10 kibbles to find it, but once she’s got it, she’s hitting it with her nose, her paw, and even trying to pick it up, which is pretty funny because it’s bigger than her head.

I move a pool-cue-stand out into the middle of the room. It takes 7 clicks for her to realize I’m paying for going around the stand. During those 7, she tries throwing that blasted paw at me, going to mat, retrieving a dryer sheet (I’m the world’s best housekeeper), but none of them work. Once she’s got going around, she’s got it. I’m not asking for one direction, just go around from wherever she is. And I can control where she starts to go around by where I toss the previous kibble.

We work on Zen with cue. I show her a treat, say No, and start to put my hand down near her. She spins and goes to lie down on her mat. Drama queen! Then I put a few kibbles on the floor and cover them with my foot. That takes her a few tries, then she won’t come near my hand OR the kibble on the floor until I click and move them toward her.

When we’re done she stands at the bottom of the stairs demanding that I keep working. When it’s obvious that I’m not coming back, she gallops up the stairs, tripping on her huge paws halfway up and falling back two steps. This doesn’t bother her at all. Happy tail.

All the skills that she’s learning are nothing without this most important default: trust me. If you’re scared I’ll explain it to you. If you’re in trouble, I’ll get you out of it. I’m very happy with her progress in this area.

And while I’m on the subject of trust, I smacked her yesterday. I was sitting down and leaned down to talk to her. She jumped up and scraped those nasty puppy teeth on my nose and cheek. Reflex action – ACH! and both my open hands clapped her face between them. Not hard by any means, but, with the voice correction, a definite bad result to her actions. I think I was a bit overboard (I was surprised, and those teeth HURT) on my response, but I call her over and she’s more than willing to come, happy, hand-wrestling, but won’t point her nose toward my face within a foot of my face. Great response to my over-reaction!

Hard to think that a week ago Level Two looked REALLY hard. Tonight it looks totally do-able, we just need practise on THIS and THAT. So I resolve to start at the top of the list and run down the tests. The method of testing isn’t to train today until I get a behaviour happening, then “test” for it and declare it done. The method of testing is to walk fairly cold into a situation, ask for the behaviour and get it.

So she’s EXCELLENT at going in her crate, we’ll start with that. We go to her crate, I ask her to get in, she Sits and Stares, Downs, whines, and throws her paws at me. Plan B. Obviously she knows to get in her crate when the circumstances are correct (get the cookie, dogs go outside, into crate, give cookie). I shape her to go into the crate. This takes 4 kibbles for her to figure out what I want, then it’s tough to keep her out long enough to tell her to get in. Several times when she’s out I ask for a Sit or Down.

We go to the kitchen, on the tile floor – we’ve only done Sit and Down cues on carpet so far. No problem at all, she’s 100% on the cues. We work X30 each on SitStay and DownStay. SitStay is excellent, but in the middle of her Downstays she realizes she’s 3′ from the gate blocking the basement stairs and has to get up several times to try to get through the gate. Can you believe she was scared of the stairs yesterday? The distraction of the gate means we have to work at only about half the distance we’ve got on the SitStay.

Then I put out the basket the dog dishes stay in. She immediately goes around it. Holy cow. We spend the rest of supper going around the basket. She’s doing so well that I start using cues – Away for counterclockwise circles, Get By for clockwise circles. A couple of times I give a cue just as she’s thinking of wandering back to the gate, but she gives a little startle and goes back to her circle.