15 Weeks 5 Days- Stich takes Sue to School

Oct 26, 2004 | Stitch's Story

My name is Sue A. and I’m a traditional trainer.

Obviously *I* do better with moving exercises than with stationary ones as well. She isn’t getting Stand. She understands the butt-in-the-air part, but I’m getting dancing and whining and head-swinging, sitting, downing, Sore Paw. She’s fine if I click for the butt up, but the more I try for duration, the less Stand I’m getting.

I can HEAR her frustration building. I HATE whining. It makes me want to strangle her. I can FEEL my frustration building, I want to smack her and scream “NO, DAMMIT, STAND!” Useful thoughts – NOT.

Yesterday (not written down) all I did was putter with her and prove that she doesn’t really understand this. I woke up this morning for the first time not being excited about what she’ll learn today.

We start with Sit, Down, and Sore Paw. All on cue, very nice.

I dig up Scuba’s old water-trial bag and looked for a puppy-size bumper. No luck – 7 adult-size bumpers. OK, what the heck. We spend X30 on the bumper. It has a short thick rope attached. This is new retrieving – where to hold it isn’t obvious. She can’t wrap her mouth around the bumper. Holding the rope isn’t particularly satisfactory as after the first few targets, I’m only clicking the motion of the bumper, and moving the rope doesn’t move the bumper. Finally she figures out that if she grabs the knot tying the rope to the bumper, or the end of the bumper with the rope tied to it, it will move and she’ll get the click. She gradually moves it across the floor and gets a jackpot when I can get it, then I toss it out again. I should be thinking about next September at her first water trial, but I’m still crabby about the Stand.

I notice that she has a very nice, durable, quiet Stand while I’m fussing with the kibble, getting the next handful. The phone rings. When I come back I may be smarter than I was when I left. I put the clicker in my pocket, thinking, it’s just making her frantic to offer me things, when what I want is her NOT offering me anything, just standing there (just bloody stand there, how hard IS it?!). So, I put the clicker away. As I do this, she stands quietly watching me (she’s STANDING, ARRGGHH), so I say Yes and give her a kibble. She continues to stand there, so I say Yes and give her a kibble. Her body language gets subtly calmer. So does mine. She starts offering me Eye Contact as she’s standing. We work through 150 quiet Stands. After the first 50, I notice I’m waiting for 2 seconds before saying Yes. After 100, I notice several times she twitches as though she were going to move a paw, but doesn’t. She’s starting to think about standing quietly.

For lunch we’re going to spread kibbles all over the living room and have a Puppy Pickup Party with wrestling and tugging.

OK, I’m back. Thank goodness. We had a wrestle and a play and got her back to being a puppy. In MY mind, at least. I’m sure SHE was always pretty sure who she was.

She CAN pick up the big bumper, which is amazing, considering what a mouthful it is even for Scuba. I remember it took Scuba quite a while to figure out how to swim with her mouth open this far without swallowing the lake.

Two things Stitch has started doing today that she didn’t know before – if she loses a kibble and I gesture toward it, she’s following the motion of my hand toward the kibble. And when she’s carrying something in her mouth, she’s started thinking it might be fun to parade it near me. This is a very common and fun thing Portuguese Water Dogs are prone to – “It’s an oven mitt, isn’t it grand!” While they’re parading it, they growl subtly until you notice them, then fiercely. This is the beginning of the dog’s invitation to play and I love it about them.
Examining Stand

Supper – now that I’m back to training and thinking rather than just pouting and reacting, we’re doing better. I’ve been explaining the Stand to people today as something which requires the dog’s centre of gravity to swing backwards – and this leads me to notice that when I’m handing her kibbles, I’m an inch or so short of her mouth, which forces her to jump forward to get them. Which swings her centre of gravity forward. Duh. I start handing her the kibbles half an inch further back than she expects them. Her weight settles back. Suddenly her feet are very calm. We work on this X100. Then I add the clicker, and lose the stability. She starts dancing, flicking her head, and whining again. I put the clicker away and go back to voice, X50.

With me sitting right in front of her, she can give me 3 solid seconds of Stand before she starts whining. On impulse, I signal a Stay as I did for Sit and Down, and walk 10′ away and back. She stands solid, quiet and calm. We do this X20, results are perfect. Settle her weight back, lose the clicker, and get further away from her. OK, if that’s what she needs to figure this out, that’s what I’ll give her. And a bath, and a cuddle.