I’ve been sick for four days. If I move too much, I cough until I get dizzy – so no moving. In a moment of boredom, I decide to teach Stitch to whack a bell to go outside. I have a little cowbell left over from another dog. I hang it on a leash and offer it to her. She touches the bell with her nose. I pull it away and offer it again. She bites the leash. I pull it away and offer it again. She bites the bell. I pull it away and put it on the floor. She tries to pick it up, but she can’t because I’ve got my foot on the leash. She works on that for a minute, then paws at it, click. Five more of those and I lift it off the floor a bit. She keeps hitting it, and gets a click for each hit. After 15 clicks, I stop clicking and let the sound of the bell tell her when she’s right. Ringing the bell turns out to be a 5-minute behaviour. I suspect teaching her to ring it in order to go outside will be a much more lengthy process. I wait for a couple of minutes after we’re finished the meal and then ask her if she wants to go out. We go to the door where I’ve hung the bell. I ask her to ring it. She does, and I get very excited and let her out. And then cough.
And she’s got it. Holy cow, she’s got it. Six more times during the day and evening, she rings the bell to go outside. Wow.
Another “couch behaviour” we can work on without me having to do anything. She doesn’t like to be grabbed. When I was a traditional trainer, she would have been grabbed a million times by this age. As it is, she’s rarely grabbed, and she avoids the thought of being grabbed religiously. Besides that, she doesn’t come 10″ to hand when I call her – she stays over THERE and says “I can see you, that should be close enough.” I can work on these things from the couch. I call her from across the room. She comes, I say YES and give her a treat. She wanders off, I call her, she comes, this time I toss the treat to the other side of the room. We do that 4 times and it’s going very well until she decides to keep sniffing the floor when I call her. I call twice, then go put the food away.
She’s not going to let THAT happen again. At the next meal, we start again and she’s quite willing to come as soon as I call even when there’s kibble still on the floor. I try different kinds of grabbing – grabbing her on the sides of the neck and pulling her toward me, grabbing her by the scruff of the neck, grabbing her head. She thinks about each of these a couple of times, then dives right in. We spend the second half of the meal working on a water behaviour – teaching her to climb up on things with pressure on the back of her neck and withers. This is used to help the dog climb back into the boat from the water. I’ve also used it to help dogs climb ladders, and to get Scuba into the overhead bed in my old motor home. I sit on a lounge chair and flip the legrest up. I ask her to Paws Up on it and click that a few times. Then, from Paws Up, I ask her to come further and pull and push down with one of those neck-grabs we practised before. She scrambles her back end up. It isn’t pretty, but she gets a whole handful of treats for it and she’s willing to try it again. We work x20, and by then using a cue (Heave) and using all different kinds of grabs. I can simply put my hand on the back of her neck for her to push against, I can grab either side of neck and lift by the skin, grab and pull by the topknot on the back of her head or by the skin on her withers. This isn’t nearly as violent as it sounds, it’s only a grip helping her up, not a handful of skin lifting her. She’s enjoying it, eagerly going Paws Up after each repetition.
Uh oh, trainer stress! There’s a fun match this weekend. Scuba’s the first dog I’ve ever had that didn’t have a CD at 7 months. Stitch is the second. Since Scuba’s approaching 10 years old, I guess it’s about time and I’m aiming at a breed Specialty 7 months from now, so I’ll put her in Novice, and maybe Open as well. I can use food in the ring at the match. If I do a Sit for Examination instead of a Stand, and reward the eye contact (pretending it’s Heeling), I might put Stitch in Novice as well. It’ll be an excellent test of my ability to pay attention to my priorities to have a virtually untrained dog in the Novice ring. Those priorities will be that she gets enough treats to enjoy herself thoroughly and likes what she learns about the ring. And semi-performing some of the exercises would be OK too. And we’ll try her in conformation. There’s a ton she has to learn about the breed ring, but we can go in and have a good time. We tried it this afternoon and she had a hard time not looking at me when we were gaiting. Oh well, she’s cute!
After Stitch and I practised, Scuba and I practised with Stitch on a tie-loop in the wall. She was AWful, yipping and whining like she did when she was a baby. This is one dog who doesn’t suffer in silence! I should have done Go To Mat, but I was paying attention to Scuba’s priorities and not to Stitch’s (bad mommy). When we got home, I put Stitch in the dog room and shut the door and she started in again. I thought about it for a few minutes (brain starting to kick in), and then worked her on Room Zen – stay in the dog room with the door OPEN, whether I’m working with Scuba or not. Five clicks for being in the dog room, then give a couple to Scuba. Herd Stitch back into the dog room, five clicks for being there, a couple to Scuba, herd Stitch back into dog room. Five clicks, a couple to Scuba, one for Stitch for being in the dog room. Five more, a scruffle for Scuba, five for Stitch, a recall for Scuba, a stamped foot and NO! as Stitch starts to come out of the dog room. Five for Stitch, a recall for Scuba, five for Stitch.
Later I’m putting away laundry. Every room I go into, I draw a line across the door with my finger, look at Stitch, and say No! She stays on her side of the line. Go To Mat without a mat, yeah!
I have a feeding situation that’s frustrating me, and it’s time to solve it. For 8 years, Scuba knew that “Get your dish” meant the Giant Schnauzer went to the basket and got the dog dishes. After the meal, Scuba would “Clean up this mess”. Now that the Giant’s gone, I could change the cue to one which doesn’t mean “get excited and then stare at me”, but I think it’s time for Stitch to start doing her share. We spend a meal on getting her to fetch a dog dish. I alternate between 25 clicks for opening her mouth on the rim of the dish in my hand moving to her holding the dish when I hand it to her, and 25 clicks shaping her to go to the dish and pick it up. The holding is accomplished, the picking it up not quite. She’ll go across the room to the dish, put her mouth on the rim, and slide it toward me. Once in a while, when it isn’t moving fast enough, she whacks it a couple with her paw. Whacking it produces a very satisfactory leap and spin, but doesn’t get her a click. She can bring the dish from across the room in five clicks. A good start. Scuba will be very relieved when she doesn’t have to do ALL the kitchen chores!
I’ve been playing around with a harness that attaches the leash to the front of the breastband. Stitch is responding to it for LLW even better than she does to the collar. The tiniest touch of a tight leash and she’s loosening it. This morning we go to her K9 Fun class where we’re doing tunnels with a food target on the other side of them. I loop the leash through the back of the harness, and within a minute or two, she’s pulling on it like an old sled dog. This may not sound like a good thing, but it is. I can attach a handle to the bellyband that will lie across her back so I can hold her back to build enthusiasm (she REALLY wanted to go through that tunnel!) and so she can steady me, but touch the leash on the front and she’s back to a totally loose leash. I love it.
We also do go around a barrel, and she’s great at that, up to 4′ away immediately – until I try counterclockwise. She’s quite adamant about the direction, deking in at the last instant to go the “proper” way, even getting halfway around and then turning to come back. Argh. I thought I spent equal time on each direction, but either I didn’t or she was only paying attention half the time…
At Scuba’s Just For Fun agility league, Stitch is AWEsome. She walks on a loose leash into the building, is totally quiet in the crate – as long as I’m not warming Scuba up right in front of it – and when I take her out of it, she stands for the most part on a loose leash and lets the people and dogs wash over her. She enjoys watching the action and spends most of her time looking at this dog and that dog, wagging her tail, totally relaxed. I’m very happy with this. I’ve got her entered in Pre-Novice and conformation tomorrow, so we go over to some friends and try a Sit for Examination. She does it twice. Good pup.
We spend all day at an obedience/conformation fun match. Loose leash into the building, absolute silence in the crate. I build up her eye contact and do some pivot turns, then we go into the ring for Pre-Novice. What she did certainly couldn’t be called heeling, but she held my eyes throughout the exercise, went fast when I went fast, slow when I went slow, and turned when I turned. We got one touch on a tight lead when she was on the outside of a circle around the figure 8 posts, and she sat every time I asked her to. Perfect sit for examination. Perfect 20′ recall. Perfect 30-second sit-stay (her first with other dogs in a line). And Qualifies.
In the afternoon, we do conformation. I give her a tiny touch of pressure on the leash and she pulls out in front of me. She has a little trouble understanding that she needs to TURN before we run into the wall, but me tromping on her several times seems to convince her, fortunately before we both crash to the floor. She stands very nicely for the examination. I give the judge a bit of hot dog each time we go up and back so she approaches her without second thoughts. She needs a LOT more work on freestacking, but her handstacking is very nice, and she wins first in Group.
I wasn’t expecting either the Group win or the Q in obedience. My goal for the day was to be sure that she had a good time and learned to like shows, and that went very well. The rest was bonus.
Isn’t this fun! What goes up must come down. We go to a training session with a friend and her Rottweiler puppy. We each take half the room and start training. HER puppy is working brilliantly. MY puppy and I are doing a small jump in the middle of the room. Stitch does the jump three times, then abandons me to run over and see if the Rottie is getting something better. I call her, she offers a lovely sit and down to my friend. I go sit down with Scuba and Stitch works for 15 minutes trying to get my friend to put out. What great stamina! We get a great demonstration of an extinction burst where she completely forgets about Zen, standing up on my friend’s lap trying to grab her hand as it goes by.
Finally she gives it up and stands on the floor with her head down, looking around. At this point, I call her, she gallops over, thrilled to see me, and starts offering me jumps again.
We switch to retrieving a bumper. She does that twice, then decides to try the Rottie’s gig again. I work Scuba a bit, with Stitch alternating between trying to get in Scuba’s way and trying to get in the Rottie’s way. When she’s looking depressed again, I invite her over and we do some eye contact and heeling.
On the surface, we didn’t work ten minutes the whole hour, but I think it was an extremely valuable day. She had two chances to learn that nobody else is going to pay any attention to her or give her anything when she has an opportunity to be working with me, and without any correction to make her fearful of others. Next week, we’ll see whether she agrees with my assessment of the session.
And what goes down must come up. We have a fabulous morning at K9 Fun class. We start with the contact trainer. She extrapolates from my trainer to the one in class with no trouble (she goes halfway up one ramp and bails the first time, the second time I’m awake and click her halfway up, at the top, and at the bottom) and consistently runs it, aiming for it from pretty much anywhere in the room. I hold the little handle on the back of her harness so she can pull forward on it and she’s really eager to go. At my request the instructor puts a treat in the crack between the floor and the bottom of the trainer. Stitch remembers that it should be there from our trainer.
Then the class moves on to rewarding for two-on/two-off, which I don’t want to do, so I get three traffic cones, set them up in a line off to one side, and teach Stitch to make a correct entry and curl back out – the first three weave poles. Clever little tyke!
Finally we go to a ring of cones and start working on OUT and IN. She figures this out right away, going around when I signal out and cutting back in close when I call her in. Really, this is very much like going around a post (as is the weave work we did before this), and it’s nice to see how easily she takes what she knows and applies it to new things.
Then we come home and have an argument over the crate. I tell her to get in it and she decides she’ll go in the other room. I say “No! C’mere” and she comes. I praise and pet her and tell her to get in the crate, and she decides to go in the other room. “No! C’mere” and she comes back. This time I wrap my arms around her chest and waist and point her at the crate. She tries to duck out but eventually points her head in the right direction, gives up and walks in. I tell her she did a good job and invite her out. We go through this four more times. Finally I tell her to get in the crate and she does. I get all excited, invite her out, and we dance around the room a bit. Tell her to get in, she does, dancing again. Repeat X2 and quit. Possibly I should have gone back and shaped her into it again from the beginning, but I think this may have done more good. Or maybe it’s just my traditional background sneaking out saying she HAS to go in the crate just because I said so.
I’ve thought about that situation some more and it was OK. Life isn’t going to happen without her ever getting grabbed, and up until this week she’s assumed I’m trying to kill her if she gets grabbed. Prior to the crate argument, I’d spent several sessions grabbing her scruff and clicking to get her used to it. After the argument, she’s much less reactive about getting grabbed and is calmly looking for a place to go when she’s been grabbed. This’ll not only be useful in general life but in water trials where she’ll have to come along with the grab and lean back onto my hand to help herself climb into the boat.
We go to another fun match in a different location. Obedience again in the morning. Stitch is not as good in the crate today, but I enlist help. Her crate has an opening in the top where we can toss treats in and we toss when she’s quiet. Eventually we even get to take my jacket off the door so she can see what’s going on. This venue is more crowded and there are other dogs walking right by us all the time, but she’s good about that, for the most part. I do a bit of work on eye contact and the spend the rest of the time she’s out of the crate working a loose leash. She’s surprisingly good about standing with the leash loose and watching what the other dogs are doing.
In the ring in Pre-Novice obedience we get the same performance we got last weekend. She’s giving me good attention on the loose leash walking (or, as CKC calls it, “heeling”) and sitting promptly when I ask her to. Very nice performance for a pup who has no idea what heel position is. I can use her half-assed swing finish to get her facing the right direction for the next exercise and I’m thrilled that WE get to go through the performance with no little tugs and leash nudges. I’m a little more nervous than I was last weekend – obviously expecting her to actually perform. I’ll have to get myself under more control, I do NOT want to go there with her! She does an excellent job of all her stays and her recall, though when the judge comes up to examine her on the sit stay she opens her mouth to receive the expected treat and, when there isn’t one, bumps the judge’s hand with her nose, causing a good deal of teasing from the judge and stewards about me entering this very dangerous dog in a trial.
We have chores to do in the lunch break between obedience and conformation, so we drive around town for an hour or so, and get back in time to see the Working Group in the ring. Dang. My friend will be showing her in real shows and wants to practise in the match with her. They let her into the ring for the practise, but we haven’t had a chance to talk about what she knows and what she doesn’t. It’s all very rushed and Stitch doesn’t really want the judge to touch her. I kept a cookie in her face last weekend and she didn’t even think about it – well, now we know. Take it easy, be there on time (duh), and keep her little brain occupied.
Another good day altogether, though. Stitch doesn’t learn anything awful, my friend’s Giant gives a wonderful performance in Open, and Scuba pulls off a 190 from a really tough judge in Novice.
I’ve got a guy walking around on the roof of my house (highspeed internet antenna, ee hah!) this afternoon. Scuba’s fine with this, and I think she’s outside telling the pup how cool it will be to have highspeed when suddenly I hear frantic barking and Scuba’s sitting in front of me. I go outside and find the pup all alone in the yard scaring herself witless over the bogeyman on the roof. I call her in and put her in her crate for a few minutes to calm down. By now the guy’s drilling holes in the wall in the living room, so I get Stitch, take her on leash into the living room and work her on position cues including lying on her side and roll over. She obviously doesn’t equate the doglover with the electric drill with the monster on the roof, she’s fine.
Enough of this feeling icky and doing nothing nonsense. Thanks to the people who are prodding me to get back to work! To finish Level 4, Stitch has several duration behaviours to test out, the jumps, and scent discrimination. Breakfast is not a good time to work on duration with her, she’s too hungry. I can’t do the jumps because mine are all buried in the snow, so I test her scenting. It’s been at least three weeks since we did this, and then I started with putting Cheez Whiz on the right ones. I rub one dumbell and put it down beside one I haven’t touched. She runs out, sniffs both, and brings me the wrong one. I take it from her without saying a word and put it away. I pick up the right one, let her sniff it, have her hold it, then get all excited and give her several treats.
We start with a new untouched one. I put the right one and wrong one down. She goes out, sniffs them both, picks up the right one and brings it back to me. AAAAAAAAA. Ahem. I don’t really believe in jackpots. Usually.
I take the right one back and put it on the opposite side of the wrong one. She runs out again, sniffs them both, and brings me the right one. OH OH OH OH
That was wood. I try the same thing with two plastic dumbells. Again she gets the right one, 3 out of 3 times. Oh my goodness, by baby can do scent discrimination! That’s SO COOL!
We finish off with some retrieving. I dump out a bucket with a slicker brush, a pin brush, a glasses case, a suitcase strap, and a glove. She picks them up one at a time, brings them to me, sits and holds them until I ask her to release. And goes back for the next one when I ask her to. Wow.
Since Stitch has clearly shown me how very little we have talked about heel position, we spend breakfast on it. I intersperse 20 clicks for swinging into heel position with 10 clicks for simply sitting in heel position. We do those sets X8 (with a marked improvement in her ability to find the right spot), then ten more with me taking one step forward and then starting a left pivot when she gets her butt out in midair. Then I test a 2 minute Sit Stay – she lies down at 90 seconds, so we do two 30-second ones and then quit.
In the afternoon we go to a training building. Today I’m actually prepared to work on her left-alone yapping. I’ve got her special blanky. I put it down and fasten her leash to the wall. Then I pretend I’m working Scuba and toss a treat to Stitch each time she’s on the mat and not screeching. No go, she’s working herself up from mild whining to an active tantrum. Finally I give her a big hairy snarl and a little scruff shake. This could cause problems, or it could work – it works. Oh, she says, you don’t like me screeching? OK then. She doesn’t exactly shut up, but she goes back to the mild whining, giving me lots of opportunity to toss treats at her for being quiet, and by the end of the session she’s resting on the blanky with her head down, almost silent. This is SUCH an annoying problem, but I can’t say I didn’t know about it. She was an adamant, noisy baby, and she’s MUCH MUCH better. She just doesn’t quite yet understand that she can stay over THERE while stuff is going on over HERE. This too shall pass.
We find a great big hole in her training today. I’ve been mucking out the basement, which means the parlour and dining room (our usual training areas) are full of junk to go out tomorrow, so we train in the living room. The TV is on, the washing machine is going, and Scuba’s in the kitchen cleaning up her supper. In these circumstances, Stitch has the attention span of a gnat. Her eyes are bopping all over the room. She’s responding to every little noise from the TV, the washer, and Scuba’s dish. We start Chutes & Ladders eye contact. We get to two or three seconds 14 times before we get to 4. She shows a lot of talent – can she wobble her eyes around NEAR me and still get clicked? No. Can she MOSTLY watch me and just dart her eyes away momentarily and still get clicked? No. Can she point her nose at my face and let her eyes run free and still get clicked? No. How about if she turns her butt slowly, pulling me gradually around until she can watch me and the TV at the same time? Really good try, kiddo, but still no. It takes half her meal for us to get to 20 seconds. Once she gets there, though, she’s settled down, wagging her tail and ready to work. I’m glad I took the time.
We work on heel position for the rest of the meal. It’s fun. She’s really got the idea that she needs to swing her butt to the right to get into position. She’s having a hard time reconciling that with the idea that she should be out in front of me watching my eyes, but that’s to be expected. Several times she gets into position all by herself and stands gloriously staring up at me, her eyes sparkling, waiting for the click she knows is coming. Very cool how the different parts of the training come together!
What an amazing day! Theoretically, the Training Levels are all about teaching the dog to learn, to enjoy learning, to be your partner – but once in a while Life just rises up and hits you right in the face. It works! IT WORKS!
We go to her K9 Fun class. She jumps into the truck, lies down, and is quiet all the way to the building. She walks on a loose leash into the area and does a Sit Stay while I hang up my coat. First we practise some Loose Leash Walking going near and then past other pups. I say Yes and give her a kibble when she looks at a puppy and then looks back at me. She’s very good at this. Then we do some floor Zen – ha, TOO easy, I can put it on the floor, on my knee, at her feet, on my foot, or right in her face and she stays away from it when I tell her to. Next is roll over. Two months ago she couldn’t do this on the couch, but today she gets enthusiastic about doing it on the bare mats in front of everybody. She does Lie Down on both sides, and roll over both ways, with a lure.
The next station is foot confidence. There’s a set of PVC bars spread all over like pickup sticks. She trots through them brilliantly. I thought I’d have to click her for starting out, or use the leash to keep her from ducking out to the side, but she’s through them before I’m even ready to start. She’s driving through, and she’s looking where she’s going. Then we go to a 5′ PVC ladder that’s on little legs a couple of inches above the ground. She enters it eagerly, trots right through it, and exits perfectly. This must be a result of teaching her to walk the board. People are saying “Oh, of course Stitch has done this before” but she hasn’t. She blows it the second time when I ask her to do it on my right side, so the next couple of times I click her in the middle and she’s got it.
Then we move to weave poles. Last week I was teaching her one macaroni weaves – enter and exit with three poles – and she was doing very well with that. This week they’ve got two sets of poles, one set in a straight channel, 6 to a side, and one set of slanted poles. Both sets are set up so she has a clear run through them to a target lid with a treat on it. The first time she tries to duck out to the left, but the instructor holds her centred, then to the right, but he holds her, finally she looks down the channel to the plate, I call her and he lets her go. She runs right through to the target. Super job. Gradually they tighten up the channel until by the end of the session her ribcage is visibly shifting back and forth as she actually begins the weaving motion. And fast, and focused on where she’s going.
How cool is this? She’s enjoying learning to be my partner. She’s using what she’s learned to help her learn knew things. Ee hah!
She’s going to eat my car or do something equally awful soon. She has to. Things are going too well. I found a weekly drop-in conformation class, so we drop in. That’s one fun match, another a week later, and a week later, this class. Three sessions. She’s gaiting well, looking where she’s going. She’s leading out in front of me brilliantly around the ring. She’s staying away from bait on the floor (for the most part, anyway, and when she does mat dive, it’s half-hearted, as though she knows she won’t get it anyway). She knows she has to stand when we stop, though she isn’t trained well enough yet to place her feet where I want them. It’s very difficult for me to bend far enough to hand stack her (she’ll have a handler when she’s really in the ring), so I position a chair strategically so I can sit down when we stop in the lineup. She doesn’t know how to place her feet herself, but she’s very comfortable with me placing them and once placed, she almost always leaves them where they are. She’s improved so much physically in the last six weeks that she’s comfortable in a stack that looks really good. I can stack her and then bait her forward. I can stack her and pull her tail to get her to lean forward. I can stack her and hold her tail and stay completely away from her head and she’ll hold the stack and resolutely look forward, checking back every once in a while to be sure I’m getting ready to click. Last weekend she backed off the judge, but she can control herself if I keep the bait in her face while someone’s approaching and she’ll hold the stack from then on. And she’s figured out that the judge will probably have a treat for her, so she’s starting to walk into a stack as she approaches him. She’s nowhere near ready to show yet, but I’ve seen a lot of dogs in the ring who knew a lot less then she does. I’m still amazed at how everything falls into place.
And here’s the place where everything DOESN’T fall into place. She’s good in the crate at night. The crate is beside Scuba’s crate in the dog room, they each go in their crates and then get a cookie and lights out. She’s OK in a crate at an event (class or agility practise) as long as she can’t see me not with her (towel over the crate) or hear me. But you know what? That’s not good enough. I realize this as I’m told they have room for us in two obedience classes, one right after the other. Which means Stitch is going to have to sit in a crate for an hour while I work Scuba. Or she can sit in the car like the rest of the screamers. NOT acceptable. I’ve been getting by, not paying attention to the idea that just because she can DO something doesn’t mean she KNOWS something. And she does NOT know the crate. I notice in Level 4 of the Training Levels, the behaviours I’ve left right to the end are all the duration behaviours – Sit and Down Stays, Go To Mat stays, and the crate.
I put a crate in the living room between me and the TV (where I’ll be sure to notice it). I tell her to get in it. I’m going to test 60 seconds and see where we are.
HA. We’re at approximately 1.03 seconds. She’s whining immediately. I wait until she stops and open the door. Tell her to get in. It’ll be better without the door closed. Sure enough, 1.06 seconds. Then she comes to me, whines, goes beside the crate, whines, looks at me blankly, whines, lies down, whines. I want to drop-kick her into tomorrow. I HATE whining.
OK, get a grip. She used to whine in the car but I fixed it. I can fix this. Dammit. I CAN fix this. By now she doesn’t even want to go IN the crate, let alone stay in it, let alone quietly. Well, that’s a good slap in the face for me, we REALLY need to teach this from the beginning, and I REALLY need to concentrate on what I’m doing. I will NOT have a whiner for the next 15 years.
She goes in the crate. Before she has a chance to turn around, I click and toss a kibble in the crate. I do Rapid Fire click and toss X20, then leave 1 second between clicks X10, then progress to 2 seconds X5. Then we start Chutes & Ladders work, starting at 1 second. It’s a real struggle to get to 5 seconds. It takes maybe 40 clicks to get to 5 seconds. I’m starting the count over again at 1 every time she whines or gets out of the crate. Once more I do 10 Rapid Fire just for being in the crate. It’s a little easier to get to 10 seconds, I only have to start over again 6 times. I re-discover a secret. I’m using little tiny kibbles. Up to 8 seconds, I give her 1 kibble. from 8 to 15 I give her two, and from 15 up I give her three with each click. Now she’s in the game. We get up to 20 seconds with only 2 restarts, and from there it’s a straight line to 30. Why on EARTH did I think she knew this? The crate is staying in the living room for a while, and we’ll be working on it during commercials this evening as well as her regular mealtimes.
We’re working hard on the crate. It’s going very slowly but there IS some improvement. I’ve started using half her meal to train and half her meal I put in the crate. I’m almighty sick and tired of the crate. I want to do something fun.
So I spend one meal on her tail. It should be held up high and “make the ring” – go pretty much straight up and then come back down to her back. It’ll never do that without my hand on it, but she doesn’t need to carry it down in happy-but-submissive-puppy position all the time, so I’m going to teach it to carry itself up in happy-adult-dog position instead. Our default starting point is the tail goes down plastered to the backs of her legs for about half its length, and wags almost horizontal from there. So I start clicking anything more relaxed than that. I toss the treats around the room so she has to run for them, which loosens up the rear. By the 10th click, the tip is usually in line with her topline and I switch to clicking for that. By 40, the base of the tail has come away from her rear, so I start clicking for that. At 50, she wags her tail up to the left and down to the right, which gets the entire tail above horizontal part of the time. So cool to see her frantically trying to figure out what makes the click happen, she has NO idea, it’s not walking forward or backward, it’s not sidestepping, it’s not facing in any particular direction. Throughout all this, her tail gets higher and higher. Neat. When we’ve done more of this, the cue will be Party, Portie!
An hour later, her tail base is still looser than usual.
Working on the crate shows me that her other duration behaviours are slip-sliding away. We’re going to our dropin training building this afternoon, so I use half of breakfast to work on Go To Mat. In Level 4 she needs to go to it from 10′ away and stay on it for 2 minutes. Her normal mat is in the car, so I use an old jacket. Going to it from 10′ away is no problem at all. Staying on it for 3 seconds is a problem. I click X10 for getting to it. I’m tossing the treats on the mat, but she’s eating each one and then running over to try to get something else from me. Gosh, I thought we got over THAT when she was 12 weeks old! OK, Rapid Fire 20 on the mat. Then she can stay on it for 2 seconds without whining. We do 1 second-2 seconds-click X5, then go for three. She whines and stands up. Start again. And again. Another 10 Rapid Fire and start the count again. It takes 3/4 of the meal to get to 10 seconds. If she gets off the mat before the count is up, or, more likely, whines or has trouble remembering that she’s supposed to be ON the mat, the count starts at the beginning. Then it’s a straight line from 10 seconds to 15, and at 15 seconds we start going up in 5-second increments and get to 60 without a problem.
Amazing. A week ago I would have bet money we could do 60 seconds on a mat with no workup whatsoever. On the other hand, I’m glad I can see that she’s not having trouble with a bunch of different behaviours. She can’t do the crate, the mat, the SitStay, or the DownStay, but if you cut back to the base of ALL these things, it’s really a duration problem. ONE problem. As I fix the duration problem, ALL these different behaviours will improve, and I can solve the duration problem using any one (or, as I’m going to do, all) of these behaviours. This works nicely into my desire to explain every concept in as many ways as possible. I now have the opportunity to explain duration using four different behaviours.
It’s either that or dropkick the little turnip into next week. Even after all these years, part of me desperately wants to bellow “SHE KNOWS THIS!” How foolish is that when she obviously doesn’t?
At the dropin, she demonstrates that she can’t do a 10-second SitStay. She will go into a strange crate, but I don’t ask for any time, just in, close & open the door, and out again. There’s a lot of agility equipment set up. She can run the teeter with about a 3″ drop, and stop at the end waiting for her click. She can do an 8″ jump. In fact she can do two 8″ jumps and a closed tunnel in a row (the closed tunnel has the fabric just draped down so there is a small visible opening). There’s a set of 6 weave poles with the poles set at a very slight alternating slant. I ask her for an entry macaroni (around the second pole and out again) and click, then another with a click, then a third and she’s through. She’s got the entry on her own, and I’m using a very slight hand motion to get her to give me the second and third macaronis. We go back and forth five times. Every second time is an offside entry which requires a longer macaroni (in-out-in rather than the onside out-and-in). She can do that. The sixth time, she gets ahead of me and does the whole six with an offside entry, click at the end, then we turn around and she does them again with an onside entry. Very cool.
Last week while we were working off leash, she decided my friend’s puppy was getting better treats than she was, so she abandoned me and spent 15 minutes trying to convince her that she deserved some of his. It didn’t work (trained friends are a thing of beauty) and finally she came back to me. This week she tried it again, and again got nothing, except that the Rottweiler puppy is older and more adamant now and told her to get lost. Several times. So she not only got nothing, but beaten up a bit as well. She’s much more respectful of Scuba (an adult) than she is of Gabriel (5 months). After five minutes, she gave up and came back to work with me again. MUCH shorter time than the last effort. If I had enough people to play Monkey In The Middle, this would go faster, but it’s coming along nicely.
Then I put her mat down and attach her leash to the wall. Sigh. We start from scratch again. It takes 25 tries to get to 10 seconds. She whines, she stands off the mat, she can’t remember to step on it, she can’t remember to lie down. Once she’s got the 10, we build to 30 seconds – not easy, but easier than the first 10. Then we cut back to 10 and I start working Scuba a bit during the count. We build slowly back to 20 seconds. Finally we drift to a stop. I want to talk to my friend so I go and sit near Stitch. She lies down and appears to be napping, so I quietly get up and sit on the other side of the room. She whines a bit, yaps once, then decides to suck on her blanket. A few minutes of that, and she’s able to go to sleep.