10 Months- Leading the Dance

Apr 23, 2005 | Stitch's Story

Agility class tonight.

Stitch still has a lot to learn, but she’s come a long way and I’m very happy with how she’s doing.

She comes when I call her, sits, and I put on her harness. She walks out the door and to the car on a totally loose leash. Gets into the correct place on the floor, lies down and (for the most part) stays there. Stays in the car when I get out to get my training bag, comes out when I invite her, and walks on a loose lead into the building. She’s walking a bit ahead of me, but checking on me every third step by swinging her head back to me.

She keeps the lead loose in the training room as we get ready. It takes her a moment to figure out whether I’m paying for eye contact tonight (agility or obedience), or paying for looking ahead (conformation). While we’re waiting for our turn on equipment, I work a bit on teaching her to look ahead of us on the cue “Look”. Later I use the cue to ask her to focus on equipment before I send her to it.

We work on the teeter at 2′ high. She has no trouble with this, running over it happily and, after the third time, slowing down to wait for the tip before running to the contact. We do a very good exercise where the instructor bangs the teeter with increasing enthusiasm. I’m using the bang of the teeter as a click – every time Stitch hears it, she gets a treat.

We move on to an 18″ dogwalk. She mistakes it for the teeter the first two times, clearly waiting for the upramp to tip. I MUST start using a different cue for the two obstacles. She’s not afraid of the teeter, but clearly she’d like to know which one she’s on. Once she realizes the dogwalk won’t tip, she’s galloping it to find the treat planted at the end of the contact. She can find the entry from virtually anywhere.

She’s brilliant on the pause table. She’s really focussed on the equipment, and heads right for the pause table. She downs on it immediately and makes only one error coming off before I invite her, otherwise she stays on and stays down.

We start a good exercise on the tunnel. I put her just short of the entrance and order her back, with hand signal and stepping into her to (mentally) push her away from me. She’s momentarily confused, then realizes that I’m pushing her toward the tunnel entrance, so she ducks around to it and runs the tunnel. I’m almost as pleased with her stays and control as I am with her speed and enthusiasm.

We work weave poles near the tunnel entrance and she heads for the tunnel. I stop her with my voice, but she’s already half inside. Awwww! My baby’s first course trap! She comes right back to me. We do very well on the slightly slanted poles, fast and accurate, but when we move to the channel weaves we hit a snag. They’re very close together, but I think she can do it. I’m wrong, she misses the fifth pole. There’s a helper putting bait on a target, and she steps forward to cover the bait when the dog makes a mistake. Good, no reward for popping a pole. The next time through, Stitch doesn’t want to go. She keeps looking back at me, asking if she can come out or should she just stand there? Did she hurt her foot? The bait-guarder suggests that she might have scared Stitch when she darted out to cover the bait. I didn’t notice this at ALL, but when she stops away from the setup, Stitch bombs through like she was doing last week. Good catch! From then on, every time Stitch runs the poles, the bait-setter steps a little bit closer to the target.

I’m astonished throughout the hour at Stitch’s excellent eye contact. She’s offlead the whole time and obviously drawn to each obstacle, but comes back to me after each one for another treat. I can lead out to all the obstacles as well, her stays are lovely. She can walk past the other dogs and stay with me, and she’s really starting to remember her almost-there version of heel position. I’m not totally relaxed with her as I would be in class with Scuba, but Scuba’s got 9 years of training and Stitch only has 6 months.

After class, I sit on a chair and voice-click to shape her to pick up a leash I dropped. 8 clicks and she hands it to me, then Paws Up so I can attach it, and we walk calmly back to the car. Wow.


New adventures today. Scuba’s got a draft test in 4 months, and she’s small and old, so now that the snow is finally out of the way, we need to start conditioning her. After I work her up the lane and back pulling a small car tire (with my help on the way back), I put a sled harness on Stitch as well and hitch both of them to it. Amazingly, Stitch gets over looking back at the “thing” following her almost immediately, and gets into the spirit of taking the tire for a walk right away. She actually does a bit more pulling than Scuba does, and understands sooner that I’m clicking for moving out ahead of me. Can’t do too much real work with her at this age, but it’s a good start.

Later we go for a walk down the lane without Scuba or the tire. This is EXCITING! At first she tells me she really wants to chase a tennis ball – and she does, but by the time she catches up to it, she’s too excited about being out in the free universe to pick it up or bring it back. SHE comes back, though, which is excellent. I throw the ball five times, and she chases it each time but never brings it back. I toss a pebble in a large puddle and she chases that too, surprised to find herself in (what is this stuff? Oh! Water! Drinkable!) the puddle up to her hocks. She putters around a bit in the water but it’s cold. Once she gets out, she’s not inclined to go back in, but now her legs are wet and she… what? what?? I have to RUUUUNNNNNN!!!! What a joy to watch her, pedal to the metal, roaring around the yard. She spots a cat and chases it, but when the cat is on top of a bale, she comes back again when I call her. I’m treating her and giving her big cuddles when she comes back, but not holding her. Touch and go!

She sees a duck, and follows it. She’s not thinking about where it’s going, just what is it? The duck seems to be almost the same size the pup is, and isn’t particularly concerned. She flaps her wings and struts across the yard with Stitch a foot behind her all the way. She goes under the fence into the gelding-and-young-boys pasture. Madrid, an adult gelding, is in there, three yearling boys (Fast Eddie, Fandango, and Tatoo), and four alpaca geldings. They all scatter when the duck and Stitch come barging in. Eddie jumps up in a bale feeder. Stitch plows through paying no attention to them. The duck (ducks are obviously smarter than I have them credit for) waddles right into the middle of the rest of the llamas and sits down. When the duck stops, Stitch stops, not knowing what to do. At that point she looks up to see where she is, and discovers Madrid, with the youngsters right behind him, walking forward to ask her what she’s doing in his living room. He obviously doesn’t think she’s a threat, he’s staring and trying to get close enough to smell her. Stitch doesn’t seem scared, but discretion takes over and she starts trying to figure out how to get out of the pen and back to me. I step to the gate and call her, and we go cheerfully back in the house, covered with mud and happy.


At obedience class this evening I see HUGE improvements. We work in a corner while the rest of the class heels around in circles and back and forth. Where last week Stitch had no idea about Heel position, tonight she frequently forgets it to come forward to hold eye contact better, but she KNOWS the right position. She can sidestep to hold position when I step to my right. She can actually Heel backwards to hold position when I step backwards. We progress from walking in small circles to walking in small squares – one step forward, pivot left and click for swinging. One step forward, pivot left and click for swinging. We work that X20, then I try TWO steps forward and pivot. She takes the one step in perfect position, starts to swing her butt out to the left, remembers we might be pivoting left, and swings it back into the correct position. Clever pup!

The class does SitStays with one dog weaving in and out through the other dogs. She’s very good at this, loose leash and good attention while moving, and a solid SitStay and eye contact while the other dogs move. We do a Broad Jump. She doesn’t know she’s supposed to jump, so she steps on it the first few times until I ask the instructor to give us only one board. I don’t care, though I expect there are a few scandalized people in the room. What I DO care about is that she gives me a lovely solid SitStay, she knows when I leave her and go to the jump that she’ll be going to the other side of it and she’s eager to be released to do it, and that she comes happily back and gives me a Front when I ask for it.

When we work on retrieving, she’s excellent again. Her take and hold of the dumbbell is brilliant. I can try to pull the dumbbell out of her mouth and she won’t let go until I cue the release. She wants the dumbbell when I throw it, but if I’ve asked for a Stay, she looks at me waiting for a release. I treat her for looking at me, then send her. When I’m bored with working on the dumbbell, I start tossing her leash away. She’s got that down pat now. Altogether a superb evening.


We go to a high school pet club to talk about dogs and llamas. This is Stitch’s first school visit. We arrive at noon. There are skateboarders on the sidewalk outside the school. Scuba doesn’t consider this at all out of the ordinary. Stitch can’t decide whether to chase them or run away. I should stop and work on attention and acceptance but I’m not ready when it happens. She’s dancing around on the leash, over here, over there, crowding me, running after them, backing away from them. Finally I stop and take a handful of cheek hair, get my face down in front of hers and talk to her for a second. She settles into looking at me and ignoring the boarders. Good thing I’ve got her to take care of me. Duh.

Inside the school, she’s wonderful. She’s happy to be there, looks forward to meeting each person she sees, almost remembers to keep the leash loose. She’s willing to jump or climb on every kid she meets. Well, I’m going to have to start helping her distinguish between a cue to jump up (on me, so I can snap on her lead) and staying on the ground with other people. Until now, my priority has been for her to be confident with people. I’ve been trusting myself to almost keep her off most people, but it’s getting to be time to ask for a little better behaviour.

She’s able to concentrate and work with the kids around. Her only problem comes when I want to work Scuba. I give the leash and a bucket of food to a teacher, but she has trouble keeping Stitch quiet. Well, that was to be expected. I suspect I would have had better luck if I’d arrived a few minutes early, put down my jacket, and had her Go To Mat on it. Live and learn. Next week we’re going to an outdoor coffee shop where I can work on her Go To Mat while I’m working Scuba.


Stitch has an interesting day. We’ve been working on and off for 7 months on having her relax upside down, and she still can’t. I need to look at a “thing” on her belly, and she can’t roll over for me. I sit on the couch, pick her up, and roll her over in my arms. She struggles mightily until I loudly tell her to knock it off. At that point she stops struggling and lies stiff and alarmed, my legs holding her back legs, my arms cradling her head and holding her front legs. Her pupils are large. I’m not happy with this, but I haven’t got any more time to talk to her about it.

I croon to her, and slowly pet her muzzle. I take each paw and bend it backwards, which releases the tension in that leg. She struggles again, 3 times over 10 minutes, and three times I growl at her to stop: “This is NOT ACCEPTABLE!”. Each time she stops immediately. I croon, I bend, I stroke. At twenty minutes, her body and legs are relaxed and her pupils are normal. But she’s not sleeping. I examine her belly and let her go. She jumps off the couch, grabs a toy, and shoves it at me to see if I’ll throw it. Yeah, OK, I’m not above easing my guilt by throwing a toy.

In the afternoon we go to a mall to meet our training buddies. We find a sidewalk wide enough to let the foot traffic pass, beside the parking lot with car and truck traffic, with two poles to tie dogs to, and some stray grocery carts. Perfect! Stitch is excited to see Gabriel, her 6-month-old Rottweiler buddy, outside of class, but pulls herself together and gives me attention when I step backwards to tell her that she can’t pull me towards him.

We work a bit on SitStays. I’ll have to get some actual practise in on Stays if we’re going to finish testing Level Four before we both die of old age. Can’t keep putting it off. She can hold 30 seconds at 30′, but breaks when I ask for 45 seconds. Then I tie her leash to a post to work on her fussbudgetting while I’m working Scuba. To my utter amazement, she putters gently around the pole, neither pulling against the leash nor making any noise. This was the part of the CGC test she was GUARANTEED to fail and we’re going to spend the entire summer working on, and Smartypants gives me the behaviour with no fussing whatsoever. She stands, she sits, she looks at the clouds, she watches the people go past. Every once in a while she comes as close as she can get to us without touching the leash at all and watches us work. I leave her in the care of my training buddy and go back to the car, out of sight, for a moment. Still no fussing, no crying, no whining. I’ve started by tossing her a treat every 30 seconds while I’m working Scuba, and finish tossing her one now and then as I think of it.

Then I take one of the grocery carts and push it around with Stitch on a loose leash beside me. I click her three times for glancing at me and she’s got the idea – grocery carts are just like walkers! She starts tucking her tail in when I turn left. I even back up a few steps and she backs with me. The progress she’s made with Heel position in the last couple of weeks is nothing short of amazing. We do straight walking, sauntering, left and right turns, left and right about turns, and figure 8s with the cart, and she stays right with me.

If I had a memory, I’m sure this wouldn’t be so exciting, but as it is, it seems like a birthday present every time she shows me such a marvelous grown-up behaviour.

Then we go to the park. My buddy is a hiker, and she’s found a floating dock at the lake with grated steps leading down to it and a grated platform out over the water beside it. When it’s obvious that I WANT her to go over this floor with holes in it, Stitch makes a logical choice and jumps as far as she can, not realizing that, when she gets to it, the part of the grate she couldn’t see through from the sidewalk is now revealed to have just as many holes as the part she jumped over. She handles this very well. She’s a bit unsure of wanting to be there, but some hot dog bits change her mind. Then she only has to deal with the problem of walking on holes slightly larger than half her foot. Not easy, but it’s quickly clear that her problem is physical. She’s mentally comfortable with it. On the dock, she has no problem at all. The bouncing motion doesn’t disturb her, and two large Canada geese swimming within 20′ of us is interesting but not frightening. When she discovers that there’s WATER surrounding the dock, she leans over and has a drink. No hesitation in coming back across the grate.

Then she gets to go for a walk with Gabriel and his owner. Her first time in the big city without me. I feel like a mom sending her kid off to school for the first time. When they disappear around the bend, my friend is trying to walk and keep the leashes untangled. Stitch and Gabriel are wrestling, growling ferociously. Goodbye, honey! Don’t cry! Mommy will be back soon! Be good! Don’t play too rough with the Rottweiler!

And then she whines lightly all the way home because, for the first time she can remember, I’ve got the air conditioning on in the car.


Much better in my arms this morning. As I roll her over, it seems we made no progress at all yesterday, but within 5 seconds she relaxes all her legs. Her pupils aren’t enlarged at all. We stay like that for another 20 minutes, during which she tells me three times that she’s going to get up – and changes her mind right away when I hold her. Then she whines for 10 seconds about the unfairness of life in general, Then she falls asleep.


Our obedience class homework for this week is to present a trick to the class. Seems a waste to go with the stuff she already knows, so we play around a bit and decide on dropping her dish in the storage basket. We start with three straight retrieves of the stainless steel dish. Then I sit down on the stairs and put the wicker basket between my feet on the floor. I slide the dish 5′ away. She runs to get it, comes back and sits with it in her mouth on the other side of the basket. If she drops it now, it won’t quite drop in the basket, so I move the basket just a bit closer to her. This causes some problems as she dodges out of the way and tries to come up beside it to reach me. I shove the treats in her face with one hand and move the basket with the other. Finally she drops the dish to grab the treats and I manage to catch it in the basket. I slide the dish away and we start again. After the fourth repetition, she understands that the dish is supposed to land in the basket. She’s not quite sure yet exactly how this is happening, but she’s thinking hard about it. The biggest problem now is that the dish is large and the basket is high, so sometimes the dish gets caught on the basket and lands on the floor. I might get a smaller basket to show this off in class, or switch from the dish to some crumpled papers to “clean up this mess”. Either way, a useful skill, and one she’s definitely ready to learn.


For breakfast I find a slightly smaller plastic bin and crumple up some papers. We try a straight retrieve with the papers first. That goes very well, she picks them up immediately and brings them back to me. Then I put the bin at my feet and click when the paper is over the bin. Paper drops in bin, she gets her treat, all is well. Not. When I taught this to Scuba, I noticed that the sound of the object hitting the bin quickly becomes a click so she knows what she’s trying to accomplish. With the crumpled paper, Stitch has no idea what’s happening except that she spits it out before I take it from her. Within 10, papers are bouncing all over the place, some in the bin, some on the floor, and she’s looking at my treat hand so she has no idea what happening.

I get some plastic foodsaver cups (right, like YOU don’t have a billion of them without their lids, hmmm?). MUCH better. She has no difficulty understanding that she needs to pick them up and give them to me. When I put the bigger bin between my feet, I make sure that the first few cups drop into the bin and treat her for the noise they make. The fourth time, one drops on the floor and I do nothing. She looks at me, she tries to take one out of the bucket (hey, there IS one in the bucket, where’s my treat?) but I block her with my hand. She looks around, spots the one on the floor, picks it up, and drops it in the bin, treat for the noise.

When Scuba does this, she looks like she’s carefully putting the object in the bin. When Stitch does it, so far it looks like she picks something up, runs toward me, and spits it out. I start moving the bin around to different locations within 2′ of my foot, and she’s hitting it about 90% of the time, so it’s not as random as it looks.

Two more days until class. This will make a good enough trick as is, but it would be nice if I can have her putting stuff in the bin 10′ away from me. MUCH better trick, as many dogs already know how to bring something near their owner and spit it at them! We’ll keep working at it. This is only the second session!


Conformation fun match today. With last time’s awful crate behaviour in mind, we arrived an hour early and spent the hour working on lying down and shutting up in the crate. The crate I used was a kid’s pop-up tent with a hole in the top. I also put her fluffy sucky blanket in it so she had something to lie on AND to keep her amused. Excellent session. I actually remembered to drop treats in the hole, on an approximate 300-Peck schedule starting at about 10 seconds and working up to 6 minutes. She yapped at me twice when I sat down some distance away from her crate, but shut up after two barks when I failed to notice her enormous distress.

Then I spent 5 minutes reminding her how to stand up and look good – which she promptly forgot as soon as we got in the ring, dancing all over the place while I was trying to stack her, but after a couple of minutes she remembered. It was a match, so we actually had time for her to remember, too. She didn’t bother about the judge going over her, remembered to turn her head away from me when she was stacked, and trucked on around the ring ahead of me very nicely. Up and back was a bit wobbly, but it was right into a corner of the room, which isn’t likely to happen at a show, and the rest was very nice. Topped off with – we won! Best in Match! Or, from her point of view, a great tug toy with a tennis ball in it, a wobbly noisy dumbell toy, and a large handful of homemade dog biscuits.

That was a LOT of treats, so she got a very light supper, with which we practised her trick for tomorrow night, picking up plastic cups and putting them in a plastic bin. She definitely slept on what she learned yesterday and came back with the idea full-blown. She still appears to be dropping them by accident, but she only missed twice out of 30 repetitions, those missed by a fraction of an inch, and I’m moving the bin around quite a bit. She even picked up and deposited a clicker and a glasses case that I hadn’t noticed when I started playing.

Tried the bin trick again. She’s slid back a bit in her understanding (if there was understanding – it LOOKED like there was understanding). I start the session by asking for a simple retrieve of one of the cups. She tosses at me three times without a click before she decides she better hold on to it. Then five times with a good hold. Then I bring the bin back and get ten good drops into the bin. Several times she even puts her head into the bin before releasing cup. It looks excellent. Then I move the bin 8″ to one side, and she misses it 8 times in a row. She drops the cup, it lands on the rug (no cup-hitting-the-bin noise), I do nothing, she looks around, picks up the cup again, drops it on the rug again. I try luring her closer to the bin a couple of times, but that just results in her dropping the cup sooner, so I leave her alone to work it out as long as she’s still in the game. The 9th time, she apparently purposefully drops it in the bin. Click! We finish out the session with another 30 retrieves. She has small sessions of forgetting about the bin, but the highest her rug-count gets is 3 before she goes back to putting cups in the bin. A good session. I’ll take two cups and the glasses case tonight, and cheat a bit by putting the bin where it’ll catch them even if she’s just dropping. Success of a trick isn’t just in the training, it’s in the presentation as well!


The trick went well in class, she’s eager to do it and understands what to do. I get a good laugh – when we get there (the same room we practise conformation in), she immediately assumes I want her to look to her left, away from me, as she does in conformation when she’s stacked. I click her a couple of times for a brief eye contact, and then let her go to figure out that I am NOT paying for looking away this time. I get some really violent head-shaking back and forth as she stares fixedly down the mat, then swings back to make sure I’m watching, then stares down the mat again.

The rest of the night is downhill from there. Scuba has started barking when I leave her in someone else’s crate in the other room, so tonight I bring her pop-up crate and Stitch’s comfy mat we were working so well with at the fun match. Scuba barks – one bark every 15 seconds or so. She’s MUCH too old to be behaving this way. I go back and tell her to shut up, which keeps her quiet for a minute, then she starts again. This isn’t the first time, but it’s the worst. It’s been building up every week. I’m furious. Finally I march her out to the car, shove her in, and take out my frustrations by slamming the door.

Since this has finally come to my attention, I put Stitch’s mat down near the class and just Ladder her Go To Mat. No problem at all, she’s perfectly content to lie on her mat. In fact, we hit 7 minutes without a treat at one point. Then instead of putting her in the crate, where I KNOW she’ll bark, I put her mat down near a tie-down, tie her to it, and go get Scuba from the car. Stitch is fine until she sees me, then she won’t shut up for love or money. I’m sure people can see the steam coming out of my ears. I should have gone home right then. I tried working Scuba right next to Stitch and continuing the Ladder. Scuba’s turning herself inside out trying to appease me for whatever it is that’s put me in such a bad mood, Stitch yaps on regardless. Finally I take Stitch outside, slap her a couple of times, and shove her in the car. I SHOULD have gone home. Am I stupid? Apparently.

Work Scuba in her class, she’s exceptional, does everything at 110%, but that just makes me feel worse. Finally the class is over and I go out to the car and apologize. Would have served me right if Stitch had eaten the inside out of the vehicle, but she didn’t.


I’ve been threatening Stitch with Leading The Dance for months. It’s the only effective way I know of to get rid of whining and demand barking, yet I’ve been blithely going on without it. I’ve clicked her a billion times for being quiet. I’ve studiously ignored her when she’s making noise. I’ve left the room a thousand times. And now Scuba’s yelling at me too. That’s it, zero privileges in THIS house until… end of the month? 2 weeks.
Alternate the dogs between the crate and the umbilical cord all day. I don’t allow either of them to climb on the couch, or pet them. I can’t believe how I’ve let their behaviour deteriorate while I wasn’t paying attention. My dogs are NEVER allowed on the furniture without a written invitation. They can NEVER push in on me when I’m talking to another dog. And they are certainly capable of going in a crate and shutting up. Both of them yap their outrage most of the day when they’re in the crate. Both of them try repeatedly to climb on me when I’m sitting on the couch working on the computer. Both of them sit off my starboard bow staring at me and willing whatever I’m eating into their mouths. Scuba burfs softly – the same noise she made in the crate but softer – to remind me that she’s there. All of this is totally ignored. Every time I go to the bathroom (free hand time), I bring them both with me and do a SitStay. Then I pet one, then the other, and the un-pettee has to hold the SitStay. Stitch figures this out right away, but Scuba’s rather incensed that I would expect a lady of her age and quality to behave like a DOG.

When Stitch and I go to agility, she’s amazing. Totally paying attention, totally focussed, totally willing to do whatever I suggest.


Second day of Leading The Dance. Only three yips or whines in the crate all day, two of them while I was working Scuba in front of Stitch. They are much more in control of themselves. More to the point, I’m much more in control of myself as well, and I’m finally paying attention to what they’ve been getting away with all this time as well.

Stitch’s body language to family members has been very puppyish, butt curled toward her head, tail wagging underneath, approaching sideways. Now that I’m looking at this behaviour, it reminds me of teenage Golden Retrievers who think they can behave as badly as they want with other dogs as long as they act apologetic – aw, c’mon, you don’t MEAN I can’t sit on you! I’m too CUTE for you to be mad at, right? Not that she’s doing this with other dogs (or people, for that matter), but she certainly does it to family.

This second day of no privileges, this obnoxious behaviour (which I’ve been thinking of as cute) is all but gone. She’s approaching me in a straight line, and when I tell her not to do something, she doesn’t respond by curling her body and thinking about whether she can try it again or not, she just stops. Too bad I didn’t think enough to notice all this nonsense months ago.

There’s another annoying behaviour I should have noticed (well, I DID notice it, I just didn’t care) – she puts her front feet up on the couch and drops a stinky damp scrap of dead toy in may lap. I say No. I say Go Away. I say No. I say Go Lie Down. And then I pick up the toy and flip it away from me. She chases it, chews it for a few minutes, then starts again. Can you say “Reward what you want, don’t reward what you don’t want”?

As the dogs continue to shape up under the “military school” regime, I’m getting more and more relaxed about their behaviour. They spent another morning alternating between the crate and the leash. Stitch, who generally spends her mornings marauding, settled down on the leash immediately at my feet and went to sleep, and whined in the crate only a couple of times, and then very, very softly. Scuba didn’t bark out orders at all.


We had our weekly training-buddy session, which is taking place at various outdoor restaurants around the city. I found a secret for teaching service dogs to lie quietly under tables – pick a very hot sidewalk and show them that the only shade is under the table! So it was quite a lot of hot dog for very little work. Then she and her Rottweiler buddy went for another walk, this time on the sidewalk by a very busy street with trucks and lots of cars.


Since the last time we went for a run with the ATV, Stitch seemed prepared to run us all into the ground, I changed the parameters a bit. I put sled harnesses on both dogs and hitched them to a small car tire. THEN we headed out. This worked brilliantly. The tire was heavy enough to give them both a workout, but not heavy enough to exhaust them or strain their muscles. Stitch actually settled into a trot for about a third the distance. Three-quarters of the way through the run, I unhitched them and took them on a free-run detour to our dugout. Stitch’s first introduction to free-range water. Scuba plowed right in, with Stitch right behind her. I was worried that Stitch would realize she was in water and decide that wasn’t what she wanted, but she was just warm enough that she enjoyed it. She drank a lot, then plowed around in it a bit, came out, went back in and plowed around some more. Then she came out and had a serious case of “the rips”, racing around at top speed with her butt on the ground. A very successful introduction to water. We headed back to the tire, and finished the trek home. A doggy-heaven sort of day.


A week of Leading The Dance and life is good. Stitch hasn’t dropped her soggy stinky toy scrap in my lap in four or five days. She’s now dropping it on the floor at me feet and standing over it looking guardy or casually looking away from it, hoping I’ll make a grab for it, but she isn’t actually invading my space to do it.

I can now hold her upside down in my lap and brush the tangles out of her – is there a law that says three weeks from a show, a puppy will start changing out her coat and come up with the most gawdawful tangles? At any rate, she’s hated upside-down all her life and is now OK with it, if not totally comfortable.

This morning I got up, worked on the computer for half an hour, then put Stitch into crate in the living room, got Scuba’s breakfast and worked her for 20 minutes in front of the crate and in the next room. Previously this would have had Stitch screaming, but she didn’t make a sound, just lay and watched what she could. Then I let her out, got her breakfast, and whacked off her 2-minute Level 4 SitStay and 3-minute DownStay with no trouble at all. I LOVE Leading The Dance!


Last night in obedience class, I left Scuba in the car for Stitch’s class, and Stitch in the car for Scuba’s class. Not where I want to end up, but certainly set the stage for me to be in a better mood, so we all enjoyed the classes.

We’ve been running with the ATV and the tire every second day, with the detour to the dugout. Stitch now mostly will trot if I cue “Ter-rot!” Her trot is beautiful, and her topline is coming down and flattening out very nicely. At one point she decided that running loose was more fun than pulling the tire, and she stayed just out of reach when I was trying to hitch her back up again after the swim, but I sat on the ATV and looked at the birds until she decided the only way to run was to get the harness on.