First shaping, starting the Levels, and a bond

Jul 23, 2017 | Serra's Story

Please note that I’m aware of how I switch tenses all the time. Sometimes I’m talking in the present, sometimes I talked in the past, and I switch with no apparent reason. I’m sorry. If I’m going to record what I’m doing, I’m not going to go back and proofread to get my tenses matching. Sorry.

Last night we tried a bit of shaping. Lots of fun. We were hindered by his puppy brain (what are we doing? Which way did it go? Look a fly!), his puppy mouth (I know there’s a treat in there somewhere, unless I already swallowed it?) and his puppy eyes that can’t yet quite follow a flying treat, but we got some good solid attention for treats as cheap as Cheerios. Good work, little man!

Then I sat down to do some paperwork and he climbed up into my chair and lay beside me. Just like that he went from being a really nice Giant Schnauzer puppy to being my dog. I felt the lock click. We’re home.

And then the little wretch was up until 2 AM and up to pee at 3 and 3:30 and again at 5.

We went to the downtown lake park for a walk this morning. It was only about 22 degrees and the walk was a couple of blocks long. Cons: I picked a park with lots of geese. No geese right where we were, but LOTS of goose poop. Finally stopped walking on the lawn and walked on the sidewalks instead. Pros: between the two of us we did a creditable job of keeping the leash loose. After the first couple of dogs went by I was able to tap him on the butt with a finger and call his name to get him to swing around and look for wieners again. Kids were harder than dogs, but he didn’t lose his mind completely. He got a lot of attention from old ladies by walking jauntily along and then collapsing as if shot when he got to shady spots. Several people said “aww, he ran out of gas!” Then he’d cast around as far as his mouth could reach until he ran out of interesting possibilities and then he’d agree to walk on to the next patch of shade.

We started controlled learning today.

Zen Step 1 – the dog moves off a treat held in your hand. You’re sitting down. Holy doodle. He’s got a terrific attention span – took him almost 10 seconds to get off my hand the first time. When he did, I clicked and dropped the treat (had to drop it ostentatiously so he could tell it was falling). 8 seconds the second time, and this time he knew it was going to hit the ground. The third time he didn’t even touch my hand, just looked at the floor waiting for the treat to show up. Lovely little Giant Schnauzer brain!

Come Step 1 – the dog looks for treats at your feet. That’s going to take some practise. There’s a great deal of mouth involved and he’s still got puppy-eye, where his eyes aren’t mature enough to see something crossing his line of sight (only rolling away or rolling toward), but he’s starting to figure out that a hand motion has a result.

Sit Step 1 – The dog sits with the leash off. Thanks to Marina (the breeder), he’s got that cased, at least enough to pass Step 1. Even better, he has a vague idea that she should be sitting in order to get something, although his enthusiasm frequently overpowers the idea until he’s reminded.

Target Step 1 – The dog touches your hand with her nose. Well, that was fun! I worked two sessions of 10 treats each. I held my hand in what I call the Yes position –

The first five repetitions he assumed there was a treat in the Yes hand and tried swallowing the entire hand. As soon as I felt a touch, I clicked and offered him a treat from my other hand. On the 6th rep, he had a Thought. He very deliberately barely touched my finger with the side of his muzzle, got the click and the treat. Hypothesis proven! Then he forgot and swallowed my hand another 3 times. The second round of 10 gave us 4 swallows, 4 deliberate closed-mouth touches of one kind or another, and two tries at getting the treat by staring at the treat hand. When he did that, I took the Yes hand away for a second, offered it to him again, he touched it, and he got his click.

Down Step 1 – the dog downs with the leash off. This was easy, he’s happy to follow the treat lure. A couple of times he thought it would be easier to stand up and just follow it, but I just lured him into a sit again and went on from there.

And that’s Step 1 of all the behaviours in Level 1 of the Training Levels – Steps to Success. Of course we have lots of practising and Comeafters to work on, but that’s a great start. Clever baby.

The hardest thing we’re working on is his ear infection. His ears have to be cleaned twice a day. This isn’t negotiable. I can’t wait to teach him to trust me enough to let me do it. I’m aiming for a compromise between having four people hold him down kicking and screaming and having him lie down and let me do it.

First we spend 20 minutes on relaxing on the grooming table. As I said the other day, he’s an amenable little hooligan – and he likes to be petted. I lifted him on to the table and rolled him down onto his side in what I call Chill position. Since I was holding both his underneath legs (both left legs if he’s lying on his left side) and hold him down with my body, it took him maybe 4 seconds to decide that lying down was a good idea. Then I eased up, sat back, and petted him until he fell asleep. I played with his feet, his tail, his muzzle, scratched his head, lifted his legs up and down. When he lifted his head, I put my hand on it and pushed it lightly back to the table, making sure to hang on to the front underneath leg (once they get the underneath elbow under them, there’s no way they’re going to get back into Chill position by themselves).

When he was completely relaxed, I touched the odd toenail with the Dremel, combed his jacket with a carding knife, looked at his teeth, and massaged his paws.

After 20 minutes, I took him out to pee, brought him back, put him in a sit on the grooming table, hugged him to my body, and cleaned his ears. Lots of massage and sweet talk and moaning, a little whining, a yelp or two. When I’m done, we spend another 20 minutes of relax and massage. The massage so far seems to be overwhelming the ear cleaning.