Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parker meets Missy

Friends of ours have a two year old Golden, Missy. Missy lives in a dog friendly neighborhood, where she’s met lots of other nice dogs. She’s been in quite a few classes, Basic 1 and 2, Agility, Rally 1 and 2. Her folks travel, so she’s spent plenty of time in doggy day care and fancy boarding where she has had lots of interaction with other dogs. So we figured she’d be a good companion to meet Parker. She’s also a very rambunctious girl who loves to run and play.

So yesterday they brought Missy over to meet Parker. They were both on leashes and we brought Parker out front to meet her there. Not his territory. Missy wanted to sniff and play, but Parker was very cautious. He wanted to say hello to Ellen and Bill (he’s met them before and Ellen always has yummy stuff), but Missy kept putting her nose in the way of that, so Parker finally just hung back by Mike’s leg.

Then we took them both into the fenced backyard and undid their leashes. That did the trick and the zoomies started. Parker chased Missy, Missy chased Parker. For about fifteen or twenty minutes it was nonstop chase games and a joy to watch the two of them doing hairpin turns all around the yard. Tilly and Emmy even joined in. A little. Tilly is still too wobbly to run much, but her tail was at a constant wag. It was great.

Until Parker’s little brain took over and he started trying to hump Missy. Not that it would have done any good. Missy is spayed even if Parker isn’t neutered. This was definitely mounting behavior rather than just dominance stuff. He only wanted her back end and he was thrusting for all he was worth. Missy was initially confused but soon decided she didn’t like it and she spun around and nipped at Parker’s head, which put him on his backside, looking confused. Confused, but not convinced. He tried it again. And again and again and again.

I hope he hasn’t learned something new which he will try again with my leg. I love his hugs and encourage them, but that humping thing isn’t going to work.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Parker's Christmas

Monday last we did the final packing which put Emmy into a frenzy of excitement. She sees suitcases and knows that means she gets to go to the boarding kennel. Why that’s so exciting escapes me, but she loves it. Tilly used to as well, but she was still too out of it to realize something different was happening. Parker was just happy to follow me from room to room, sticking his inquisitive nose into everything. He was less than thrilled when I left the house with the other two dogs, not understanding that he was going with us.

Unfortunately for his comfort traveling, he had the runs that day. When it came time to climb aboard the car, he just stood at the open door of the Subaru, looking at me as if he had no clue what he was supposed to do. That’s when I realized that (1) he had never ridden in that car and (2) I was asking him to enter a car from the driver’s side, which he had never done before. But, with a heave of his hind quarters I got him in and off we went. It took several minutes for him to settle down, but once he did, he just went to sleep. Throughout the seven hour trip we made many stops -- not only for him, but for me (too many cups of coffee). He happily walked with Mike while I ran for the potty and then with me while Mike did.

We got to the hotel and unloaded the car while Parker investigated every inch of the room and then went to my son’s house. Lucy, the six year old Boxer, did not take to Parker. In fact, Lucy went nuts, snarling, trying to bite and generally making it very clear that Parker wasn’t welcome. Parker reacted by flopping down onto his belly (and peeing on the floor). A perfectly acceptable response -- it wasn’t his territory. But Lucy didn’t back off, going for his throat. Mike grabbed her collar and twisted and she didn’t desist until she started to run out of air. Lucy spent the week at Nana’s house.

Parker mostly was a perfect gentleman at my sons’t house, letting the seven month old baby use his head as a drum and his ears as a chew toy. He (Parker, not the baby) even let the cat walk over his head to get around the hordes of people.

I usually prefer that dogs leave the room altogether when people eat, but I figured it wouldn’t be a good idea this time, so I asked him to lie at my feet (he did!), although he was very alert to every bit of food that hit the floor. With four little girls, that was a lot. And I let him cruise the floor afterward for goodies.

As good a time as he seemed to have, he was very glad to get home Sunday late, for the first time in a week getting to run without a leash.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grooming Retraction

Apparently I said, in an early post, that I didn’t like the way Parker was groomed when I got him. This is *not* true! Parker was lovely. I had asked, the first time I took him in, to cut him way down, which was a mistake. Which was why, when he went in today, I said to just shave the parts that normally get shaved, and let the rest grow in.

And that’s not just for his good looks. Damned dog loves the snow and cold weather and it would be nice to be able to warm my fingers through that thick hair when we come back inside from a vigorous romp.

Will work for bacon

Who wouldn’t?

At the groomer’s today, they had soft, bacon flavored treats.

Parker loves ‘em and worked much faster this afternoon for those.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parker hates the 'Down'

I finally decided to start mixing it up. Throw in some ‘sit,’ which he’s pretty good at and ‘come,’ which works if he’s close, there are no distractions and he really wants the food.

That worked a bit better, although more for me than him, as it gave me some reassurance that I was making progress.

Anyone with a sure fire method, feel free to let me know.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dumb, dumb, dumb

Seven minutes, four seconds for fifteen downs with command simultaneous with action.

Probably less time than that because of all the crawls to the treat he did.

It’s also dumb of the trainer to train with treats right after a full meal.

And I used Cheerios, which take a while to crunch and aren’t nearly as much of a treat as cheese.

Excuses abound.

Step Four. Again and again and again

Three minutes, thirty-two seconds for using the down simultaneously with the behavior.

Four minutes, twenty-two seconds for the command first and then the down.

Then we did some target stick work. Which went reasonably well although not enthusiastically.

Ended with a ‘down,’ with a semi-rapid response.

This is taking forever!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Step Four of the Down -- Again

Five minutes and 14 seconds for fifteen downs with the command spoken as he drops.

Three minutes for fifteen more giving the command first.

There’s no doubt that he knows what ‘Down’ means. He just still doesn’t like it much.

Looks like Step Four will be repeated throughout the day.

Assuming that I don’t fall apart completely when I go out to mail off Dan’s Christmas package of goodies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Step Four of the Down Revisited

Five minutes, six seconds for fifteen downs with the command as he did it.

Then about fifteen more with the command coming first.

He’s still almighty slow to respond. Clear he doesn’t like it. And there were several crawls to the treat.

I guess I’ll move on to the next step which involves counting out treats and then timing how long it takes to use them up, saying the command first and waiting to click until he does it. The goal is to get the dog’s average time down to less than 8 seconds per treat. I’m thinking this one could take a while.

Step Four of the Down

Do fifteen clicks for a boring down, saying, “Down” as the dog does it. Then say the command to see if the dog connects the command with the behavior.

We did fifteen with the word, although it took thirteen minutes. Parker kept his eyes on me the whole time and each down was a slow slide rather than a real flop down.

Then we did about fifteen commands before he made a move to down. Each time, he immediately sat and then slo-o-o-o-owly slide down, popping up immediately with the click and the toss of the treat.

So I think (1) he’s not fond of the down, (2) he sorta gets it and (3) we need to revisit this step a few more times before moving on to Step Five.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Step Three Revisited

Down to eleven minutes. Time to start pairing the word with the action.

It was probably a little less time than that, but I missed a couple.

Step Three of the Down

Step three is the same as step two. The goal is to have a shorter time.

Well, we made it shorter -- sixteen minutes, forty-five seconds, but that’s not much. I’d like to think it’s because Parker tries to get clicked for sitting, which he does automatically when he sees the treats and clicker come out, but who knows how the mind of a dog really works?

So, rather than move to step four, which begins to associate the word ‘down’ with the behavior, instead we’ll try for a more serious lessening of the time.

Then again, I had sixteen treats rather than fifteen, which I think is what we used before.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What to do when the dog is smarter than you are

Problem with this teaching of the down thing. While working on step two, at one point, Parker laid down, I clicked and tossed the treat. Parker looked at the treat, looked at me, and then *crawled* to the treat, never breaking the down.

Guess I need to toss them higher and farther away. Or ask him to start training me.

Step two of the down

Armed with fifteen treats, a clicker and a stop watch, repeat step one but time how long it takes for fifteen downs.

Seventeen minutes, twenty-two seconds.


Step one of the down

Secured the leash to my chair with sixteen treats ready. Start listening to the backlog of podcasts, while keeping the corner of my eye on Parker.

When he finally gives up (he knew I had treats ready) and lies down, click and toss a treat so he has to get up to get it.

Repeat until he does sixteen downs this way.

I got to fourteen before Parker figured out that he could crawl to the tossed treat without getting up. So treat fifteen was for a sit and sixteen for the last down.

Next step is to do the same thing with a stopwatch to record how long it takes for fifteen downs.


Don’t know why it only this morning occurred to me to read Shirley’s manual about teaching the down.

We’ll start it her was today, which has the advantage of not requiring me to be on the floor.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Starting the down

Parker pretty much has the sit down well. He even does it when I’m flat on my back on the floor. So we started the ‘down’ command.

Back in the day, the down was taught by exerting muscle -- pulling on the leash until the dog had no choice but to lie down. This won’t work with Parker. Not only is he much too strong, but he’s already saved my bacon several times by standing steady while I use his strength to get up off the floor. I absolutely don’t want him to learn that pressure on his shoulders means lie down.

New age training uses a lure, which would be great if there were anything Parker really wanted that badly. So far, I haven’t figured out what that might be. He will work for cheese for a little while, so we started with that.

First I ask him to sit, for which he gets a click and a taste of cheese. Then I lure him down with a big piece of cheese. This works after a fashion for a while. He doesn’t really like going all the way down, so he gets clicks for sliding his front paws out a bit. Several times his feet slipped all the way and for that he got a jackpot of cheese.

It’s going to be slow going as his attention tends to wander.