Friday, January 28, 2011

Day Three of Class

Parker was reluctant to get into the car for yesterday’s class. Probably because I have a harness for him and he had not learned how to move around without getting hopelessly tangled. However, once he was in and belted (I said reluctant, not stubbornly refusing), he settled nicely into a sit and didn’t budge for the entire ride.

Class started with heel work. Although Parker is just about spot on perfect with this at home on his daily walks, in class he tends to be a bit squirrely. He sits perpendicular to me, probably the better to keep an eye on the other dogs. As for the actual heeling portion, he’s great, although one of the teachers pointed out that I should keep the left hand with the treat in it further in front of me or I’d end up teaching him to lag. In fact, throughout the lesson I kept hearing, “Move your hand forward, Dorothy.”

Then we worked on sit stays. Parker was great, although we hand’t done any work at home with moving back to the dog’s side by stepping around him, and Parker kept getting up. We’ll work on that.

Then we started doing down stays. Sadly for me, this meant putting the dog into a down. One of the teachers came over to me when she saw that Parker was sitting, now lying down and I told her we were taking a vacation from the down for a while, as my frustration levels were flowing down the leash. Happily she agreed this was a good thing. Of course when, later in the lesson, we were listening to one of the teachers explain the settle to us, Parker calmly lay down perfectly. Little snot.

We did a little work on attention. Parker and I have done Shirley’s Doggie Zen -- hold a good treat in one hand in such a way that the dog can’t get it. Once the dog finally turns away from the treat to look at you, which they inevitably do, wondering why this doofus won’t give up the treat, you click and give the treat. It hasn’t taken Parker long to learn this and now he stays focused on me, no matter what, never breaking eye contact. Clever boy.

The real job for me this week is to get more serious about training time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Second Day of School

I had planned on getting to class early to give Parker a chance to sniff and chill. I hadn’t counted on making every single light, so we were half an hour early instead of fifteen minutes. That was way too much. He did well and was happy, but he started to shut down about fifteen minutes before class was over. Of course, that was when the ‘down’ was started, so there might have been some cause and effect going on.

We started out on the mats, just walking around and around. I had a little bag of smelly treats fastened to my belt which brought his nose right up to where I wanted it and kept him from forging ahead. Mike’s daily walks are paying off, as well, as Parker is now used to a loose leash.

Once everyone got there (minus the two Standard Poodles and with the addition of a young black Labrador who seems well trained already -- her owner was doing off leash recalls while the rest of the class was gathering), we reviewed the ‘sit,’ which mostly everyone seemed to have down. Once again, the teacher wanted us to place the dog into a sit, with hands on, but I happily ignored that. Parker sits without it. Then we started real heel work. With the dog sitting properly, take off on the left foot. As often happens in classes -- not sure why -- most folks do this at a snail’s pace. So Parker and I either went on the outside of the ring of dogs, or the inside. Problem with that was it brought Parker in proximity to the other dogs, which distracted him from me. But mostly, with a smelly treat right in front of his nose, he kept close to me. Only real problem was when we stopped. He steps back with his sit, and sits really, really, crooked. So we’ll some hallway heeling this week where there’s less room for that kind of thing.

We did a minimum of ‘stay’ -- hand in front of the dog, outside leg around to the front, short count, back to the dog’s side. I learned to use my left hand to signal the stay -- the instructor said to use the right. So I got kind of confused.

All of this went well. The third of the three teachers was there today and she asked me, while we were heeling, if I had other dogs at home because I ‘really seemed to know what I was doing.’ Naturally, it was at this point that I dropped the treats I was holding and Parker put the brakes on to vacuum them up.

And then we started the down. We were first supposed to lure from the sit. Parker did one down. One. Then we were supposed to lure from the stand. Parker sat. And sat, and sat, and sat. And turned his head around to ignore me. So we did some sits to make him happy again and heeled in tight little circles while everyone else did what they were supposed to do.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Parker Starts School

My plan was to get to class early, give Parker a chance to eliminate before going into the building and get the paperwork done with. The first indication that this wasn’t going to happen was when I backed out of the garage and got stuck in a snowbank. Several repetitions of four inches forward and two inches back and we were on our way. There are about a dozen traffic lights between our house and the training center and I had my timing perfect. I missed every one of them.

We got there on the dot of nine thirty when classes were to start, but apparently I wasn’t the only one who had to deal with the weather. Eventually eleven of the twelve who had signed up for the class arrived, but we didn’t get started until nine forty-five. There’s a year old German Shepherd who wanted to meet everyone but whose owner had other ideas and popped him on the head when he tried. Hopefully the teachers (there are three of them) will put a stop to that. A year old Australian Shepherd whose owner hopes to end up with a calm house dog, which makes me wonder why she got an Aussie. A six month old Border Collie who lives in the barn with her sheep and who has a life of herding ahead of her. Hardly seems fair -- like ‘training’ a Papillon to be cute. A six month old German Shepherd wearing a muzzle. An eighteen month old Golden Retriever whose owner is an elderly lady who brought her grand nephew along to handle the dog, as she (the owner) has an injury which makes it hard for her to handle the dog, and who started to cry when explaining that the dog was still acting like a rambunctious puppy. The teachers explained that Goldens act like puppies for longer than lots of other dogs. An Airedale whose future holds therapy work. A seven year old white Standard Poodle in show coat who has just retired from the show ring and whose owner wants to start something else with her for more titles. A seven month old Standard Poodle with a show career ahead of her. A beautiful dog of indeterminate heritage with one eye who was rescued a year and a half ago and may be about three now. She was very timid when rescued and is now a very happy pup. And a little mixed breed with a Japanese Chin look to her whose tail never stopped wagging and who never stopped barking.

And Parker. Parker wanted to meet the little barker and was very polite about it. But when a teacher came over, he ignored her offer of food and leaned heavily against my leg.

Once the talking was over, we started on sits. We were supposed to first lure the dog into a sit and then move the dog into a sit (hands under the chin and the rump). One thing Parker knows very well, so luring him wasn’t necessary -- I just said sit, with a hand gesture and he got clicked and treated. Putting him physically into a sit was harder because, as soon as I moved to touch him, he sat. I did ask if I could use the clicker and was told it was fine.

Then we were supposed to walk the dogs in a circle. Parker was fine with this, too, until the other Poodles came around. Their owners wanted to meet Parker and he was perfectly fine with all the sniffing. I did warn them that he wasn’t neutered.

So it’s an interesting mix of dogs and should be fun.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Giving up

Yesterday I gave up. Although Parker will come running from one length of the yard to another for a single Cheerio, he obstinately continues to refuse to come when I call from the back door. And it’s too furking cold to wait him out. So I gave up on waiting and came inside without him. It took him several minutes to realize that I wasn’t coming back and then he came to the door and barked. Just once and not loudly. I let him in.

We’ve been out several times today. It’s the only way I get to smoke. But each time I’ve come in directly, without even calling him. Each time it’s taken him a few minutes before he goes to the door, although each time the amount of waiting has lessened.

I’m going to kick myself if he learns waiting me out won’t work, considering how much time I’ve spent over the past few weeks freezing my ass off trying to get him to follow me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Be careful what you wish for

Thursday afternoon I headed for the den with a book. Tilly, who has learned the lessons of old age -- never pass up the opportunity to eat, pee or nap -- headed straight for her bed. Parker and Emmy came to me first for some loving. Parker got there first, which effectively blocked Emmy. Emmy took exception to this and jumped up to nip Parker on the ass, which sent Parker scurrying from the room. Emmy then stationed herself at the door and whenever Parker made a move to reenter the den, Emmy would yip, which sent him back a step. Parker finally lay down, which seemed to be what Emmy wanted, as she then went to her own bed. For several minutes, Parker remained down and then -- with great caution -- he got up and came into the den, never taking his eyes off Emmy as he went to his bed.

Friday he was equally cautious around Emmy until we took all the dogs out at night for their final pee. Emmy and Tilly peed and headed for the back door. Parker, who had peed as well, had to go over to where the girls had peed and marked over the spots -- it's a guy thing. And then, to everyone's surprise, Emmy bounded off the deck and bowed in from of Parker. For the next several minutes, the two of them had an energetic game of chase. Tails up, no barking, each one taking turns chasing the other.

They repeated this Saturday. Mike and I were thrilled to see this interaction. Thrilled until this morning, that is. Here’s a video:

Parker woke Mike up with a quiet ‘Whompf’ this morning around 5:30. On weekdays, this is typical and acceptable. It’s quiet enough not to wake me and is better than an alarm clock. The two of them then get up and off they go for a long walk. But today is Sunday, so, although Mike got up and took all the dogs out for a pee, he brought them back and climbed back into bed. Mike then went back to sleep. But Parker and Emmy decided to play. Still very quiet -- no woofing or yipping. But for half an hour we were ‘entertained’ by the sounds of prancing dog feet as the two of them chased each other around the bed. I say ‘we,’ but Mike’s snores made it obvious that it didn’t bother him a bit.

At least they were considerate enough not to bark.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who knew Cheerios were so delicious?

A couple of days ago, when it was cold and rainy, Parker wouldn’t come inside. I was tired, grumpy and unwilling to wait it out, so, knowing it was probably a mistake, I went inside and looked for something to tempt him. Not willing to give him anything good, I got a ziplock baggie of Cheerios. When he saw that I had them, from a distance of about twenty feet, he rushed to my side. And I gave him one.

One lousy Cheerio.

The downside: as I expected, he now only comes inside when bribed.

The upside: he’ll come for one Cheerio.

We’ve now made it as far as the backdoor for me and the farthest edge of the yard for him. As soon as I see him start to move, I’ll call out, “Parker! Come!” in a happy voice.

Well, at least it’s a start.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It only takes once -- no repetitions

Mike usually takes Parker for a long walk every morning. He takes all three dogs outside first with Parker on a leash, brings them all back in after they do their business and then takes off with Parker out the front door. But a late night last night ("Just one more chapter!") coupled with an early morning meeting meant he didn't get a walk in this morning. So it was up to me. I took all three dogs out back (no leash), let Tilly and Emmy back in and headed for the back gate, taking out a leash from my pocket. Parker knows what the leash means, so he trotted right along, got hooked to the leash and off we went.

Several minutes ago we all went back out again for a backyard pee. Tilly and Emmy got it over with and headed back to the house (it's very cold outside). Parker, who likes to sniff for a while, took his sweet time, but finally eliminated. I picked it up and headed for the gate, where I have a bag hanging for disposal. He saw where I was headed and beat me there, tail high and wagging. When all I did was use the bag and not open the gate, but walk away from it, his tail drooped pathetically. What? No walk?

Kind of like the kids and family traditions, defined as anything we did one time which they enjoyed.

Ironically, we came back inside and worked on ‘downs’ for a while. Using bacon flavored treats sped up his response time -- who *wouldn’t* work for bacon? -- but he’s still almighty slow.

Can’t wait for classes which begin next week.