Thursday, June 30, 2011

Class Clown

Yesterday was our third rally class and I was waffling about going. Not only was I planning on taking Parker to his boarding kennel that afternoon, but I had an early flight out for a two week vacation the next day (I’m typing this in an airport), and had changed Emmy’s boarding plans to accompany Parker. She had originally been scheduled to board with Tilly at the vet’s office, as usual, but we lost Tilly this past weekend and that kind of changed our plans. Emmy has never been kenneled alone and she had no reason to board at the vet’s other than to keep Tilly company. So going to rally class meant driving both dogs and all their bedding to class and from there to the kennel, an hour away. That’s a lot of stress for both the dogs and me.

But my friend Ellen said she’d go to class to cheer us on and ride with me to the kennel to help with all the shit I was taking for the dogs, so we went.

I hit my first snag before I’d gone a mile from the house -- road work kept me waiting for seven minutes. Then, just a couple of miles later, there was an accident on the road. So I was about fifteen minutes late for class and even more stressed. The rest of the class had already done their walk throughs and were taking their dogs onto the course. Ellen held both dogs for me and I shadowed another handler as she took her dog through the course. There were a few new signs, but nothing that involved any new training.

When it was our turn, Parker, who had been sitting quietly with Ellen, released his inner clown. He went through most of the course with his nose in my pocket. That would be the pocket with the treats which I had forgotten to take out to give him. One of the signs involved a down stay. When I said, “Down,” he flopped onto his back and waved his legs around while I circumnavigated him but he maintained the down in spite of how silly he looked. All of his sits were crooked, even his fronts, but at least we didn’t have the dreaded fronts which involved me stepping backward.

There was a short jump -- nothing like the height he did last week, and he approached it with glee, zooming out in front of me after leaping over it. Which looked cute, but isn’t what he’s supposed to do.

The second course involved two signs with pivots, one with a stand, and a “German” turn -- the handler does a 180, turning to the left, while the dog does a 180 to the right, basically going around behind the handler. At first, I just said I’d skip that one, but another student convinced me that it was easy, acted as my dog to walk me through it, and Parker and I practiced doing it off the course and he did fine. Off the course -- on it, not so much.

Here’s what’s weird. I think there’s no doubt that Parker’s having a good time. He “grins” throughout the courses we do, and his tail is high and wagging. But he looks remarkably silly, doesn’t focus on much but treats and clearly isn’t as well trained as just about any of the other dogs. But, while I had him on one of the courses, one of the teachers went up to Ellen and told her that “We need to start working on convincing Dorothy to enter Parker in our upcoming trial in November.” That would be the same teacher who came up to me after class and said I was concentrating far too much on the signs and not enough on Parker. She said he would learn to read the signs himself in good time and for now I should just make sure he’s where he needs to be and does what he needs to do and not worry so much about the signs. I’m not at all sure how I can do that without knowing what the signs are, but I just smiled and agreed and filed the advice away into my “WTF?” file.

The past week was fairly training-lite as most of my energy was focused on a ultimately fruitless attempt to keep Tilly alive and now I’m away for two weeks. Damned dog probably won’t remember his name by the time I get back.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rally Class, Day Two

Okay, so we aren’t going to win any awards. For a while, at least.

We started class with introductions this time. And we were supposed to say what we liked most and least about our dogs. Most for Parker? He’s a quintessential Poodle. Least? He’s not nearly as shy as he used to be and he’s making up for it by acting the clown. It’s a period I loved the most about raising children. Those terrible twos when they started developing personalities, learning that they didn’t have to do and say what Mom and Dad asked for. Not sure why I loved it so much in children and find it so distasteful in a dog, but there you are.

Then we put the dogs in crates and walked the course. Parker either whined or barked the entire time. A definite first for him. I suppose some of those dirty looks were deserved, but I ignored him. I didn’t want to go back to the kennel to correct him, mostly because getting me to come back was what he wanted, and trying to yell at a barking dog is just saying, “I hear you, can you hear me?”

There were several new signs, and we were able to do the course twice, as well as a second course, which was much more advanced, with about five new signs.

When we started, the first sign was a “Halt, down, stay, walk around the dog, sit it, and take off.” Parker did the down just fine, but kept popping up as I walked around him. The instructor walking next to me told me to (1) keep my hand on his head and (2) keep saying “stay.” I did the former but not the latter. I’m a firm believer in not repeating myself. It kills me to listen to folks saying, “Stay. Stay. Stay.” All that does is teach the dog that it has to stay as long as you keep repeating yourself. Problem with keeping my hand on his head (which worked a treat, by the way) was that, by the time I got back around him, I was dizzy and fell over on top of him. He forgave me.

He was much better on the front thing (one step, two steps, three steps backwards) because we’ve been working on it very hard this past week, although sitting straight isn’t in his repertoire yet. And he did as well as could be expected on the pivot signs, considering how off balance *I* was doing them.

On the second course, there was a jump. When the instructor started telling us what to do, I said that Parker had never seen a jump before so if he showed any hesitation, I was just going to walk on by. Which I did the first time. The second time he was approaching the jump straight on and when I said, “Hup,” he lifted himself right over, no problem.

All in all, a good day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Parker Does Rally

Our first Rally class was today. Since Parker has done both Basic 1 and Basic 2 and since in both classes I was complemented on how good he was, I rather expected him to do well. Mike also told me that, when they are out for their walks, they do fronts and Parker does them well.


We class members walked the course with our dogs in crates. Parker hopped right into one when asked and never made a peep while I was gone, although I could see he had his eye on me the whole time. Then we got numbers and took turns on the course. It was a fairly basic one with right angled turns, 270 turns, 360 turns, a moving down (the dog isn’t supposed to sit before doing the down), couple of weaving patterns, stops with finishes to the left, and the dreaded fronts -- call the dog to the front, step back one, two, three steps, with the dog hopping up and following in front and sitting.

When it was our turn, Parker started out in a good sit next to me. That was about the only good thing he did. I had chicken and he knew it. He did almost the entire course walking backward, nosing my chicken hand. When it was time for the fronts, he sat everywhere but in front, usually doing a 360 spin between them. Several times he grabbed the leash in his mouth and shook it, as if to remind me that he needed more chicken.

The second time we went through the course, I kept the chicken in my pocket and he did better. Not well, but better.

The instructor who was walking by me on the second go round said we had a lot to work on over the next week.

The really scary part is that they said for the first four weeks of the class, we’d be doing novice to advanced courses, and for the second four weeks, we’d have advanced to excellent courses.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Retrieve (3)

Counted this time. Twenty treats/clicks; hallway bathroom. Only clicked for touches on the middle part, where he will eventually have to take the dumbbell.

Twenty in a row, no problem!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teaching the retrieve (2)

Okay, I’m impressed. At first, any interaction with the dumbbell is clickable. Even pawing, although the goal would be to fade that one.

We just did a session where Parker touched the bar of the dumbbell every freaking time, either with his nose or with his mouth.

Woo who!!

(approx twenty treats, in the bedroom -- last time was in my office)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Teaching the Retrieve

Shirley says, “keep a training log,” so here’s Day One.

About twenty-five cubes of chicken, a clicker and a tennis ball style dumbbell. The idea was to bring the dumbbell out from behind with a flourish (I kept saying, “Ta Da!” which felt really stupid, but I kept thinking ‘flourish’ and couldn’t help myself). He would get clicked for anything resembling noticing the dumbbell; looking, pawing, nosing. Well, he nosed it every time. In fact, the only time he didn’t was right after he had a piece of chicken and was too busy throwing other behaviors at me.

So I’d call this training session a success.