Monday, June 30, 2008

Communications and C.H. #3

We had Bug’s communications class and Ike’s competition heeling class yesterday. While it wasn’t too terribly hot the humidity was a killer!!

Poor Bug is suffering from a bad mum who is not practicing enough! Whack, Whack - that is the sound of me hitting myself over the head with the screaming monkey. I need to get on the ball!

Bug has great eye contact when he is sitting in front of me, and is starting to search out eye contact but gives up a bit too soon. He thinks staring at me is good enough. I need to practice at home in a none stressful environment – not only in class which has been this month’s modus operandi!

Yesterday we started practicing the space game. Katrin felt Bug would be inclined to sit down when I asked him to back up, so she recommended starting by luring him into backing up by placing the treat at chest level and moving it into his chest. Considering how well he backs up when he is trying to get out of the way, I think this will end up being easy for him. He was starting to get it yesterday and definitely finds backing up in a straight line easier than Mr. Ike.

We cut class a little bit early because handlers and dogs alike were quitting – or our bodies were.

Ike’s turn!

I REALLY enjoyed yesterday’s C.H. class. Katrin gated off two thirds of the arena and invited one handler in at a time to practice “setting up.” She had us start with our dogs in front of us and lure them VERY far behind us using our left hand (which is the way Ike and I are accustomed to doing set-up). Multiple things became apparent:

1. I am not luring far enough behind me.

2. I am moving my hand too fast.

3. And Ike just loves to kick his little tush out.

Numbers 1 & 2 were easily remedied by Katrin telling me to slow down! Lure further back!

As to Ike’s little tush, Katrin went and got a board from her broad jump. She placed it about a foot (I have to measure the actual distance – 12” is a guesstimate) away from my left side. The theory is that having less space will cause the dog to sit straighter and tighter (to you). And it did! I guess it isn’t a theory. :D So I will be practicing at home with a 5 inch high piece of board. Home Depot here I come! (I need to make some short gates, cavalletis, and a liner [to train Carmen for ED] too.)

Next we practiced having our dog learn that they can plant their front feet and move their hind feet independently. Katrin and I thought Ike might have a bit of an advantage considering all the stool work he has done (walking around a foot stool using only his back feet). Nope. Ike kept trying all sorts of things but wasn’t quite getting it. But he was trying, multiple things!

To teach your dog to do this Katrin recommended taking a treat and moving it to the side – just far enough that the dog moves their head but not their front feet. The idea is they might move their back feet to adjust their position but because it is not a BIG change they won’t move their front feet. This is definitely an exercise to practice with a clicker handy! It helps with the set-up because the dog learns they can do a tuck sit and adjust themselves without moving their front feet. This is exactly the sort of exercise that Ike really enjoys, so I guess we will be working on it this week!

I have to mention that I was so focused on trying to figure out the mechanics of how this exercise works (it sounded more confusing than it is) that I didn’t hear Katrin saying not to practice it in heel position. So I was asking Ike to set-up and with just practicing two or three times with the board I noticed he was sitting MUCH straighter and tighter to me!! Woo-hoo Ike!

Given the heat I was very excited that both dogs were so happy to work for me. Upon arriving home neither dog moved the rest of the evening! The heat really sapped the energy out of them; that and the mental work-out.

This week’s agenda: MAKE TIME TO PRACTICE!!

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