Thursday night Bug did not have physical therapy - he started a new class. HOORAY!! We are still going to do PT every other week for a bit.... b-u-t..... we have received permission to dip our toes back into the performance world. I am ecstatic and if Bug's reaction on Thursday to an hour long class is any indication, so is he.
We are taking the Control Unleashed class, based on Leslie McDevitt's book of the same name, at a local dog training facility. I have been looking forward to this class since I signed up in APRIL. Actually I have been looking forward to a class like this since I attended Leslie's seminar at Clean Run (Day 1 and Day 2) in 2008. This is the first time my schedule has coincided with the class schedule offerings.
Also, I will be honest with you and myself. When you are in the midst of training to trial it is sometimes hard to convince yourself to give up your spot in an agility class, even if it is likely in yours and your dog's best interest long term.
Thursday night was our first class. The class is an interesting assortment of dogs: 2 large breeds (a Dane and a Mastiff), a super-happy-go-lucky-bit-over-the-top-exuberant Golden, an Aussie, 2 All-Americans, and a Bug. One of the All-Americans is very reactive and she is working her own program within the class construct with E's permission and encouragement. E set up barriers and allowed the owners to decide if their dog needed to be behind a barrier or not. 3 of the dogs and their owners did chose to work behind barriers.
After talking a bit about what she hoped we would get from this class - a focused dog who can work through distractions and in a stimulating environment - we started working on the first exercise, Look at That.
Look at That. E wanted us to click and "feed the crap" out of our dog for looking at something exciting versus the old stand-by of "watch me" when something exciting appears. In this instance she set up two cones about 15' apart in the center of the room. She had each handler get up and walk their dogs around the cones. Handlers moving their dogs were to click and feed the dogs for staying with them. Handlers and dogs watching were to click and feed their dog every time they looked at the dog and handler walking.
Well, this was pretty much a FAIL for us because Bug would not take his eyes off my face. He was intently watching me for any clue/cue about what I could possibly want and kept offering spins and his "cute" behavior (rolling partway on his side and waving his paw). I figured out that part of the problem was that I was watching him to see if he was going to Look at That which was feeding into him watching me, so I went "soft-eyed" and loosely watched the dog handler so that Bug would realize he was not going to get an indication of what to do from me. I could still see any head movements from him and in this manner I was actually able to click some moments when he chose to Look at That.
Next we worked on a Default Behavior. E wants us to choose a Default Behavior and put it on cue. The purpose is to have a solid behavior your dog can revert to in any environment; ultimately the dog will likely offer it without cue when he is not sure what you want. Well, we already have a very solid default behavior: down. Since Bug's down is so ingrained as a default behavior I decided I would work on sit. We have been doing a lot of sits while out walking to try and build value for it because previously sit had ZERO value for Bug.
Next we worked Dog in a Box. E set up a box in the center of the room made out of obedience gating. She had one dog and handler in the box while another dog and handler walked around the box in both directions. Then the teams switched positions. Both dogs and handlers were to click and feed their dogs for Looking at That and continuing to move. Depending upon the dog's level of stimulation it was just c/t for being out there and moving/staying calm in the box.
Bug and the Aussie went first. Bug was in the box and was watching me for any indication of what I wanted. I was really surprised and proud of him that he could care less about the situation. Since he was doing so well E suggested we work on our default behavior while in the box. Bug offered some down's at first and then I was able to get him to switch to sits. When it was our turn to walk around the box Bug did a very nice job of staying engaged with me and paying no mind to the dog in the box.
Next E introduced Hand Targeting. Most of the students were familiar with this, but not all, so we practiced this for a bit. Bug is funny - he absolutely understands the game, but I need to change the criteria because his touch is so GENTLE!
Then we worked on having our dog's target a cone - this is the basis for what will become our Go to Mat behavior.
Our homework for the week is to practice everything we learned in class (of course) and start teaching our dog to target his/her mat.
Both Bug and I had an excellent time and I am looking forward to our next class.
2 hours ago