Review. See Week One for details on any of the review items. Each day, we continue to work on skills learned earlier. Sit-down-stand, come when called, and reverse magnet heeling, which I'm using to prepare her for competition heeling in the obedience ring. I use a clicker to note the moment when the dog is correct. The clicker tells her "you are right, and food is coming." I use the clicker for obedience, agility, and potty training!
New this week:
Walking on leash. While I like to use as many positives in training as possible, I have not yet found a method I like as well for teaching leash walking as the "turn and go." This is a modified Bill Koehler method, and it is probably the only thing of his that I still use. But I think it's important to have a dog that walks nicely on a leash. This method accomplishes that. First, every time I am about to walk away, I tell Lacy, "Let's go." I want to give her a fair chance to be with me. Her leash is tied to my waist and I start moving as soon as I give the command. If she is with me, great. If not, she gets a pop to encourage her to move. If she forges ahead I turn and go in the other direction. When she accidentally gets into heel position she gets a click and a treat.
Stay. I introduced stay this week for a few seconds at a time. We are working on sit-stay first. I have her sit, with me standing next to her. My stay signal - as it will be in the obedience ring - is my left hand flat in front of her face (not touching her). I tell her "stay" and wait a few seconds and then release with an "OK" or "free" command. If she moves, I place her back in the sit, using one hand on her collar and another gently on her rear end, folding her back into a sit.
Go-outs. Because Lacy will compete in advanced obedience, I want her to learn some complex behaviors early on. I teach go-outs using a target with food. Most of the time I use the lid from a margarine container - nothing fancy. I show her the food on the lid and back her up with her standing between my legs and me holding her chest. This is intended to be motivational and it is. I am holding her back from her precious cheese! I started out from two feet away and we have progressed to three feet away. We will move back a few inches at a time until we get to 40 feet - a long time from now.
Judy Byron, who generously mentored and encouraged me through Rocky's AKC utility title, says trainers need to do millions of go-outs, so it is best to start early! My command is "go out," because I can remember it easily, but many trainers use clever and creative commands. I admire them, but choose not to emulate them.
Signals. I was doing signals with the other dogs and Lacy came in toward the end of this, and responded to the recall signal. It reminded me that she might enjoy doing utility-style signals herself. I adjusted the exercise for her so that I was very close in front of her, and I used food, which the older dogs get only randomly. Essentially this is the same kind of thing as the sit-down-stand. She is being lured into the positions and clicked when she succeeds. I'm not using word commands, since she doesn't know them anyway.
Teeter. This week I introduced Lacy to the teeter. I used an 8-foot UKC-style teeter, which is smaller than the 12 foot teeter used in the other flavors. I put the pause table underneath the down side of the teeter, so she didn't have so far to walk down after she tipped the board. This is a method I learned at a Sharon Nelson camp, and I like it a lot. Although I used the table at its lowest height, if I were working with a fearful or hesitant dog, I'd have the table at its highest and gradually lower it. With Lacy, we started with a low table. I had to put the teeter away, though, rather than leave it set up, because of the danger of her getting under it when one of the other dogs was bringing it down. We only did this a couple of times, both times using lots of cheese. I just wanted to introduce it at this time - I wasn't looking for mastery yet.
Jumping. It will be a long time before Lacy learns to jump. For now, she is walking in and out of jump uprights, with the jump bars placed on the ground. In fact, she won't be allowed to jump full competition height (which for her will probably be 24") until she is 1-1/2 years old. It seems to be much easier to direct her through jump uprights with big wings than through jumps without wings. Go figure.
Sequencing.I set up a few obstacles at our club's training night - some tunnels and jumps, and puppy weave poles, which are made of very flexible, blue plastic piping (a tip from a Jane Simmons-Moake seminar). I lured Lacy through the weaves - just three - and then encouraged her on to the tunnels, which she knew from last week, and then through jump uprights, with the bar on the ground. Clicks, treats, and fun. She didn't want to stop, but that's part of learning, too. Other dogs also get to play on the equipment! A note on weave poles: puppy weave pole training is somewhat controversial within the agility community. I've done quite a bit of reading and considering this issue, and have decided not to let Lacy do weaves more than once a week as a puppy, and only to permit her to weave with the puppy poles, which will bend readily if she touches them. She won't see standard PVC poles until she is much older.
TV Downs. Lacy needs to learn self control. She also needs to learn to understand one of life's important lessons: you can't always get what you want. One way I help her learn these valuable lessons is through what one trainer (sorry, I can't remember who, although it was probably Margie English) calls "TV Downs." Nearly every evening, I take a half hour to watch TV, and hold Lacy in my lap. She is there by my choice, not hers. If she were bigger, I'd have her do a down at my feet (on leash.) Initially, because she'd rather be playing with toys, or teasing the other dogs, Lacy sometimes complains about having to stay - and struggles. I persist, though, because I think this is a very important exercise. After about 15 minutes she usually falls asleep. I don't feel like I can count the time she spends on my lap sleeping, but I don't move her off because I enjoy the experience very much.
Socialization. I'm taking Lacy to at least three new places each week, and we stay at least 20 minutes at each place. She is meeting lots of new people, nice adult dogs, and getting lots of treats from new friends.
If you've read this far, you can probably tell that I love training. My favorite part of dogsports is seeing the light go on in the dog's eyes telling me that she understands what I'm asking her to do. The key to all this, in my opinion, is the training relationship and the closeness I experience with my dogs. I show my dogs to validate the training and prove to myself that it worked. But the true enjoyment is in the training itself.
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