Go-outs. Here we go again - go-outs are a vitally important part of my training, so you'll see this command often. Once the dog understands the command, it is time to take the show on the road to as many places as possible. This week we visited a wonderful training building owned by a friend and did a few go-outs there on her lovely ring matting. Because we were in a new location, Lacy did go-outs from close up, about 3 feet from her target. Changing locations and making the exercise easy at first helps the dog to generalize the behavior and enhances learning. We did just a few, and then she was permitted to play in the building, giving her an early and very positive association with a ring-type situation.
New this week:
Heeling. This is the first week that I've turned Lacy around from the reverse magnet heeling to encourage her to walk forward, in heel position, at my side. I am using my hand as a target. Sometimes I have food in my hand. Other times I show her where I am putting the food (on the table or somewhere else she can't reach.) Then I ask for the behavior and then we go back to get the food. When using the food as a target, I am encouraging her to walk in a slightly forged position. When the food is removed, the dog tends to drop back into perfect heel position. This is the only instance where I use the magical word, "heel." When I want her to move forward with me at any other time, I say "let's go." Heel position is a very specific spot with her ear lined up with my left hip. I don't use "heel" in any other context besides competition obedience.
In puppy class, we also did heeling with distractions - a helper walking along encouraging Lacy to look at her, instead of heeling. It is important for the helper to stay far enough away so that she serves as a distraction that the dog can overcome and ignore. We are not using corrections at this point! We want the dog to be successful. We start the distractions at a lower level and then increase them as the dog learns she is doing the right thing by ignoring the distractor. Lacy progressed to the point where the distractor was able to heel her own Whippet right next to Lacy and she never even glanced away at the other dog.
Finish. I am using the same skills Lacy learned doing reverse magnet heeling to lure her into a swing-type finish. I started this with food, using an exaggerated version of what will eventually be my hand signal for the finish. I take a step back with my left foot to encourage her to move, and then bring my left foot forward againas she moves into heel position. I am also teaching her the "around" finish by luring her around behind me. We'll eventually use the one she does best.
Stay. We teach stay using a reward system. So Lacy is starting out with a sit-stay with me standing directly in front of her. I have a piece of her favorite treat, cheese. I tell her to "sit" and then put my left hand in front of her face, say "stay," and step in front of her. I give her a tiny piece of cheese immediately and tell her "good stay." Then, I will continue to feed her cheese bites every few seconds -- sometimes every 5, sometimes as long as 10, sometimes just 2 or 3. Eventually, in the match ring, I'll ask the "judge" to feed her. This produces a dog who looks at strangers in the ring with an expectant glance, wondering who is going to feed her.
Teeter. This week I introduced Lacy to the big 12 foot teeter. To do this, I placed yummy soft treats on the teeter board every foot or so, and then held on to her collar to be sure she didn't slip. Because I want her to focus on looking down at the board, I encouraged her to look for the treats. I also introduced my teeter command word. I think it is very helpful to let the dog know that the board is about to move. To a dog running an agility course, the dog walk and teeter look very much alike. It helps the dog to have different commands to help them differentiate the two. My dog walk command is "walk it," and my teeter command is "teeter." There are too many "t" words in agility, so if "see-saw" comes readily to mind for you, I suggest you use it instead. I have to go with the word I can remember under pressure.
Sit for dinner. Lacy must sit before she gets her food. This teaches her self control, and that I am the pack leader. She learns this is a positive, non-confrontational way.
Socialization. I continue to introduce Lacy to other dogs -- adult dogs with stable, confident temperaments, and puppies that I am sure have had their vaccinations. This socialization will continue throughout her life.
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