Wednesday, November 30, 2005

First Bitework

First Bitework is way more fun than First Heat. :-)

Last night Laev went to Schutzhund and was WAY too distracted to work on obedience. I should have known better; we were working inside the barn because of the cold, with multiple dogs and the Salamander running, and it was loud and stinky and busy and she just couldn't focus on me.

After a while I got smart and went outside, where she was able to give me much better attention, and we did a tiny bit of heelwork.

Then we started bitework, and Laev came into her first non-infant bitework session looking around like she expected something to happen, though of course she'd had no experience previously. The helper came out of the blind with a rag and stick and she LIT UP with excitement. She was all over that. The helper gave me a surprised look as she crammed the rag into her mouth with a massive deep bite: "You've been doing biting."

Nope, just playing with me at home. No bitework on anybody else.

"Then your play was perfect," he said later, a rare compliment.

"It's such a good genetic package I haven't been able to screw it up yet," I answered.

He swapped to a rope, to test her bite on something harder. No sweat. He swapped to the puppy sleeve.

OH, YEAH. Laev thought she'd gone to Puppy Heaven. This is a BIG prize to win! Super-awesome-cool-can we do it some more!

A couple of bites and outs, and then she carried the sleeve to the car. Problem: I can't get the harness off her while the sleeve is still visible, because she is crazy-frantic to reach it again. I finally have to chuck the sleeve behind the car so I can strip and kennel her. Sheesh.

And I little later we did it all again. This time I asked for a sit and eye contact before we entered the barn. I want that intensity and enthusiasm, yes! but I also want her to know that this is a joy to be earned, and that I'm still an integral part of this process. Laev is already very accustomed to trading me behavior for what she wants, so there's no compulsion here to quash her; she just had a little extra time and wriggling in the sitting behavior (it's hard to sit and bounce at the same time!) and then gave me nice eye contact. I immediately marked with a "yes!" and we ran for the barn. As she gets more mature and more understanding of the game, the price of admission will increase, but I think this is far kinder than waiting a year and then trying to compel her to control herself when she's already learned to kick herself into hyperdrive.

She garnered several compliments last night on her intensity and her full, deep bites. She looks like she's trying to gag herself on the sleeve!

Monday, November 28, 2005

First Heat :-(

Laev is in heat. While I'm glad it held off this long, I'd rather avoid it entirely! Ah, well.

Little posting lately, because I've been involved elsewhere. But we're still training....

Some really nice heelwork on Saturday, rewarded with the tug toy; I sure wish I had video of that! We need to go places and do it with more distractions.

Today I wanted to track in the rain, just for the experience, but the rain actually stopped when we reached the park (now would that have happened if I'd wanted to track dry?). Still, Laev did her best corner in weeks on today's L-shaped track. We've started article work, but it hasn't clicked in her mind yet.

And I'm spending some time with Shakespeare, who will be playing Sandy again in a local production of "Annie" for Christmas. Fun!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Laev Has a New Trick!

Man, nothing like a really good training conference to make one feel like a slacker.

My first day at ClickerExpo, I met a 10-month spaniel puppy who knew 60 cues. Sheesh, I thought. Laev's nearly that old, and I don't have any idea how many cues she knows, but I don't think it's 60.

(I got a little ego boost, though, when a number of people who shouldn't know me from Adam's off ox recognized Shakespeare from the very first ClickerExpo in 2003 -- "oh, didn't he win some shaping award?" (it was the Clicker Challenge competition) -- and when Kathy Sdao, one of my favorite trainers, recognized me in the hallway. So maybe the older dog and I have done a few things after all.)

So I decided to start shaping some new things. I'm trying to do more shaping, to work her brain a little harder, whereas before I'd done a lot of luring to help her be correct right from the beginning. No more help! You're a big dog now, you can think for yourself.

This week we started shaping article indication, which isn't too bad for being less than 48 hours old :-) but obviously still needs some work. We also played a "find heel" game in which she has to come back to heel position (just standing) for her next click and a thrown treat.

And today we shaped a new behavior and have already put it on cue. At "Strike a pose," Laev will go to the overturned cooler and stand dramatically with her front paws on it and her head high and alert, looking much like Lassie might if Lassie were a natural-eared gawky young Doberman with a tail.

Just to prove we had it on cue, I finished the session by mixing up sits, downs, and poses randomly. She never misses a down, ever, and she was pretty solid on the Strike a Pose, but she seemed to have totally forgotten what a sit was! Goofy puppy. We got everything right a couple times in a row and then I gave her the rest of her meal in her crate, where she promptly crashed and has not stirred yet.

Oh, yeah, another thing I love about shaping -- it wears a dog out more than physical exercise!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Puppy Agility Class

I've started Laev in a Beginning Agility class for dogs 6 months and up; I think she may be the youngest there. There are a lot of adolescent dogs there, and a few show dogs who are exploring a new sport. It's a nice mixture of doggie people and the pet-owning public.

Laev is a little ahead of the other dogs, because she's seen some equipment before (we played on some at 10-14 weeks and then quit). So she remembers that tunnels, for example, are really fun, while the other dogs have mostly not seen a tunnel before. Hence we have scenarios like the following:

We're approaching for a second or third repetition of a full-length tunnel, having graduated out to that size. The dog before us needs three tries to go through the tunnel to reach the treat he already knows is at the end. If this dog were in my beginning agility class, I'd say he was doing fine for a newbie; this is a completely new experience for him.

Then it's our turn. I am holding Laev's harness directly as she approaches the tunnel on hind legs only. A few feet out I drop her and gasp, "Tunnel!" as she launches. I immediately wing her tug toy to the far end, as I know I don't have a prayer of beating her down there -- blasted straight tunnels! She brings me the toy and we play.

She was kind of a klutz on the boards last night, though; she hasn't done narrow ramps since she was a tiny little thing, and at eight months she doesn't really have a clue where her butt is. ("Mom! It changes daily!") She can do a ladder decently well, but she saw no point in walking a flat board at all. ("The floor's right there. Why not?") An angled board down was easier, and an angled board up was a puppy highway. So I think she'll be okay.

I told my husband that I was quite proud of Laev's "can-do" attitude, that I anticipated she would do well. But, I said, that dog ahead of us, who needed more time? He's probably a really awesome pet, a great snuggler, a perfect companion with whom to watch a movie at night. Laev is not; when we sit down to watch some anime or a movie, I give her a stuffed Kong for a while and then crate her so she doesn't practice horrible couch-mauling habits. So there are always trade-offs.