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!