Friday, February 17, 2006


Well, Laev got an equipment swap the other night.

She's working on hold-and-barks now at Schutzhund. This was taught traditionally by holding the dog back physically from reaching the decoy, who rewarded strong (frustrated) barking with a bite on the sleeve.

In my club, we use two chain link gate panels to create a sort of barrier between the dog and decoy, who starts some distance from the gate. Laev is released to the gates, where she barks furiously in frustration, and as she barks the helper moves closer and closer, rewarding the barks, until finally he gives her a bite over the gate. Repeat, and gradually the gate are slid apart as she's barking, and finally she's holding herself back and barking to be rewarded with a bite.

So why the equipment swap?

She's been working mostly on a harness until this point, as I didn't want her straining against a collar as she chased her toy or the sleeve. However, it's really hard to keep a dog in a harness from leaping or climbing a gate without keeping a more constant pressure on the long line, which of course negates the entire purpose of the exercise. So Laev was wearing a wide padded leather agitation collar and/or a long-link or fursaver on the dead ring. This works better than the harness, but she's not afraid to throw herself into it enthusiastically, and so once she flipped backwards as she tried to leap the gate. In addition, because she's putting a constant strain on her collars, and so strongly, we were worried about her damaging her throat and larynx.

So now Laev is wearing a padded leather agitation collar and a prong on dead rings, each with a separate long line. My club knows that I like to use the least possible coercion on a dog, so they immediately delagated the lines to me. (Previously another club member had been holding the line on the harness, leaving me free to call directions and encouragement and to catch/cradle her as necessary.)

It's my job to stand behind her and handle the lines with just enough pressure to keep her from clearing the gate and not so much that she's inhibited by the prong's pressure or feels physically restrained by the lines instead of the gates. Here's a typical repetition:

1) helper takes his place 20' or so from the far sides of the gates; Laev is scrabbling up ground cover as I hold her back about 20' or so from our side of the gates.
2) I call "Revier!" (roughly, German for "search," or the command to go find if someone is in the blind and if so, bark to hold him there) and release Laev, who sprints forward to the gates.
3) I let out the lines enough that she feels no pressure as she slides into a halt in front of the gates. If she tries to jump or climb them, though, I have to react quickly enough that she does not succeed. However, I can't just jerk her back! because that will flip her backwards, or at minimum hurt her neck. I need to give a quick unbalancing pop to bring her backward and down into a crouch. I try to use the leather collar first, but if she's really fighting, I use the dead-ring prong so she won't lean into it.
4) I continue to monitor the lines as the helper moves forward during Laev's enthusiastic barking.
5) The gates are slid slowly apart by helpful club members or conscripted spouses.
6) Laev sees an opening! She tries for a dirty bite, but is blocked by a quick, light pop on the lines.
7) The helper shuffles backward slowly, so that Laev follows him through the gates and practices holding him tight and close, barking all the while.
8) Laev crouches and gives rhythmic, staccato, insistent barks. The helper suddenly brings the sleeve up and WHAM! her mouth is stuffed full of sleeve. He gives her a good fight, and then he slips the sleeve, so that
9) I have to rush forward and catch Laev before she can take the sleeve to the ground and maul it. I wrap my arms around her, one blocking her left hip from swinging away and the other holding her jaw beneath the sleeve, as I cue her calmly and quietly to "sit."
10) Laev complies, feeling like an old hand at this well-practiced part that it means she gets to hold the prized sleeve for a minute, and I have approximately a nano-second to switch my right hand from beneath her jaw to her collar, because if I delay at all she'll begin thrashing the sleeve -- a process which is both detrimental to her calm bite and hazardous to my own shins and kneecaps.
11) Holding her collar, I stroke down her back and sides, telling her calmly how good she is and how well she's doing. Perhaps a few other people come and touch her, so that she's calm holding the sleeve and not worried about possessing it.
12) I take up the collar (not the prong) and cue "out!" Laev probably resists at first, because I won that sleeve, darn it, and you're not getting it back! but -- provided I lifted the collar no more than half an inch -- in a second or so she spits the sleeve, already barking, and I drag her backward (somehow untangling all lines from macrame to flawless as I go) to begin at #1 again.

I'm feeling a little inept at this. First, my equestrian background means that I want to give subtle little movements on the long lines rather than quick unbalancing pops, so I need practice on that. Second, I haven't discovered the secret yet of transporting myself in an efficient manner from behind the dog to cradling her, especially without tangling either of us in the two long lines.

I face another problem, as well. I just bought Laev a new fursaver, a shiny new chrome model. But I borrowed a curogan prong collar the other night (had to take out three links!) and it looked really, really good on her. Can I spring for the curogan fursaver when I buy her her own oversized (to minimize pressure) prong? It would look so nice on her dark coat. Hmm....

1 comment:

GoldenAldi said...

I would definitely spring for the curagon collar. Not only does it look classy, but it also is nickel free, and for light furred dogs, it doesn't discolor the fur around the neck.

As for the german word you use in your training: Revier! It translate into "territory"... probably meaning for the dog to "search" the property. The german word for "search" is "Such!"