Puppy training update 11/20/08

I’ve been having some issues lately with Rue.  I’m not sure what’s going on with her (or maybe me), but I feel as though she hasn’t been engaging with me as much as I’d like or as much as she had been.  I started noticing this trend during our new class “Sport Foundations”.  It’s a pretty good class, but it is a lot of pressure for little Rue.  At not quite 5 months old, she’s being asked to be focused on me throughout a lot of distractions.  We’ve been doing restrained recalls in parallel with other dogs doing recalls among other things of that nature.  I think it’s a great concept and something that I wish I had been able to do with Miles, but it is a lot for her.  Don’t get me wrong she does really well, but towards the end of the class I can tell she’s ready to check out. 

Something that she’s always done is eat grass….when she’s bored, when she’s stressed, just for fun.  She doesn’t just eat grass, she pulls it out by the roots.  In giant clumps.  This is not exactly good for a nice lawn or a nice agility field!  Last class she spent a good bit of it ripping out grass.

It was suggested to me by my instructor, not the teacher of the class, that I should never work her for an hour straight.  That doing so would very quickly undo the very bond I have been working so hard at forming.  Sigh. 

So the plan became to try crating her during class to give her downtime and to work Miles during those times if needed.  Tonight was the first chance I had to try it out and it really did seem to work!  The first part of class was about 15 minutes long and was a game of “monkey in the middle”.  Three dogs and handlers were in a circle playing and the dog in the center was to work on obedience/tricks/whatever with food.  Rue did great with the playing…I’ve finally figured out how to get her really fired up even without toys!  She’s so funny when she gets going too…she sounds like a gremlin!  We had a lot of fun doing that.  When our turn came to be in the middle, she rocked there too.  Totally focused on me and did a variety of tricks.  After that we went to work on cones.  Now the cones is the area that Rue did great in last week–totally focused on the game and having fun.  Today we worked on them at home and she was less than thrilled.  The same attitude held true tonight, so I put her in her crate and took Miles out to play.  He had a blast!

Next up was teaching them to go around our legs behind our back to the other side.  We were told to do it by luring them around behind us and rewarding them on the other side.  I taught this to Miles as an obedience “finish” where he moved from a “front” to a sit in heel position.  I’m not sure if I’m going to do the same with Rue or not and so I kind of fooled around with it in class, but was just having fun.  I’m not big on the luring thing with her, but I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, so we just did a few and then played before crating her again.

She was very into our next exercise which consisted of walkng through a plastic ladder on the ground and eventually a mini agility “course” of walking on different surfaces (plastic, wood, and cardboard) and then through the ladder.  Rue LOVES to walk on things, so that was easy and fun for us.  Then back to her crate she went.

The last exercise we did was to have them drive to a loaded target.  I haven’t done too much target work with her because I’m not sure how much I’m going to use targeting.  I did shape her to nose touch a target, however, just in case.  What I wanted to see with this exercise was if I could get her fired up enough to run to it.  This is another thing I’m having issues with–getting her fired up about something.  She’s so serious all the time when we are working.  I was able to get a few good ones in by restraining her by her collar and saying “ready ready readyyyyyyyy” and then releasing her to the target with a “GO!”.  I will need to work on this more. 

So in summary, the things I learned from last night are:
1.  She needs to be crated even if just for two minutes in between exercises so she can recharge.
2.  I can get her fired up by crouching down at her and grabbing at her feet and saying “haha…I’m gonna getcha!” until I annoy her enough that she starts becoming a crazed gremlin-like puppy.
3.  She gets frustrated quickly if she doesn’t understand what I want.
4.  It appears that dogs and other things in the enviroment are more exciting than me and I don’t know what really jazzes her up yet.
5.  She’s a very different dog from Miles, which isn’t a bad thing it just makes me work more 😉
6.  I need a plan.

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