To anyone who’s never met her, go do it! I promise you will not be disappointed. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around everything that I learned this weekend, but I tell you I’m a changed woman!
Seminar Day One: Private lesson
Friday I had a 1-hour lesson with Wendy. It was supposed to be with both dogs, but we really spent the vast majority of it on Rue. Wendy has worked with at least one Gaylan’s dog before, so she kinda knew what to expect from her. Boy did she have her number! We worked mostly on ways for me to help our relationship, which is something I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. We’ve made big strides over the last couple of months, but there’s still room for improvement. Rue used to spend most of class time eating grass or trying to visit with anyone but me. Now she hardly thinks of leaving me and is very focused. However, I can’t say that she’d leave anything she was doing for a chance to hang with me.
Wendy’s assessment was that I need to add in some corrections (as opposed to the mainly positive methods I’ve been using) and also that I need to provide more consequences for things that she does or doesn’t do. Attention to name was one thing we worked on. At first Rue wanted nothing more than to eat the wood chips on the floor of the arena we were working in. After a few nose bops from Wendy’s foot she stopped the goat behavior, but still was looking for other things to do than engage with me. She had me call her name while she was distracted and, as expected, she ignored me. I then left the arena and waited. When I returned I ignored her, waited for her to get distracted and again and then said her name….she turned immediately. I of course praised her highly and Wendy said “Whoa, it ain’t that great. She just looked at you, but didn’t come over.”. Apparently I’m too nice. So I need to harden up, provide more consequences, stop using baby talk, and don’t reward her with petting as she doesn’t like the last two things at all…oops! Also no treats for doing anything within her comfort zone (ie. the house).
Poor Miles got 5 minutes of time to have Wendy watch his a-frame performance. I’ve been debating about what to do with this for a while now…really since last summer when I realized that he had dysplastic elbows (mild). He was trained with 2o/2o but I hated him slamming himself into position, so I’ve started to early release him. This has led to confusion on his part (understandable) which has caused him to perch at the top and then go uber slow down the frame. So we decided that I would do a “modified running contact” with him and just basically trace his path down with my hand and verbally reward him for hitting yellow (he would hear nothing and get no reward for missing). I think this will be best as I don’t want to go through a whole retrain on the frame because a) I don’t have a frame at home and b) I don’t want him to do this obstacle repeatedly in order to correctly retrain. We’ll see how this goes…..
Seminar Day Two: Motivational Games
For the first part of this seminar we weren’t allowed to use any toys (and no treats allowed at all for the whole time) and we had to go out in front of everyone and play with our dog. Based on how she was during the private, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. However, I crouched down and bopped her shoulder and took off runnin’. She fired right up and chased me and wrestled for a good bit, then I had to stand up grab her collar and give her two pats on the shoulder as a way of telling her the game was over. Rue read that well and went off to sniff for about 10 seconds, then came over to me and searched my eyes, sat and stared up at me. I praised that and just when Wendy was about to correct me for praising her, she remembered that it took the better part of an hour to get that behavior the day before and reportedly got goose bumps 🙂 I waited for her to get distracted again and then fired her right back up. We did 3 cycles of on/off play and then we were done. Rue NEVER looked at the crowd!
Unfortunately there were so many dogs in this group that wouldn’t engage that we spent a lot of time on them. We only got to do one more exercise which was toy play. Again we were to engage our dogs first with just us and then present the toy. Wendy showed us how to control the game and again we worked on the on/off switch. I’ve been doing a lot of this since she was a puppy, but it was great to see her engage so quickly and to tug with such intensity in this situation. What a good girl!
Seminar Day Three: Masters Handling
This was Miles’ chance to shine since he kind of got the short end of the stick during our private lesson. This was an all-day seminar so I knew we’d get plenty of time to work with Wendy.
We started with a very challenging course and she had us run it like a trial (ie. we walked on our own, ran without rewards, and got whistled off if we did something really bad). Our run was horrible….I was stressed, Miles didn’t stop on his dog walk, I was late with a front cross to the teeter and he had to readjust for me, I mishandled a 180 out of a tunnel and he back crossed me, and then I gave up at the end and didn’t handle a serpentine at all. Her report: I comment too much on negative things (I need to shut up unless I’m telling him to do something or I’m praising), I’m not allowed to fix anything ever again especially in trials, and I’m mean. (Funny she said I was too nice to Rue, ack).
We were then allowed to run the part of the course that we really messed up on, so I got to redo the teeter through the end. I was also allowed to use a tug toy to motivate him in the beginning and to reward him in the end. Miles liked his new tug toy so much that he wouldn’t let go and ended up hyperextending my right thumb. I heard two pops as this happened and felt immediate pain. My boy is building quite the track record in human injuries….lacerating my hand while tugging at Christmas, head butting Melanie and making her bite the inside of her cheek off, pulling me over ring gates and bruising my thighs, and now spraining my thumb! WTH dude?! Anyway, he was *much* happier this time and ran it perfectly…and I was nicer 🙂
We did several other sequences most of which he nailed. I still need to work on FC timing and other little things, but we’re really moving well as a team. I was very impressed that Miles stayed in his crate while not working and was very quiet! Considering he scratched his way out of the soft crate last week in class, he did amazingly well (we repaired the crate at home and he didn’t even try to escape again). Even more amazing was that the crate was under an EZ-up tent…something that in the past he would have never walked close to let alone under and certainly not go in his crate!
So all in all the weekend was a HUGE success for me and my pups. I cannot wait to meet with Wendy again. Melanie and I are going to try to get down to Tampa either this summer or this fall for more classes, yay!