2-minute dog trainer, Tempest’s contacts and heeling

Using my 2-minute dog training principals (no drilling the puppy, no positive punishment, no harsh corrections for incorrect performance, no lengthy training sessions) I’ve been cross-training Tempest, now 14 weeks old.

His legs are getting longer, his body is looking less like a sausage and more like a border collie, and this past weekend his ears pricked. So much for the reverse fold. <g>

Breakfast and supper find us at the contact trainer Bud assembled for us in the basement. Our dogs all eat together, loose if at all possible, and some of them finish their meal before Tempest is done with his training.

He has, on a couple of occasions, given the other dogs a growl or snap when they approach his meal. A bit of resource guarding isn’t a huge problem if it keeps him from getting his meal stolen, but I don’t want him to take it too far. So I ask him to continue working for his food and, if at all possible, ignore the circling wolves. And I continually lay claim to his food, helping him understand that it’s all mine.

I started Tempest’s contact training by laying down his food at the base of the trainer, taking him gradually higher and higher on the ramp, and allowing him to drive down the ramp to his bowl. It was placed about 3-4 inches from the ramp, encouraging him to place his front feet on either side of the bowl while his rear feet remained on the ramp. He’d do 2-3 of these descents per meal.

After about a week of this I decided to see what Tempest would do if I simply stood next to the contact trainer with his meal and a clicker.

He threw everything he had at me — and I was surprised to see just how many behaviors he knows will earn reward.

Sit.  Down.  Sit.  Down with his front feet on the board.  Climb up the ramp.  Turn around and sit on the ramp. Hop off and come front. Another down. FINALLY he climbed up the ramp, turned and sat at the bottom of the ramp, and stared at me.

When I did nothing, he carefully stepped off the end of the ramp with his front feet.  CLICK !!!   FOOD !!!

Within 2 days he was quickly assuming “the position where all good things happen.” All on his own, no verbal cue, no luring, no prompting, no physical steadying. Bingo.

We’ll continue feeding breakfast and dinner for this fine behavior, since this conditioning becomes so very important when our agility dogs get their “kowabunga” moment.

For lunch, and on occasion when I take him to the training building, we’re beginning to work on heeling.

My dear friend, Gwenn Clow, presented me with my very own copy of Dawn Jecs “Choose To Heel,” when she read my blog regarding my version of Dawn’s work.

With Tempest, I carry my clicker in my right hand, a few treats in my left hand, and take off walking with my focus down on the floor to the left of my left leg.

As soon as he attempts to move up for a treat I click the moment he arrives in heel and pop a treat in his mouth.

Yesterday, after practicing this skill on 2-3 occasions, he seemed focused and purposeful in his movement beside me. He was pacing himself, glancing at me periodically, and keeping up with whatever speed and direction I assumed.

Every 10-12 feet, however, he would purposely tuck in closer to my leg, earning “Click! – YES !! – treat.”

My goal for Tempest is to get him in the novice rally ring when he’s 6 months old.

I’ve had a number of dogs experience ring stress and I want to head that off with Tempest. I train in my own “backyard,” so to speak, and am not welcome to join classes at the nearby obedience training club because they’re concerned I’ll steal their students I suppose, so it’s going to be important that Tempest get ring time anytime and anywhere I can arrange it.

When he travels with me to trials where matches are offered, he’ll partake. When possible, we’ll practice on the trial grounds, or alongside ring gating when classes aren’t going on.

My poor Dash has few coping mechanisms when he finds himself in stressful situations, but Tempest is going to have as many advantages as I can give him.

And I figure he’ll have better tools for dealing with stress in agility if he starts with obedience (stress-central <g>).

Besides, he can’t show in agility until he’s 15-18 months old, but novice rally is available to him at 6 months, is all on lead, and is just a couple of minutes of choreographed dancing with my puppy.

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