2-Minute Dog Trainer, Tempest @ 15 wks

Learning is stepping up now that Tempest is fairly solid on the basics:

1) coming when called

2) responding to his name with eye contact

3) walking on a loose leash

4) pottying on cue and outside

5) greeting people by sitting

6) sitting to ask permission to exit crates and pens

7) allowing handling of ears, paws, eyes, teeth, etc., plus bathing and toenail trimming

eight) greeting other dogs with a non-challenging glance, and leaving them alone unless given permission to do a more detailed greeting

My early efforts were all focused on getting these behaviors solidified, while introducing some more advanced obedience and agility concepts, including:

1) 2-on-2-off contact performance, which Tempest has generalized to footstools and milk crates as well as contact trainers.

2) heeling, with just a couple of sessions because I don’t want to stress his body with a bunch of “heads up” heeling

3) fronts, mostly while I eat my cereal, with Tempest in a nice tucked sit with his head nestled in my legs

4) self-control, doing a “lie down” and breaking off from his whip toy, then getting to play some more (aka “drop on recall)

5) a play retrieve, learning that everytime he brings the toy back to me it will be tossed again

6) a formal retrieve, using Sue Sternberg’s inducive retrieve

This past weekend Tempest had his first trial weekend.  He traveled with Dash and I to Dayton for a 3-day obedience and rally event (Fri Rally only, Sat Obed and Rally, Sun Obed only). We stayed in a terrific Red Roof Inn just south of Dayton, with a quiet parking lot, restaurants in walking distance, and plenty of grass.

Several of Tempest’s learned behaviors made the weekend more pleasant, and I’m always surprised that people don’t take the time to teach these easy tricks.

First, Tempest learned from day one that first thing in the morning we pee and then we immediately poop before going back inside for something to eat.

This little trick makes life incredibly easier on his person, who has more than enough chores to do between waking and taking off for the trial site. The training for it involves little more than patience when the puppy is really young — having a set phrase you use consistently, and patiently waiting for the littlest of puppies to perform their duties before running happily back to the room for breakfast.

Wow, how great was it to be able to finish this chore in just a few minutes.  We then were able to return to the room, feed the dogs, go get coffee, and start our personal preparations.

Second, Tempest is learning to jump up into his crate in the truck. At his size he can’t quite make it all the way, but I want him to have a response when I open the crate door and tap on the bumper.

Learning to jump into the crate enables the dog to pick his own footsteps into the crate, to enjoy the very first step of traveling with mom, and takes a lot of heavy lifting off my back.

With the right bumper configuration (on my Tahoe I have 2 levels of bumper and a third level into the crating area) even little Hazard (our 10″ sheltie) can jump up and get into a crate without being man-handled.

Third, and on the same lines, Tempest is learning all about jumping.  He learned to jump onto the bed at home using the ottoman as an intermediate level, but the motel beds were at a convenient height for him to learn the power of his rear legs for lifting. Within a few seconds of his initial attempt to hop onto the bed, Tempest gave a bit more effort and was rewarded with petting and attention.

In addition to jumping up onto the bed, of course, Tempest began his formal broad jump work by jumping from bed-to-bed. I imagine this is incredibly common amongst dog-owners who stay in motel rooms with 2 beds. <g>

Fourth, I want Tempest to have a focused response to my movement. His job is to assume a path parallel to me.  I will not accept biting, nipping, diving in towards my legs, or barking. I do not want Tempest to move into inappropriate herding behavior, just because he sees movement.

I created a protocol in 1999 to teach Banner how to do agility without barking or biting.  I called it “My Dog Bites Me,” and it’s been incredibly useful to  a) help people see that biting is BAD in dog agility (the hardest part of the training), and  2) help the dog see that agility continues if they’re silent and moving parallel, and that agility stops if they’re barking, biting, or diving in towards their handler.

The key to this training is a timely and consistent response to the behaviors we wish to extinquish — all attention is removed from the dog, handler stops moving, turns back on dog, walks placidly to the beginning of the sequence.

Another important element of this trainin is to incrementally build from one obstacle done silently, to two obstacles done silently, then three – four – five – etc.

The most common mistakes include:

A) Allowing even a small nip, whine, yip — all precursers of bites, barks, and screaming.  If we allow the precurser we create confusion in the mind of the dog. The early stages of negative behavior are allowed while the latter stages are not allowed?  That’s way too complex for people, let alone dogs.  I want my dog to know I expect SILENCE and FOCUS ON THE WORK.

B) Building sequences that are too long too fast and too early in the dog’s training. If a puppy isn’t showing signs of nipping, barking, biting, etc., then sequencing takes a normal path. For the biter or barker, however, we have to place tons of little rewards and positive responses to silence and focus.

Instead of building from one obstacle to 5 obstacles in six tries, it may take 20 tries. It may take 30 tries. The more Tempest gets to do one or two obstacles, with a treat or a toy as a reward for silent focus, the better his foundation will be in this behavior.

If the handler moves too quickly to 5 or 6 obstacles, and the puppy gets over-stimulated, the more likely the negative behavior will emerge.

In other news, Dash earned his first two RAE double Qs (he needs eight more for his RAE)  AND  he earned his last Novice B obedience leg to earn his CD in an incredibly stressed performance yesterday.

On Saturday Dash was in the ring for his Excellent B rally performance. While he was working folks were tearing down their metal crates, folding chairs, and generally spooking him. (Dash’s early training with his moronic first owner made him sensitive to any sudden noise.)

As Dash was setting up for his honor performance the trial secretary turned on the PA system, causing a loud cracking noise, making everyone in the room jump and yelp, and spooking the crap out of Dash.

Then the nice leash runner attempted to place the next dog’s leash on the ring gating near the honor position and tripped, falling foward and nearly knocking the ring gating over into Dash and I.

Lastly, and perhaps most unfortunately, the dog we were honoring was large, slow, and — instead of taking a normal 1.5 to 1.75 minutes — must have run 2.5 to 3 minutes.

It was all too much for Dash and he stood up about 2 minutes into his honor sit, losing 20 points or so for that.

His stress from Saturday’s disaster carried over to Sunday morning in the same ring. His last novice B obedience leg was probably a gift, though he did manage to do his sits and downs even though the dog next to him jumped up and ran directly in front of Dash to head towards a back door in the building.

I’m thankful to be done with Novice, with all that on-lead heeling, and have moved him to Open A for our trial at the end of July. Less heeling (which Dash hates and where all his stress shows up) and more fun stuff, like retrieves, drop on recall, and jumping !!!   YAY !!!   Our big challenge will be the out-of-sight sits …

In the meantime, he’s now   ARCH Slydrock’s Dash For Cash CD RE AX AXJ … and my best prospect for a CDX.

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