2-minute dog trainer – 2011 goals

A huge (though temporary) disappointment for me was the bit of confusion over whether I’d actually be given the day off on September 25, the Saturday of a local obedience trial where I had hoped to get 2 more RAE legs for Dash (who is 10-1/2 years old), and where I planned to debut Tempest (at 6 months) in his novice rally introduction.

I had requested the weekend off but, as a new employee, I was confused and discouraged when I saw the work schedule listing me working that weekend.

I drove home engaged in an angry rant. By the next morning, however, I had decided to take the long view with my little boy, keep training, and look toward spring and brighter days. I’m going to invest the money I’d have paid for the trial in Tempest’s neuter surgery and heartworm / flea prevention meds.

In the big picture, and considering the current dismal economic picture, we’re fortunate to be seeing healthy growth in our training center, to have affordable health insurance, and to have two lovely new puppies in addition to our great pack of dogs.

So Tempest continues with heeling training with his breakfast. Now, because there’s no rush to get an extended heeling pattern from him, I’ve made his training more granular, breaking it down even more, letting him make more choices.

This week we’re working on “find heel.”  I really want him to eagerly whirl into heel position. The obedience teams which capture my attention most are those where the dog is really throwing itself into the performance. That’s the type of partner my dear, departed Banner was, and I’d love to have that back in Tempest.

I take Tempest’s food bowl away from the rest of the pack (all gobbling down their meal), set the bowl on a high table, and Tempest quickly volunteers heel position.

“Yes!” is my response for the first heel position, but no food yet.

I take either:  1) a short step forward,  2) a right pivot,   3) a left pivot,  or  4) a long step forward.

If Tempest sticks with me he gets a “Yes!” and his breakfast.

If Tempest fails to stick with me he gets a “Let’s try again!” and we repeat the exercise. His focus and desire to do work while blocking out distraction are superior to any dog I’ve had before, so I don’t want to spoil that by setting my criteria too low or allowing him to believe that sub-standard performance is “good enough.”

The best thing about a working stockdog puppy is that I don’t have to spend 50% of my training efforts building confidence and drive.

I do, however, have the responsibility of maintaining criteria. If I waver in my visualization of the correct performance, if I make Tempest question the proper behavior, my training will be set back.

Clarity of vision, and a resolve to “do it right or don’t do it at all” are my best tools with Tempest right now.

It has long been my belief that dogs make errors in performance (obed, rally, agility, whatever) because of ill-timed or inconsistent rewards in their training.

Ill-timed rewards make the dog wonder “what was it that earned the reward?”

Inconsistent rewards make the dog wonder “does she like what I offered or not?”

Clarity — consistency — constancy — these three tools will get Tempest and I to success in our journey.

It doesn’t matter whether we debut at 6 months or 14 months. It doesn’t matter whether his debut is in rally or agility. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether his debut is with me handling, or with Bud handling.

My joy is in the journey. My joy comes pouring back to me from Tempest’s eyes. His enjoyment of the process and growing adoration of me is a sustaining constant in the turmoil of these busy (and occasionally obnoxious) days.

My puppy is my joy now.  Bud’s pleasure over Tempest’s personality is my joy now.

All the rest will pass.

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One Response to “2-minute dog trainer – 2011 goals”

  1. Laurie Says:

    That’s what it really comes down to with these guys – joy. Wilbur can’t hear a lick and sleeps a lot these days, but the joy is still there when he sees me pick up his leash or point at a favorite toy or open the magic cupboard where the cookies are kept or see one of his buddies coming down the street. And his joy is my joy.

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