2-minute dog trainer, toys-for-work continues

Tempest’s enjoyment of toys and tugging overrides all his foundation training, so I’m minimizing the use of toys in his training for now.

At 9 months of age he’s at that fractious age where he needs consistency from me, and a reminder of his early lessons.

He’s got tons of drive and really enjoys working, so there’s a temptation to do more, and more, and more. But I remind myself that his body is still growing and maturing, and now is a good time to revisit all the basic stuff.

Our agility lessons in the building are mostly performed for string cheese. Tempest is coming together nicely for 4-5 obstacles in a sequence.

He can remember his foundation training for the 15 seconds required to finish that small sequence. Then his head explodes. <g>

His 2-minute-dog-training at breakfast and dinner focuses on two key elements:

1)  foundation skills, including sit, down, stay — Tempest has a lovely sit (a little slow) and stay (a little “iffy”), but his “lie down” had begun to deteriorate the most because I wasn’t using it over much.

His new mealtime routine began with an up-close lie down. I held his food bowl in my right hand, laid my left hand gently on his withers, and immediately fed him for lying down.

At first Tempest wanted to jump back up when the bowl of food came in, but I gradually convinced him that continuing to lie down led to continued eating. If he hopped up I’d remove the food bowl.

I didn’t tell him stay, necessarily. It’s an assumed stay — that is, “if I tell you to lie down I want you to lie down until I tell you something else.”

As usual, Tempest was a clever student who loves his chow, so it only took about 3 days for him to slam immediately into a down at the words “lie down,” and staying in a down while he eats.

By the way, he quickly began anticipating my verbal cue, so I’d have to return to him and get him into a sit or stand. I want “lie down” to be an action cue — it means to move immediately into a down and wait for further instructions.

2) foundation skills, building distance — I asked Tempest to lie down from 6 inches away, from 1 foot away, and — most recently — from 6-8 feet away.

If he offers the lie down before I can cue it, I return to him and put him in a sit or stand again.

3) foundation skills, building distraction — another issue Tempest faces is being distracted by our other dogs eating while he’s working.

Sometimes I put the other dogs’ food bowls down and have Tempest practice his sit/stays in the midst of all that gobbling.

I set him up on the edge of the eating dogs, have him sit, tell him “stay,” and walk through the gobbling dogs to the far edge of the eating activity.

He has to sit and stay for a few seconds with all that distraction going on between us. If he gets up I simply walk back, put him back in his proper place, and return to the far side of the activity.

4) foundation skills, building duration — while Tempest is working on impulse control around distraction, and a little bit of distance, I will not build duration for the skill.

That is, I may ask him to sit/stay around the distraction of the dogs eating, or I may ask him to “lie down” from 8 feet away, but I won’t ask him to hold any position for more than a second or two.

There’s time to build duration later. Right now I want instant response and perfect clarity on his part.

Tempest’s other 9-month-old issues include some pottying issues. 

He’s become a poop-eater, so I try to pick up feces as soon as possible.  Additionally, he’s found one place in the yard he likes to toilet and he puts pile on top of pile if given the chance.

With horses, I believe they call these “stallion piles” and it’s the horse’s way of designating territory. Tempest’s pile is at a point along the fence where rabbits and other critters come through the fence. Interesting ……

When time and weather permit I’m going to return to the exploding pinwheel to increase his obstacle focus and help him understand he should gather before and after jumping.

In the meantime, he loves to work, loves food, loves toys, loves me, and is everything I’d hoped for in a puppy!

In other news, Bud has a judging assignment this weekend in Indianapolis and will be coming home with a trailer load of TDAA work. We’re creating our advisory committee and preparing the “member guest suite” for TDAA members wanting to come play with their dogs and work for TDAA.

We’re going to ask the clubs who are currently showing interest in hosting the 2011 Petit Prix to find ways to cut costs.

I’m really serious about having TDAA “go green,” and want to reduce our carbon footprint considerably.

For example, TDAA has numerous electronic filing systems, yet all the paper records for 10 years have been saved as well.

We’re looking at creating electronic membership forms, dog registration forms, height cards, host club applications, trial applications, etc. Ensuring access to the records — making sure nothing gets lost — will be job #1 over the next weeks.

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