Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Puppy and a Hole

Why is it that when your dog digs a hole, no matter how far you rake around it, there is never enough sand to fill the hole back up??? I can't even begin to imagine how far the sand was flying today while Sonic dug his frenzied way to China. However I was very productive and used sand from one of his other holes dug in a less dangerous location to fill this one back up (after placing undesired leavings underneath to put him off a second attempt at it tomorrow).

Since my last blog I have spent time shaping Sonic to run through a straight and very compressed flexi tunnel and done some high level rewarding for interacting with two weave poles. It is not that I am in any rush for him to do agility equipment, I just think he needs to have new fun stuff in his life to help stimulate his brain. He is so active and into everything that introducing new challenges in a non threatening way is something that he needs. Once he figures something out there is certainly no holding him back. Although for safety reasons I do often try....I have concerns that he is going to really hurt himself getting into the back of the car as he doesn't feel that waiting until I've opened the back of the wagon or the dog cages for that matter is necessary. God forbid he should be left behind on a car ride!!!

I am currently totally engrossed in the book "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt. It's about teaching dogs of all temperaments how to relax and focus in overstimulating or stressful environments. It is pretty full on and I don't think it would have made sense to me when I first got into training dogs, but after instructing for the last few years and having issues with Riot I am finding it fascinating. I think there are many things that I will be able to use for both Riot and Sonic on an ongoing basis and I can see myself constantly referring back to it as things come up. I recommend it to anyone who does agility or teaches classes.

The book also talks about being more in tune with your dog, something I was able to put to use tonight at training. I find whenever I get Sonic out of the car for the first time when I get to training he is always way over the top and puts his head down into his collar while galloping frantically in any direction. So I started using the Pavlov philosphy ("you do what I want you get what you want") on him. Every time he checked in with me I click and treated him (when he gave me the eye contact), then immediately released him back to his environment by saying "OK" which is his release cue. I noticed that while he was dragging me along he was yawning too so I can only come to the conclusion that he becomes overwhelmed by the stimulus at training and his way of coping is to charge around and leap all over any poor unsuspecting passer by, be it dog or human. Using the Pavlov technique, by the time we got half way around the oval he had settled down considerably so he was no longer galloping, but rather walking in a relaxed posture (tail down, muscles relaxed) without pulling on the lead at all. His rate of checking in with me had also increased dramatically. I then sat down with him on the grass and let him watch what was going on around him and gave him a good massage. Then the second time I got him out of the car to do some actual training he was a different dog. He was focused, calm and totally engrossed in the activities that we did. It will certainly be interesting to see if there is an improvement in his "arrival at training" behaviour as I continue with the relaxation and focus work.

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