Sunday, October 2, 2016

Day 12: Beach and Indoor Training

Margaret and I went to the beach first thing this morning, in a break between rain all last night and more rain today.

The beach was empty, and I kept Margaret on her long line, but she was perfect in staying close to me and coming back when I called, which allowed us to play Super-long-distance Fetch. She came zooming back and delivered the ball every time.

Margaret becomes a speck in the distance!

And comes running back, ball in mouth.

What's that weird fluffy stuff?
But then again ... who cares!

 The beach or river bank are the only places I allow Margaret allowed to dig. I interrupt every digging attempt she ever makes otherwise, because I want her to learn that digging in dirt (i.e. gardens and lawns) isn't OK.    Sand is another thing altogether, and she had a blast, doing some kind of  reverse archeological maneuver with her ball.

Back home it was time for a big breakfast, and then some focused training. Today we worked on Sit Stay and Down Stay with added distance and distraction.

Even though it was hard for her, Margaret managed to hold a Down Say while I went all the way downstairs and opened the front door.
Oh, this is hard. Do not go out without me. Please.
Really really hard. Pleeeease, don't go without me!!!
The key to teaching Stay successfully is to break it up into small steps and return to the dog every time, with a reward. If Stay ends in a recall, the dog tends to always be ready and waiting to break the Stay and run to the handler  - just what I don't want to teach when I am teaching the dog to stay put!

This method seemed to make sense to Margaret, and she progressed rapidly.  We were able to move on to other distractions, like tossing a toy over her head or in front of her while she held the Stay. She did great!

Next we practiced some more Leave It  (this is coming in very  handy when she heads for the toilet roll, among other things).

Today Margaret was able to resist a piece of chicken placed on her front paw, as she held a Down Stay. That was difficult but she succeeded with the cutest of looks on her face. She reeeeeaally wanted that chicken, but she held back, knowing that if she did, she would get it in the end.

Margaret is very intelligent - as well as independent and strong minded. It helps if she thinks it is her idea to do something. So I make sure most of our training exercises are based on her figuring out what exactly she has to do to get something she wants.

To strengthen this concept, we played a training game called 101 Things to Do With a Box. I put a box on the floor and waited for her to interact with it in some way. I used a click as a marker sound, to indicate what she was getting treated for, and rewarded her with tiny pieces of chicken.  This method of training makes it  possible to shape behavior that a dog wouldn't necessarily choose to do. By the end of one short session, Margaret learned to pick up the box and return it to me. We then moved on to a rubber dumbbell, but by then she was getting tired and wasn't very successful, so we stopped and did something else.

It's always good to mix up mental and physical exercise, so we went out for some Chuck It Fetch in the meadow, then resumed training, speeding up her basic cues Sit, Down, Stand, Leave It and Drop It, and playing Hide and Seek recalls all over the house.

After a little while, Margaret began to lose focus and bark at random sounds outside  - I figured she was just on the edge of being over-tired, so I suggested she go in her crate for a nap. Within a second or two she was fast asleep,  no doubt processing all the things she had been learning.  

Margaret had a two hour nap in her crate. She was tired for sure! But when she woke up she was raring to go, so we went outside to do some ball play (Fetch and Catch), recall training and Stay training outside in the open meadow.

Then we went to visit the chickens and practiced Leave It and Drop It when she investigated unsuitable things like chicken poop or sticks that she thought she might like to eat. 

As usual we played Choose to Heel games all the was back to the house from the chicken coop, with egg sniffing as her reward for performing Heel, Sit or Down off leash by my side.

The last lesson of the day was some leash walking in town. We parked at the Farm Store, crossed the highway, and walked all the way to the State Park. She walked nicely for the most part, but needed help to focus when we passed another dog, and a couple of people. 

When we got back to the car, she did an excellent Sit Stay on the sidewalk, while we waited to meet Julie Callow, one of the other trainers who work for City Dog Country Dog.  Julie was happy to work with Margaret's greeting training, so we went over her Say Hi routine several times. Margaret did well, because she got plenty of help to be successful. This is very hard for her, so we break it up into smaller segments and don't ask more of her than she can cope with when she is excited. That way she was able to go up to Julie, touch her hand and immediately turn back to me (for a cheese treat) several times in succession to release some of her excitement before holding a Sit Stay for petting. 

Tired after all that hard work, Margaret was happy to snooze in her crate while Julie and I had dinner. Margaret is doing very well with her crate training, both in the car and at home, and is mostly able to settle down without protest, so long as she has had some physical and mental exercise beforehand.             

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