It snowed here again last night, spring is slow in coming to northern Wisconsin and it makes it harder to do things outside in a non-muddy, non-cold, wet way. Obe the Dobie is now 7-months and 1-week old, looking more and more mature, but still mostly the puppy. He’s big and we need space, space is outside.
Biking with Obe – I started him on this several weeks ago, but the weather in between hasn’t been very nice so yesterday we had a warmer day, dry road and off we went. He has the concept of running beside the bike, but he can be easily distracted…by sticks (he really likes sticks) and kids and water in the ditches…so I needed to be very vigilant and prompt him about continuing to run parallel to the bike. We went about 1.5 miles, some of it quite fast – 15 mph – he was the one rating the speed, he was liking going fast with me. Especially when first teaching this I want to make sure and stop if I think the dog needs to go #2, and not drag them at any time (sometimes they’re really abrupt about it). I also stop midway at a stream to check to see if they want a drink. When we were done he seemed to want to do more, which is just right.
Retrieving games – outside, two item fetch. He’s not very thrilled by tennis balls, he likes larger balls, plastic bumpers, cloth flying discs and sticks. At this stage I’m tossing an item and once he picks it up I start running the other way, and once he’s pretty close I show him the other same item so he drops the first one and I toss the second. Usually I don’t need to run away in between any more, but if his interest lags I add running, then stop the game on a good retrieve. Inside he’s more focused and I don’t need multiple items to keep the game going. Inside I’m trading, so we’ll play with one thing then I’ll go to playing with a different thing. What I want is him to willingly change over to whatever I show we’re playing with.
Finding games while walking on a flexi leash outside (we’re playing in the road as it’s the dry-est place to play)- we’re playing find a stick, pick up a tennis ball, play tug, catch, hand target, come. Instead of letting him just sniff the ground for random interests and instead of constantly working on heeling in the zone, we change it up a lot. The most recent addition to leash games is sit/wait then I toss one piece of dog kibble and send him to find it, he does and comes back to me then I send him the other way to find one. This can be fast…if the sit/wait is omitted or more controlled without it. He likes this game and it has improved his ability to track a small target and he’s much better at searching when he loses it. Inside I sit on the floor (no leash), legs V so he jumps my legs to cross over to find the kibble, then back the other way…an inside leg cavalletti game.
Place games – I continue to hand feed all his meals (I do put some in a dogdish every once in a while and add to it while he’s eating to make sure there is no dish guarding and I’m also putting the kibble container more and more accessible, so he practices ignoring it). A big part of the hand feeding is place games, come here or go there and sit or lie down, wait or get in or come out with me in different postures…standing, sitting in chair or on floor. This morning I saw that he was worried about a floor heater vent so that’s the place we played around until he decided it was nothing to worry about (he’s at an age where fears are common). The other game we’ve played is to have him offer to lie on his side instead of so upright. Today he ended up offering a roll over in his enthusiasm to lie on his side…oops. Since the enthusiasm was so high, I slowed the game down.
Toy games – he really likes plush toys and wants to keep them and if I gave him enough time he would tear them up. It’s hard to get him to trade for lesser liked items, so we’re trading for food and for similar plush items. When he plays with plush toys I keep the self-play fairly brief, I want him to interact, not just play. And since I don’t really want to encourage toy destruction the play ends before that part of the cycle, but I trade so he is happy to do something else and not thinking he must keep the toy.
Problems? 1) We’re still being very careful about not rewarding any noise with attention or release from the crate, still getting brief complaints from him when everyone else but him gets to go outside. 2) He’s still in a chew cycle, so if he had long-term access to anything plush he’d rip it up. 3) Dog on dog, he’s a bit inquisitive and silly so I keep him under leash control in any tight situations (like doorways, hallways). As long as he doesn’t start thinking he needs to do more or be more aggressive the inquisitive/puppy-ness will fade given time.
He’s doing great! Very nice focus and attention and willingness. We’ll keep on moving on new things, more duration and more distance.
FYI I was reading a ‘dominance’ based dog training site and it was talking about the need to always lead and to do daily walks in a certain way where the dog was always behind. You maybe, have noticed I don’t worry about that – I do work with quite a few aggressive dogs and Obe, with the situation he had been in may have rolled into that direction.
Basically the issue is getting the dog to work with you and want to work with you. If you want to always go through doorways and be first, you can. I like dogs sitting before being released outside. The more important problem is the dog indicating that they don’t want to do what you would like to do and that they believe they don’t have to either. The force-type training would then be to make them. How do feel when someone makes you do something?
All my play is geared toward getting the dog to make the choice to do what I would like and to understand that the choice not to do it doesn’t get them good stuff, it gets them nothing. My job as a trainer is to make them very likely to be successful. Choice success creates drive and desire, so I use choice, trades, benefits to cause/effect that they can manipulate to both of our advantage. And it’s amazingly effective and fast.