Training Obie – he’s back and he’s almost 2

OK so six months is a long time for a dog visit. It entails many permanent solutions, it isn’t a weekend, but it also isn’t a lifetime. And most people would consider Obie extremely well-trained, he knows a lot, he’s social, has a good sense of humor, fun to pet and interact with, but … and here’s where I need to be careful since when a dog trainer/mom says negative things about a dog sometimes the judgements get too strong, but here it is, the list – that I’m working on to resolve during this 6 months.

  • Recall (come is not good enough) – should be one call then speed.
  • Duration on most cues not long enough and he needs to wait for permission to break a control position for which he has been asked – note if he sits or downs by himself and is not rewarded by anyone he is totally free to change position – it’s just not so if the position was requested.
  • Tug needs better gripping and more rear-end weight (he’s too much up in the air and using his front end). In fact all rewards need better appreciation and involvement by Obie – rewards need to be considered a good surprise not an expectation. Tug is critical in brilliant recalls and improving the retrieve.
  • He wants to keep toys (not enough value for person compared to toy), this mucks up his retrieve which is: wait by side, release to get, fast go out, quick turn around and fast come back, to give to hand.
  • He quits too easily, if he’s frustrated with game/activity he quits – this is the real big-gy, the one that wrecks future training if not resolved. This is where small room training helps – nothing else to do in there, and shaping to reward persistence in the face of frustration.
  • He focuses on unknown dogs too much, vocalizes and bounces
  • Vocalizes when left in kennel, whines, howls, moans – this one is a major people complaint problem esp. in urban areas.
  • Shreds blankets in kennel – usually I just put something in there that’s un-shreddable – outside kennel straw or shavings.
  • Sometimes puts his feet up on people when not invited
  • Gets on furniture without invite
  • Pottying – he pees quickly when out, but waits pretty long before he defecates, this could be a problem if time is short.

OK so it’s tough love at Mom’s house for Obie, lots of prevention, management, less attention because I have 3 other dogs that also need attention, plus clients. So far the only two of these issues I haven’t started on are the furniture one and the shredding bedding in kennel – they’re just pure prevention at this point. The putting feet on people and the unknown dogs haven’t gotten much work either, but some good stuff this last week when he was my demo dog for a class.

Obie 2014, is wearing his head halter all the time when he's out of his kennel.
Obie 2014, is wearing his head halter all the time when he’s out of his kennel.

The recall, tug, and reward issues are being worked/played with all at once. Big play in a small room or on leash, quick reward when he gets part or most of it right. He likes getting the toy, so I release when he puts his weight nicely back on his rear end in the tug, but its a very brief toy win, then I re-ask for it into my hand, then we play tug again.

To upgrade his like of the game and the reward food, I act more jazzed and do a count 1-2-3 voila, magic there it is! If he doesn’t respond with awe, I play with it myself, this is acting and impressing him with my game, my toy, my treats … ‘the grass is always greener if somebody else wants it.’ It’s hide it, show it, hide it, wave it high/low, hide it, dance with it … it’s got to be good.

He’s responded with awe and seriously good tug games and a spunky look on his face when I offer regular dog food as a treat. And his value for me has gone up considerably, as it needs to to fix the list.

The duration of control cues; I’ve wanted him to have better balance and a stronger core so we’re doing lots of sit pretty (aka beg) and tall (which is stand up on hind end), goal is to get him able to balance well enough to go from a pretty to a tall and back to a pretty without touching down with his front feet. He’s gotten way better at sitting pretty, with shot gunning treats in … instead of just one the first is followed by a second then a third, then a fourth and continue as long as he holds the posture. Feet touch down, oh well, rewards end.

Then to really have understanding instead of having the treats ready, put in little breaks to reach for them while he remains sitting pretty. This change has upgraded the understanding considerably. His balance at this level is markedly improved.

Other straight up ways to improve duration are just to practice duration, dropping rewards in every once in a while. And the great game of sit for all doorways and only get up when given a release, if not the doorway just closes and waits for the sit again. It’s a consistency exercise for everyone. But gives lots of chances for practice.

He’s improving on the fundamentals, we’ll be able to expand more in the near future. Other things we’ve done is lots of bicycle/dog short run/jogs of about a 1.5 miles which have included dogs running out barking at us – he did great, swimming practice with water retrieves, on leash hikes, brief tied waiting for me as I feed horses (I’m out of sight part of the time with this), lots of daytime confinement in outside kennel (this is new for him). We’ll be moving on to following me around with him tied to my waist, visits to the agility classes, and more demo dog stuff. It’s good, we’ll get the list well in hand in 6-months time.


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