a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Boost's Training

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Boost's Training

We had our first puppy class today for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend. Boy, do we need work!

Coming when called

Ha! When we arrived, Boost was completely overwhelmed with excitement about seeing other dogs, particularly her siblings (two were there, Derby and Kayla (oops--it's Caena; I keep hearing "Kayla".). She acted as if we'd never practiced walking on a loose lead. And, even at the end of the day after getting used to being there and working solidly for an hour, when we released the puppies together briefly, she was more interested in active dogs than in me. Derby's really good about coming when called. Caena didn't always come directly, but at least on hearing her name she turned her head and looked at her dad and weighed her options. Boost? Nada. Not a clue that she was even aware that her name was being called or that I existed in the universe. I might need some extra help on this one because I'm not quite sure where to go.

I've been trying to work through it at home. If the other dogs aren't playing with their toys, she's fine to work with me. But if she thinks that there's a chance that the other dogs might be chasing a toy, she loses all interest in me plus toy. I've been trying to work through it by letting Jake have a toy, which he'll drop at my feet. Boost drops toy and goes into cicling mode. I keep at her until she's back on her toy again. She's getting marginally better as long as I completely ignore Jake. But let's say she and I are actively tug of warring. I subtly stick one foot out to the side and touch--just touch---Jake's toy: Wham, she's off.

Weaving poles

The challenge is on! We've been working on 2-pole entries, but her brother decided to learn weave poles last week and badda bing, badda boom, he demonstrated very nice complete, fast weaves in class today. We haven't officially started them in class at all. OK, dammit, if Tammy can teach Derby weaves in a week, I can teach Boost weaves in a week. She used the hand-in-the-collar method, which is what I did with Tika. We did our first session late this afternoon with just 3 poles, and I've been having her drive so much through those first two poles that it was a real physical challenge to me to direct her just through that first turn into the 3rd pole, but we finally did it about 3 times with her on each side of my body. She's REALLY pushing, though, which is great.

But it's agony on my right shoulder, which is still completely messed up from Mulch Moving. I've been NSAIDing twice daily, icing it a couple of times a day, doing some simple exercises from the last time I messed it up, trying not to do too much tugging or throwing with that arm, but I'm still waking up in pain in the night, even after a 3-day break at Disneyland with no dogs (Linda and Paul just *wouldn't* play tug-of-war with me).

Lisa says she's going to start the whole class on weaves next week. Great. So now I *have* to teach them to Boost in a week so we can look like experts. :-)


Boost didn't do too badly here at all. I was actually able to walk away from her, walk around the other dogs also in sit-stays; Lisa and others walked by her a few short feet away (but didn't say anything or look/interact directly), and although she lay down a couple of times, and although she wagged her tail and thought really hard about it a couple of times, she did beautifully. I was pleased. But I know I'd still lose her if someone else walked up to her. Need to practice. Dang.

Hands-on control

This is simply holding dog at side, them relaxed and completely in your control. We practice this often, and she did fine. we've practiced moving her from sit to stand and back again in this position, but almost never into down (it's just a bit harder physically for me), so we tried it today and she was completely compliant. Another success.

Moving sit or down

This is where the dog is walking at your side and you give the command without stopping and the dog should immediately obey. Boost and I practice the "down" version a lot, in particular because it's useful for the Table in USDAA and also a handy way to get the dog to wait a bit while I attend to something else. We can even do it at a trot. But we hardly ever do a moving sit. (It's needed for AKC Table, but I don't know whether I'll ever do that.) We tried it; first time she hesitated and started to sit and then didn't. Next few times she was doing it if I was slow enough, and stayed there as I kept moving. But we're still ahead of several of the dogs in class.

And she was just great on her moving down. See what I can do when I actually practice? Huh.

Nose touch

Argh, Lisa pointed out that she's still scooping at it with her nose when it should be a solid plonk. Same problem we've always been having,a nd I've been working so hard at feeding exactly right on top of the target. Lisa suggested moving the target in closer to her feet, and also (since we usually get a good plonk on the first touch but not subsequent ones) just taking the first one and rewarding enthusiastically rather than trying for repeats for a while, or try maybe one repeat and break off immediately if it's not good.

Also need to work on remembering that, when we're finished with it each time, to use release word and to have her drive out to her toy rather than handing it to her.

The Bang Game

Don't know whether this originated with Susan Garrett or elsewhere, but it was at a Susan Garrett seminar 3 or 4 years ago that I first encountered this. Basically you start with the end of the teeter slightly elevated so that when the dog leaps onto it, it bangs to the ground. Goal is to have dog leap onto it and drive to end, enjoying making it bang as hard as possible (and not be spooked by it). We haven't really done this (thought I had started this months ago, but if so I sure didn't continue it. So much to do!) and so it took her a few tries to think about getting onto the board. First she jumped over it to see what was going on elsewhere, then got a foot or two on, etc.

I need to remember to stand still and let her decide to do it; feed slightely ahead of her to direct her towards the end; remove hand immediately so I'm not luring and see whether she'll move further towards the end.


Derby is one wild and crazy dog when Tammy starts blowing bubblestuff! He flings his whole body into the air, throwing legs in all directions. It's hysterical. He's hardly even grabbing for the bubbles any more, just loves the excuse to do aerial acrobatics. Boost didn't even seem to notice the bubbles; too interested in Darby's activity. I'll have to try it with her in the yard. Remington used to love bubbles and chase them endlessly despite sour soap-in-mouth faces, but he'd just jump straight up from hind legs, not throw his whole body around like this. Jake and Tika have never been interested in bubbles. (Oh--no, this wasn't part of class.)

BTW, Derby is almost 23", I think Tammy said! Wow and yow! I'm still hoping that Boost stays below 21 so we have the option of jumping 22" in USDAA.

Driving through turns

Lisa showed us how to use just a large bucket or orange cone or anything to get the dog to drive tightly into a turn all the way around it to chase a toy. That'll help them to do really tight, driven turns as they go over a jump and need to change direction or even wrap 180 degrees.


I haven't asked boost to come over a jump straight at me while I face her; this plus food treat for reward confused her completely for a while. The exercise was the Linda Mecklinberg trick of having your dog jump straight up and over and turn immediately between you and jump as you turn as they come over, without ticking or knocking the bar. Need to work on this.

Actually had her going over 22" jumps in class today. I just haven't done that because at home, with her driving through jumps, she keeps knocking the 16" and I didn't want her to get into that habit. But we did some 16", just single jumps, not driving through, and then up to 22", and she didn't even blink. So I guess I can do more of that.

Is that it?

It was actually a lot for an hour. I think there's still more but I'm blanking and of course didn't write it down *during* class. Maybe I'll think of it tonight.

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