The angel corgi and the naughty toller

I'll start with the good dog. Lance went to another rally run through today where he did quite well. The only crappy part was right at the start, where Lance did not know how to be called to front. Usually Lance loves being called to front while we are heeling and I can count on it getting his attention back on to me even when he's very distracted. But today Lance sat so crooked that not one part of his body was in front of me! But the rest of the course Lance did really well and was very focused. We even mastered the 3 moving exercises: moving down, moving stand- walk around, and moving down- walk around; all were done without the slighest hestiation or help from me. Yay for Lance! The next two weeks there also rally runthroughs on Sundays so hopefully we can get in some practice before the August shows.

Now for the naughty dog, the really naughty dog. Right after we finished Lance's run through we headed off to the Minnehaha dog park again to have some fun. I also really wanted to video tape Vito's "toller scream" for you all. But alas, it was not to be. At first Vito was a very good dog. He was remarkably quiet, even when we asked for Vito to think. Usually Vito has a very hard time thinking when the ball appears and is hard for him to do his simple obedience commands of sit, down, and swing into heel. So if he is not shrieking already by the time I start asking, this can usually set him off. But today Vito kept his cool and only very quietly shrieked. So yay!

But then the really naughty part came. Enter several dogs on the beach with owners having two tennis balls of their own! At first Vito could care less, he had his own ball and was content to ignore the crazy dogs and fetch ball. But when one of the dogs dared to steal Vito's ball, Vito was off! He flew off down the beach in hot pursuit, not hearing any of our calls to come. I follow as Vito is chasing blindly after the now three balls the group has. I really didn't care all too much until Vito lost track of one of the balls and kept swimming further and further from shore after a tennis ball that just wasn't there. Finally I managed to turn him around, but Vito completely blew off all calls to come. He acted like I wasn't even there and only his prescious tennis balls mattered. So I went swimming. I walked Vito down until I caught him in the water and dragged him to shore. I gave him a very brief time outs and had him do some sits/downs where upon I released him again. A bit later I called again and as Vito ignored me, I once again walked him down, caught him and put him on leash. We walked away from the distractions until Vito could concentrate and our training began.

I decided to use the Premack Principle with Vito which basically states the dog does a behavior to get what he really wants, aka tennis ball. So I had Adam hold the ball in his hand, and I called Vito to come to me. Of course he ignored me, so I would walk up and grab him until he was following me willingly and then released him to catch the ball I had Adam throw at that moment. The idea being a sort of tennis ball zen, Vito leaves the ball to come to me and then he can have it. This was extremely hard for Vito and we made only mild success at the beach. I also tried to have Vito eat a treat after coming to me before releasing him, but Vito would spit out the hot dogs and cheese if by chance he even thought about having it in his mouth. He did do this exercise better when Adam was calling him and I had the ball. This was likely because 1)Adam was doing most of the ball throwing today and had built up a history of being rewarding 2)I was the one who walked Vito down each time and Vito knew I was pissed!

Unforunately I didn't handle this event with Vito nearly as well as I should have. While this past Friday when Vito lost his brain I managed to remain calm and think, I did not do the same today. I was too harsh with Vito when he ignored me and I regret it. I don't think Vito was blowing me off to spite me, he just couldn't think. Especially when we were with the other dogs, I'm pretty sure that Vito couldn't hear anything at that moment. Even when we were on our own Vito just couldn't turn away from a ball in that environment. We have successfully done this exercise in a less stimulating environment for him, at home and at petsmart, but we obviously need to go back to this. My plan is to do this a lot more with Vito and the next time we go back to that dog park we will go far enough down the river where we can practice without any other dogs and balls around.

Oh and I'm not worried about getting a toller scream on video for you all, there will be plenty more opportunities :P

Mango  – ( July 20, 2009 at 5:30 AM )  

Well, it is good to hear how to handle deaf dogs as well as angel dogs. Poor Vito must have lost his little mind, huh?

Staying calm is hard. When Dexter goes deaf it is hard for me to think rationally about what is the best next step to get Dexter back together rather than letting my concern and irritation show in my voice and body.

Looking forward to the screaming.

Mango Momma

Owner of Storm and Jackal  – ( July 20, 2009 at 7:07 AM )  

Aren't teenage dogs a pain in the butt!! When I got Jackal it had been six years since I'd had a puppy and I forgot what a pain it was dealing with all of that. Just keep at it. They do grow up thank heavens. :)

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