The ups and downs of training

Dogs are ridiculous.

Recently I thought I would start to teach Lance some jumping tricks, like jump through my arms, etc. (Ok, I know he's a corgi, but he can still do it if I bend really really low!) So I started with the very simple, jump/walk over my leg while I'm sitting on the ground. Should be a piece of cake right?

I tell Lance "over" his cue to jump, and he does the first 2 reps just fine and dandy. I praise and ooh over him for his wonderfulness when all of a sudden he shuts down and ran away. I think it's the presence of the cat (kitty harasses Lance) so I call him back out, Lance does one more and then runs away again. I can call him out, but he won't go anywhere near me if my leg is out. I have no idea why. Lance was acting in almost the exact same way he did when he went through some fear periods during his teenage stage and was scared of me grabbing for his collar (not afraid of anything else, just ME grabbing for his collar).

I, unfortunately, get a little pissed off by this since I did absolutely nothing to shut Lance down. I readily admit that sometimes I lose my patience a bit and do cause Lance to shut down, but this time it was not my fault! So I have Vito do the "trick" a few times, try Lance again and nada. He jumps up on the couch and tries to hide behind Adam. Clearly I am abusing my dog by asking him to try this death defying trick. I remain decently calm and bring out the clicker and decide to shape Lance to interact with my leg in any way he pleases. It take a couple clicks but Lance offers whacking my leg with his paw, which unfortunately for me modifies into scratching the hell out of my leg as he starts to offer his "dig it" trick ON my leg. I smile in my pain and get Lance to offer something else. Lance decides to do a perfect Right side leg lift (front and back leg at same time) using my leg to help, and then offers some backwards pivot over my leg! Since he's now going back and forth over my leg I end the session.

The next session I get back out the clicker and somewhat lure Lance over my leg and have Lance offering wonderful and simple overs. I have no idea what changed. The only thing different I can think of is that I didn't cue Lance this time with the word "over" but he knows and loves this word from agility.

I wasn't really planning on spending time with these tricks, he is a corgi after all, but I think I'm going to have to now to work through whatever issue Lance had. We will see how Lance does on his next session, whenever that may be.

Sometimes I just don't get it.

In Vito news, it seems like we have made a major breakthrough this week on his dumbbell hold. Previously Vito would levitate and then I thought that we had fixed his powers of levitation with super glue. And mostly we have stopped the levitation, only occasionally does Vito pop up into the beg position when I'm working on a hold. Bust still, we have struggled all summer to get Vito to hold the dumbbell in his mouth, without rolling it, for more than 1 sec. Granted we have worked our way from .25sec to 1 full second, but still progress has been slow. Besides the hold, Vito is getting a really great retrieve complete with an enthusiastic thrust into my target hand.

This week however, Vito has jumped from the hopefully 1 sec hold to a full 3 seconds!!! It may not seem like a lot, but the fact that I can now count aloud means that Vito is starting to understand the concept and I know I can quickly shape some time now (fingers crossed). The trick? Well after watching a video on youtube where a trainer proofed her young dog's hold by dropping food on the floor, it gave me an idea to do something similar with Vito. I have done a lot of work already with Vito learning that staring at food does not make it fly into your mouth, so I started to hold some treats in my hand and out to the side when I gave Vito the dumbbell. Vito stared at the treats and then quickly to my eyes as he has been taught and did not drop the dumbbell in that second!

I think that this idea has forced Vito to think about something else so he is not focusing on the object in his mouth. I've even been able to lower his food dish to the floor while he is sitting with the dumbbell in his mouth! Of course I release him as soon as the dish hits the floor. And as a bonus, I've been doing these exercises with Lance who already has a solid formal retrieve but could use the proofing. Lance was fooled at first, not with the food out but with the food dish, but quickly recovered and now has no problem but a dirty look on his face!

Dexter  – ( September 12, 2009 at 5:23 AM )  

Isn't it wonderful when you can see them actually thinking and trying to figure things out?

What's up with little Lance and your scary leg? Dogs, go figure.

Mango Momma

Unknown  – ( September 12, 2009 at 7:23 PM )  

Oh, it took me AGES to get Honey to learn to hold the dumbbell too. She just kept acting like it was some spiked tool of torture - the silly wimp! (it was a lovely, smooth wooden one too) - in the end, I had to resort to stitching a terrycloth towel around the middle bit to give her a nice soft surface to grip - similar to her stuffies - and then finally managed to convince her to hold it. The clicker & shaping really helped. Now she will "Hold" most items I point at, although she still has a strong preference for soft things, of course!

I know what you mean about dog training! It can be so frustrating some times! I'm like you in that I can easily lose my patience - I'm actually normally a very impatient person but dog training has really helped me to control my irritation impulses! :-) I find with Honey that when I'm teaching a new trick, she can go for AGES without getting it, no matter what I try, and it gets so frustrating - and one day, without me doing anything different, she suddenly just gets it and does it perfectly...God knows why?!

Ah well, I suppose that's why we love the training - the constant challenges and new learning!


ClassyChassy  – ( September 13, 2009 at 10:25 PM )  

The way you describe Lance shutting down and running away made me laugh - I have a corgi girl that does that so often it seems like ADD! Makes me mad, but it's funny and odd at the same time! Keep on keeping on!

Unknown  – ( September 17, 2009 at 6:49 AM )  

Hey Laura - just wanted to tell you that your great post on Lance & Vito "doing the laundry" really inspired me to try and teach Honey the same thing - and we've been hard at it in the last 2 months!! I have just posted the results of our training so far - come over to our blog to see the video and tell us what you think! :-)


Anette and the wildducks  – ( September 21, 2009 at 8:10 AM )  

I found one of the nice videos on Youtube and then I saw that Vito was a Vermilion dog. And further more - he is sired by Vad. I'm the breeder of Vad from Sweden! World is small :)
Good luck in the future

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