Loving Obedience Work

30 seconds!  That is how long it took Vito to choose to engage with me upon getting to the edge of the park.  I had no food on me, no toys, and after 30 short seconds of Vito staring out into the parking lot he made the choice to come through my legs for butt scratches and begin work.  I did decide to quickly end our start when Vito had some glances away while I tried to take the leash off, but he yelled at me for that choice and then remembered the rule on our immediate attempt #2.  I love when he sasses at me.

Today I did 2 sessions and focused on 3 lessons.  The first part of each session was evaluating how quickly Vito chose to engage with no rewards on me.  As mentioned above, that was pure awesomeness!  But, the work itself needs some more confidence.  Vito was doing a ton of bouncing and forging.  While I am extremely happy he's doing that and I now feel he is ready for me to start working on precision.  I did quite a bit of slow time and left pivots.  It's remarkable the huge difference in handling I've been able to begin.  Way less work output for me!  I am also assuming that even without me doing any work on precision in our heeling that the bouncing and forging will start to go away on its own.  Right now I feel it's part of a over excited and frustrated response and as he settles into being more comfortable working in new places it should go away.

After a few minutes and he got a ball reward, I then worked on leaving the ball on the ground.  The amount of focus this required for Vito actually improved his heeling tremendously.  Keeping eye contact with me when we got close to the ball was a bit hard, and staying engaged with me when I tried to play with him without releasing him to the ball was harder.  But heeling progress was very nice :)

The third part I wanted to work on was Vito heeling with the ball in his mouth.  I haven't done much with this before and it was an idea Denise Fenzi recommends on her blog and classes.  The idea is to 1) increase the challenge of heeling and 2) to insert the handler more into the reward package.  The dog having the toy is fun, but it's even more fun when you're involved.  Of course that's way easier to do with a tug toy as you can just reach down and tug every now and then, but I'm making it work with a ball.

Training obedience with Vito is really becoming fun again.  It's not that it wasn't fun before, but it was requiring so much more thinking and planning on my part.  Progress is continuing in leaps and bounds from even a month ago!

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