August 1, 2011

CGC Class -- Week Three

Ok, guys, the Kanedog and I are still here, I promise!

We skipped his second CGC class session (two weeks ago now) because his soft tissue issue came up yet again. This is a recurring issue for us it seems, since it's been popping up off and on since May. I don't think I've been tough enough on him with crate rest. Right around the third day, we both start getting crazy and I figure that maybe I don't have to enforce the leashed potty breaks and off he zooms around the yard and I can only laugh and laugh as he jumps and twirls and does the butt-tuck boogie and acts like a complete doofus. And then he gets back inside, I put him in his crate, and the next potty break, he's limping again.

We'll try it again and this time I'm really going to buckle down.

Last week, his class went very well. In fact, he did spectacular. I need to stop thinking of him as a doofus puppy with a few bricks short of a full load, because he's not. Well, ok, he definitely isn't the smartest dog in the world by any stretch, but he's got enough smarts to know what to do and when, and if he doesn't, he is so eager to please that it makes up for his mental abilities. He seems to understand when I want him to work and hen he can goof off now, whether that's because of the energy he feels from me or just because he's put two-and-two together on the class location, I'm not sure. But either way, I'm still amazed at the focus he gives me.

I was floored when he recalled to me across the room, through a line of dogs on either side. You could have knocked me over with a feather. The lines started out at a distance of 5 feet, then moved closer to 3 feet, and then, finally they were only 2 feet away. He was the only dog who recalled to their owner every time, without hesitation and at speed. Except for once, when he caught sight of another owner giving her dog a treat for a good SitStay and he briefly debated going over to her to see if she'd give him a treat too. But I kept recalling him and he eventually decided he'd have better luck with me and recalled without ever completely making it over to the other owner. He got lots and lots of praise and extra noms for working through that extra distraction.

The only hiccup during the class was when the instructor brought out a ball to show the goldendoodle owner how they could use things other than treats for a reward. Kane has always been a toy-driven dog; honestly, I'm surprised he's not aggressive about them. But he has a special love for balls.

And sure enough, the ball came out, Kane saw it, and I was dead to him. No amount of poking him in the butt, waving a hand in his face, rubbing a piece of steak on his nose, nothing got his attention and re-focused it back to me. I'd warned the instructor that while he was a food hound and would happily work for it, he was head over heels for balls. I simply cease to exist for Kane when there's a ball in his presence unless I'm holding it. I'm debating whether I should work on that or not. I want to try flyball with him eventually, so I'm not sure I will.

The instructor spent some time on leash corrections while she talked about loose leash walking. This was very interesting to me as she described how to do a leash correction properly and made certain we knew that leash corrections didn't work for every dog or trainer. She hasn't used leash corrections in over 20 years. But she demonstrated the difference between dogs using the Samoyed, who is very independent and stubborn, versus Kane, who is softer and more easygoing.

It took four corrections for the Samoyed to get over her stubbornness and leave the chunk of steak on the floor and not touch it. It took one for Kane to not touch the steak, and actually the second time she tossed the steak on the floor, he actually backed away from it.

I almost cried watching him do that. It brought back very bad memories of my previous abusive, dominance methods. He  looked so cowed and scared, avoidance behaviors out the wazoo, ears back, lip licking, the works. I wanted to run over, pick my puppers up, and reassure him. If only I could still pick up his 50 lb fat ass. ;-)

The instructor pulled me aside after class and asked me about my reaction to it. I explained to her Kane's past with my abusive dominance methods and how seeing it reminded me of that. She comforted me and said it was the reason she explained that leash corrections weren't for every dog, and that it was a similar history with her dogs which caused her to stop using them. Back when she had first started training, it was very crank-and-yank. When positive methods started being introduced, she saw the difference in the happiness of her dogs and how much more they enjoyed training. She said I definitely don't have to use leash corrections with Kane if I didn't want to; that even though they're more effective in stopping a behavior, for some dogs, they're overkill and Kane may be one of them.

That was last week. I've been working on his heeling with the "you're in line with my leg, so you get treats shoveled in your mouth" method and things have been going well. I think we're almost ready to start proofing it to places other than the backyard. Maybe on his walk today, we'll try it.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that the trainer hasn't used them herself in 20 years, but thought it'd be a good idea to use them on dogs in the class.

    It sounds like you're getting along well in the CGC test lessons though, and hope he feels 100% with his leg soon!