Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Training, or lack thereof

I haven't posted much about dog training because, since Bernie got sick earlier this year, I haven't been doing a whole lot of it. Basil and I do work on agility for fun (we both enjoy it and have fun together) and I do some shaping with Bernie once in a while but other than that we're at the point where we kind of just work on maintenance behaviors.

Her illness just completely wore me out mentally. I wasn't able to do training with her for a while for fear of causing an imbalance with her urinary pH by introducing some sort of treat that didn't jive with her new diet. Even using the treats the vet suggested I use left me with guilt after doing a training session because I knew they were not as healthy as the ones I normally use and I was still scared that she would get sick again and it would be my fault. My brain is evil to me sometimes making me feel guilty for things I cannot control.  My solution was just to not train her.

Even after switching her to a raw diet in May I was constantly scared she'd get worse again. The nutritionist said giving her some baked chicken breast wouldn't hurt her diet but I still wanted to give it time to see how she reacted to it.

Poor Basil was caught in the middle. Agility was pretty much the only thing I did with him during the worst of it. A few weeks ago I did some shaping with him, the same time I did the paper bag shaping with Bernie.

Basil was shaped to sit on a mat so we could work some more on start line stay training. It is still working well. It takes him longer to get an idea than Bernie and I have to use some different techniques. I have to do more luring with him since he gets frustrated with shaping and gives up after a time. I've tended to use more shaping with him when he's scared of an object to help him interact with it than to use shaping to teach a new behavior.

At the agility trial he hated the crate fan I hung on the side of the crate. I ended up shaping him to touch it with his nose in about 5 minutes. Very useful. He hates having wind blown in his face.

Shes Part Shark
Basil does very obvious tongue flicks when he's nervous or unsure about something. So obvious my husband noticed them and he isn't very observant. I caught one in a picture once (right).  I first learned about tongue flicks when reading Dr. McConnell's book For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend.  (You can read a excerpt on tongue flicks here.)  He's a great dog to watch to see stress signals since he does them in an exaggerated way, briefly, all the time.  He does them to Bernie.   I see him do it at home for various reasons.  Sometimes he'll do it at my classes when I bring him as a neutral dog.  I've learned a lot watching his body language as he interacts with different things since I know he isn't the most confident dog in the world.  He is very careful, calculating and hesitant.  This made training things like the teeter challenging but still fun in the end when I watch him charge forward with excitement as we work on it.

So over the coming months my goal is to work more on training with my dogs.  Bernie needs enrichment being that she is too smart for her own good.  Even though I can't do much agility with her (due to her left shoulder) she still likes to do training.  I might start writing down some chained behaviors to train her.  I thought about trying out Rally but I just can't afford to compete in two different venues. 

Basil and I are still learning about each other on the agility course.  Thankfully he is very patient with me and doesn't get frustrated as I try to get my cues correct.  He will continue to try over and over.  Bernie would stop, get frustrated and turn off or she'd just bark at me out of frustration.  She has a low threshold for mistakes.

News from the Cardi breeder last night.  Each day it's looking more and more like Sumo is the pup for us.  He was the first out of the whelping box and the first to explore various things.  :)


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