Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Training breakthroughs

I've had a super busy week and a half, and hardly had time to devote to Cai. However we just had a great little training session and it made me pause and reflect on how far he's come. I knew when I met him at 10.5 weeks old that he was bold, curious, and confident. I loved those qualities, and I assumed that along with them would come a high intelligence and that I could channel his energy into a love of training. It's come true!

Shaping him to pick up a dumbbell was fairly easy, but I worried about teaching him to bring it to my hand. We went through a stage when he valued the dumbbell, and therefore would pick it up and run away with it. However thanks to all the trading we've done and working on teaching him to fetch by throwing toys down the long, skinny hallway, he's now happily bringing it right to my hand. We've progressed to me placing the dumbbell in various places to add fun to the retrieve, eg, in his bed, in the crate, on top of a step, in a box.

We also recently started working on scent articles, and about the same time I started a nosework-style scent game of putting a green tea bag in a metal tin and hiding that tin for him to find. I first taught him to nose target the tea bag, and then the tin, and then started hiding it so that it was less and less visible. He's still in the early stages of figuring out how scent travels and how to track it to its source, however he definitely understands that he can use his nose to find the location of the tin. It's thrilling to watch, and gives him a great mental workout. I like this method more than the usual Nosework(tm) method of introducing scent work, but it requires already having a foundation knowledge of scent games and dog training. So this evening was the first time that I put out three articles (metal canning rings) with the goal of teaching him to discriminate based on scent and choose mine. I was excited to see him give all the articles quick sniffs the first time he went out, and he happened to choose the scented one, so jackpot!! We did a few more rounds and he had a 50% success rate, which is better than guessing but his understanding isn't solid. That is better than I expected, though!

Chimera is lying behind my chair as I type this. He is steadily becoming more affectionate with me. He is also slowly gaining manners when we visit other people's homes -- able to settle down more easily, and more reliable with potty training. I love this puppy.

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