Sunday, June 16, 2013

Donner State Park, 2x2 weaves

We're in Tahoe for the weekend again. Chimera peed indoors once, which was my fault for not taking him out again sooner. Other than that he's been well-behaved. He spent much of the day obsessively moving his cow ear chewie from one hiding spot to another (ie, behind the couch, in the bathroom).

The whole family went for a two hour walk at Donner State Park. It was a beautiful warm day, and the park was filled with people and dogs. I put on my happy face and said to myself, "This presents many opportunities to work on Cai's dog reactivity!" And it went better than I expected! There were a few outburst of growling and barking, and some frustrated yelping, but he also managed to pass a number of dogs with no more reaction than pulling in their direction. We did BAT (though not uncued, I had to really encourage him to "let's go!" because the distances were too close) and LAT. Two or three times I did have to just pull him along to escape the situation, because he was too worked up to be redirected. Still, it was clear progress from his level of reactivity before we started BAT setups a few months ago. He passed out in the middle of the living room when we got home.

Oh also, he played in the water and barked at it a lot. He now pulls toward the sound or sight of water, which makes me very happy. I've always wanted to have a dog who enjoys swimming. (Although he still ignores puddles of water/mud, which is the best of both worlds!)

I brought two jumps and one set of 2x2 weave poles to practice at the condo. We did two weaving sessions today. It was clear from the start that he already aims himself to go between the poles and then toward his right (12 o'clock). I was excited that our last session finally instilled some enthusiasm to move forward without my body language being a giant cue. Our agility instructor had recommended I use a collar grab to start him going. I had done enough collar grab work that Cai doesn't mind me taking hold, and expects that I will toss forward a toy or his treat bottle (small medicine bottle wrapped in duct tape to make it easy to grasp). However I just hadn't bothered to continue working it to he point that I could let go and he would drive forward in his own. I didn't see the need, since Dragon had had great drive toward obstacles without it. But I heeded her advice. I found that Cai would tense up and move forward a little after I let go of his collar if I said, "Ready?!" I've conditioned that to mean "Let's do some fun play/training!" So that got him going to the weave poles and stopping right between them, argh. So then I switched to tossing the toy immediately after he started forward. 

Today, by accident, I pulled upwards on his collar as I said, "Ready?!" and his front feet lifted into the air. Opposition reflex made him shift forward, and lo and behold, as I let go of his collar, he zoomed forward and all the way through the poles. I've seen other people do this with the collar (such as Susan Garrett, I think, and my instructor), but I wouldn't have intentionally done it with my tiny Papillon. However he really responded to it with more energy, faster running, and was actually MORE willing to come back to my side for the next rep. We did about eight reps, moving from 3 to 4 o'clock, and I stopped while he was still fully engaged in the game. Of course his success made me more excited and animated, which fed his energy. Weaves were probably my favorite obstacle to teach Dragon, since I felt comfortable with the shaping process and we played it as a modified game of fetch. I'm looking forward to continuing with Chimera.

I know that growth plates are something to be mindful of when teaching weave poles and jumping. I've been jumping Cai at 8 inches for a few weeks because a dog his size matures much sooner than big dogs, and eight inches is about his elbow height, which Chris Zink said should be okay for a dog his age (forgot the exact age parameters she gave -- maybe it was six to fourteen months? Fourteen months being the estimated time of growth plate closure.) I found one resource online that suggested that Papillons are full grown at nine months. For weave poles, we'll be spending a while working on entrances, and he'll be 11-12 months before he's doing any serious bending. I'm not worried. I'd delay training if he were a bigger, and therefore slower to mature breed.

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