With the combination of attending Ferretpalooza and Chimera being "flat" on our last attempt at a Rally-FrEe leg, I am recommitted to improving our focus and engagement. I decided to take an FDSA class at Gold level this coming session. I met up with Dr Amy Cook a few days ago to get an assessment and help picking which class - we settled on Denise Fenzi's Engagement class, with the extra homework of revisiting Heeling Games (which I signed up for at Bronze long ago but didn't really work through) as well as finally doubling down and counter-conditioning Cai's reactive response to the sound of dog tags.
We've been working hard since the Tuesday meeting with Amy. On Wednesday Cai stayed at home, but we did many more play sessions than usual. I'm experimenting with how I play with him and trying to improve our personal play. I'm also continuing to build his willingness to bring a tug toy back to me after "winning," which we got help on from Shade Whitesel at Ferretpalooza.
On Thursday I took Cai with me to two consults, and after each one we hung out by the car for 15 minutes. I let Cai look around and sniff within the boundary of the six foot leash, and then did as much personal play, tug, treats, and tricks as he would happily do. The goal was not to get nice work, but to build his willingness to engage in a new environment. Let's have fun together!
This morning I took Cai to the front yard just to play tug in a place where we don't usually do work. There were workers walking around the neighbor's house, but Cai played anyway.
Later I met up with a Rally-FrEe student so that we could introduce our dogs to each other, and be able to train together in the future. We started far away and walked around, slowly getting closer to the other dog, an Aussie named Heidi. Cai gave a bark or two during the first few passes. As we got closer and he had more opportunities to see her and catch her scent, he calmed down. His body language switched from stiff and alert to loose and with a softly wagging tail. At that point he didn't actually care about meeting her; we continued to walk around and sniff. Finally the dogs did meet. Heidi was a little too big and fast for Cai to feel comfortable playing with her. However they were totally comfortable being next to each other and working for their owners. Again we did little sessions of play and tricks, with a bit of heeling thrown in. It felt good!
Now I just need to keep up the momentum!!