Sunday, September 20, 2015

Papillon play date

Angela and I decided to organize a Papillon meet up group since most dogs love to play with others of their same breed. At the first meet, one other purebred Papillon came, along with a mystery mutt that has the right ears and tail, and a shy long-haired chihuahua who lives close by.

This was Chimera's first time being loose around other dogs (besides his housemates and Jacques) since his neuter, and they were all sexy ladies. He still stuck his nose right into their privates, and still sniffed a bit longer than was polite, BUT it was much, much better than before! And once he got a good sniff, he didn't keep going back for more. I was pleased.

He had a blast running around the yard - one of the other dogs would chase him (and then Eevee would bark at that dog). He even jumped in and out of the kiddie pool to cool off. He also jumped on people's laps to get petting.

Is someone coming?!

The center of attention.



Coming through!

Jump! Run!

His girlfriend, Eevee.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Engagement class

The Engagement class at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is finished. Chimera and I had a Gold spot, although as usual, I didn't quite keep up with posting videos. It didn't help that he was down for the count for a week after his neuter, and then I was on vacation for 10 days. Oops, bad timing.

Still, I learned a LOT from this class that I will be using both for Cai's training and to coach my clients. (In particular, I currently have 3 ongoing clients who are training for various sports.)

These were the biggest take aways for me:
  • Learn how to interact with your dog in a fun, playful way, that you can use to practice focus/engagement without using your dog's trained tricks. This is a key intermediate step that was missing for me (and most other trainers!). It builds up your dog's ability to work for you for longer periods and in more distracting areas, without falling into the trap of nitpicking your dog's work (which will cause stress for both dog and handler).
  • Give your dog plenty of time to "acclimate": look around, take in the sights/sounds/smells, and assess the safety of the situation. If you do not give your dog enough time to do this, he will not be able to focus fully on you and the work, and you are setting yourselves up for failure.
  • Sometimes the dog wants to start play/work before he's taken enough time to acclimate, because of the draw of treats and toys. In that case, you need to ignore your dog's attempts to engage until you're sure that he's truly ready. (I've experienced this with Cai a number of times.)

Here's a video of us working on engagement training on August 8th:

I have Cai's attention, but I have to keep the treats coming fast and furious to keep it. If anyone were to walk by, he would have stopped and stared for a good long while before being ready to turn back to me.

Here's our final video, from September 10th:

We have learned how to move and play together without the treats needing to come so frequently. We're both more relaxed. Cai looked away a few times when someone walked by, but after just a quick glance to assess the safety of the situation, he was back to focusing on me. After warming up with playful engagement, I was able to smoothly transition to work, and he stayed happy and focused! No deflation because work is boring or too much pressure or because he's conflicted between me and the environment.

I am beyond pleased - and this was with minimal completion of homework on my part! I feel positive about our future obedience/rally/freestyle/etc career.

Where to go from here:
  • Continuing to stretch out the length of time Cai is happy to interact between primary reinforcers.
  • Continuing to practice in slowly more distracting/busy areas.
  • Getting the food off my body, so that Cai is not dependent on its presence. (Though the food will be nearby and I will still use it to reward him, and it will also function as a distraction to work around.)
  • Teaching new tricks and tidying up old ones at home, separate from working on engagement outside.