Sunday, February 5, 2012

Another day of bootcamp

Another sunny winter afternoon found us out at Alpha Trainer's yesterday to continue with the Beast's training.

Good news! She is very pleased with our progress. Not only because the Beast is able to do most of what we have taught him, but because, as she says, we are becoming less confusing to him. He is starting to understand what we want from him because we have learned how to communicate in his language. So gold star for hubby and I!

And as for the next lessons, here they are:
  • Begin introducing distraction to the Beast's training. Stop along the sidewalk during our walks, take him to the dog park when there is no one else around, and practice all that we have practiced at home.
  • Begin placing him in different positions for "out" as opposed to directly in front of us. 
  • Begin reducing the food treats given for successful completion of commands.
  • Break down the working heel and essentially start it over because we weren't doing it right.
  • Continue work on down-stand-down, because we have been letting him stand AND walk, but we need to get him to simply stand.
  • Begin moving away from him when we get him in a sit or a down, so that he learns that he has to stay even if we don't, until we release him from that position. Start with just one or two steps back, and work up.

Alpha Trainer also taught us a new game to play with the Beast - Search & Rescue. This one is going to be a real challenge for him, because he is not as nose-motivated as many dogs are (herding dogs primarily use their sight). We have noticed this ourselves when we hide his favourite toy and make him try to find it - he uses his eyes to find it instead of his nose to track it down. So this will be a really good game for him to learn, because as Alpha Trainer says, it will teach him how to be more of a dog than a herder, and he will be really proud of himself once he figures it out. The game goes something like this:
  • Find a place for one of us to hide.
  • Mark another spot a few yards away from there. This is the starting point. 
  • Have the person who will be hiding start from this point, and leave a piece of kibble behind his heel at ever third step. 
  • Once he is hidden, the other person will take the Beast to the start point, and give the command "Find your man!" She will then lead the Beast to each footprint so that the Beast picks up the scent.
  • When the Beast finds his man hiding, there should be a very big celebration, like a vigorous game of tug, to celebrate his achievement.

She also taught us how to play tug properly with him, and strongly encourages this as a game that will let the Beast know that we may be in charge, but that he can also trust us to give him what he wants, in this case his tug toy. To play tug properly, we must:
  • Let him take a hold of the toy with his mouth while we hold on to the opposite two ends.
  • Let him tug and growl and pull to his heart's desire!
  • Issue the command "Out!" when we want him to stop pulling. If he does not release right away, we stop moving and just hold the toy still, so that it is no longer fun for him. 
  • Once he releases, say "Yes, out!" and immediately give him the toy back with a "take it" so that he knows that he can trust us to get back his fun toy.

And finally, some tips, mostly for me:
  • Stop bending over the Beast and always stand up tall with my shoulders back. I have a tendency to hover over him or bend down to his level when issuing a command, instead of staying in the upper position, and in the dog world, being up high means being the one in charge.
  • Mean it when I give corrections. He doesn't take my corrections seriously at times because he doesn't think that I really mean it.
  • When he is fixating on something or someone, get in between the Beast and the object of his fixation and back him away from his target. Don't let him go until his is relaxed. 
  • Start being more serious about making people outside until the Beast calms down a little bit before I let them in the house. He needs more help and patience to learn to relax when someone comes to the door.

And there we are. Two lessons down, two more to go!

As for this morning, Mr. Beasty is still a little tired from his day of learning, so I am going to reward him with a trip to the dog park. Maybe we'll stop along the way to do a little bit of training!