A few years back I went to ClickerExpo and went to all the Ken Ramirez sessions (and all the Kathy Sdao sessions). One of the things Ken Ramirez said then has resurfaced in my brain over the last few weeks: he was talking about training sea lions, and said that the audience would ooh and aah over what the sea lion he was working with was doing, but… the audience had no idea how much harder it was to train the other sea lions to wait in the background for their turn.
I took Dancer and Rush down to the barn this morning, bright and early, to work with both of them. Of course, I was working contacts with Dancer (as I always do), but I also wanted to work speed and enthusiasm for tunnels with Rush. And his end-of-contact behavior.
I started with Rush. He came out of the car just thrilled to work with me. We have a new tug toy–a felt ring–that he absolutely loves. I insisted on a loose leash on the way into the barn, and got it (yeehaa!). The moment I took off his leash, he was bouncing and excited and totally focused on me and the toy. I had him do tunnels at top speed; I had him wait until I released him, banging on the tunnel with the toy, dancing and waving my arms and singing… he could hardly sit still with excitement, but he did. I had him jump on the table and wait there while I walked to the other side of the barn, with my back to him. He waited.
I tried something new: with him still on the table, I released him, called him to me, then sent him to the tunnel when he got to me, and then I played tug with him. I hadn’t done that before, and the first time he ran a circle around me, not understanding what I wanted. The second time, he was watching for the signal to take the tunnel, and his path was tight, with no extra strides. Third time, I sent him to the other end of the tunnel. Still a nice tight path. Fourth time, I called him straight to me to play tug. He didn’t even glance at the tunnel.
I’m so excited! He’s paying attention to what I ask him to do! He’s waiting to be told what to do, then doing it!
I’d used fifteen minutes of my barn time at this point.
Now for the hard part: I wanted to work with Dancer while Rush stayed on his mat. He has a great relax-on-mat in puppy class. In retrospect, I screwed up. I don’t know why I thought his relax-on-mat might survive the excitement of watching Dancer run a course. I had Rush tethered, and he barked and carried on and generally made a huge stink about the fact that I was working with Dancer.
I should have taken him out to the car the instant he started to make a fuss, then brought him back in when he was quiet. Or I should have made relax-on-mat a lot stronger. Or both. Or I should have worked on relax-on-mat with other people running their dogs (I think I’ll take Rush to Debbie’s classes and do exactly that.) I didn’t do any of those things, though. Stupidly, I tried to push him to a higher level, probably too fast. I got him back on the mat, I rewarded a down, I sent Dancer over a jump… and instant screaming/barking ensued.
Repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. After about ten minutes, Dancer was having a great time showing off her ability to be sent to a jump (ha, ha, I don’t have a leash on and you do!), and Rush was standing, not barking, with a just barely loose leash. Not what I had in mind, but progress, I guess. I’ll obviously have to keep working on it!
I tried a short sequence with Dancer. She was flying. Fast weaves, good contacts, focus. Rush: bark, bark, bark, but not strangling himself with the leash.
Back to the single-jump version with Dancer. Relative quiet. I tethered Dancer for a bit and did a few short sequences with Rush: jump standard (no bar) to tunnel, to other end of tunnel, tunnel to jump, other end of tunnel to jump. With good results and incredible focus, I dared to dream: jump standard to tunnel, front cross, to jump standard. Rush did it perfectly. All that circle work is paying off.
(Note to self: you still need to do more circle work.)
I put Rush in the car and did a full course with Dancer, including three sets of weaves with three different approaches, two a-frames, two dog walks, and a teeter. Dancer did beautifully.
We finished 75 minutes after we started. Every single minute was as focused and high intensity as I could make it. I’m proud of the dogs, and I’m proud of myself.