Who’d’a Thunk It?

So last week we started an Attention At Heel class with Ginger at Fortunate Fido.  We had class again yesterday and Inara just did great!  We only had to go into the bathroom 2 or 3 times, and once was our normal beginning of class sequestering.  That’s the lowest number of sequesterings yet!  And it’s even more impressive because there was a lot of movement in class yesterday and several times we got within probably 15′ of the other dogs while we were all moving.  Inara barely even noticed!  She’s getting so focused while heeling.  We can even do it without treats in my hand, at least for short distances.  That’s quite a feat, at least for us!

Yesterday we worked a lot on turns – left, right, u-turn, about turn and Schutzhund turn (AKA left about turn).  Inara and I got to show the class how to do the Schutzhund turn.  It wasn’t as pretty as she normally does it, but it’s hard to do on leash.  It gave my classmates the basic gist of what to do, though.  We also worked on finding the pace that works best for our dogs.  Ginger says that normally people need to walk a bit faster than normal, but Inara and I have to do a steadier, more even pace.  We try hard to slow down most everything about Inara.  😉

It’s actually kind of amazing me how much fun I’m having learning how to heel and turn.  Heeling always looked kind of staid and boring, but it’s really not!  It’s fun getting this connection with Inara, and seeing her have fun as well.  She looks so pretty when she heels – she’s got her eyes on me, she bounces a bit and her tail is wagging.  I think she’s actually enjoying it, too.  That, or she’s enjoying the plethora of treats she receives!  LOL

We had a great little training session this evening.  She earned most of her dinner by heeling in straight lines, doing Schutzhund turns, and just learning that the heel position is a Very Good Place to be.  We tried something new tonight since she’s having trouble learning that if she’s in front of me (not in a front, just somewhere in front of me) she needs to come back to me when I say “heel.”  If she’s already beside me she’ll stay beside me, but she doesn’t realize she needs to get beside me first!

So I lured her into a heel position, clicked, and then tossed the treat in front of me.  She ran out to get it and I did a 180 so my back was to her.  As she was heading back towards me, I said “heel” and waited for her to naturally get beside me, then clicked and tossed the treat in front of me again.  It actually worked really well!  I got a bit dizzy from constantly doing 180’s, but I was setting Inara up to succeed as she naturally wanted to come back to me for another treat, so by adding the “heel” command in I’m hoping that she will associate the act of getting into that position with the cue.

So yeah, heeling is actually fun!  Our next task tonight is to work a little bit on getting her accustomed to her new iron basket muzzle.  

I figured she should learn to wear one – it will give me more peace of mind when she can start meeting other dogs.  And, technically, she should have it on anytime we’re not in the city of Cleveland.  I won’t use it for that (I’m such a rebel!) but it’s nice knowing I’ve got it now just in case she ever needs it.  But I want to make sure she thinks it’s a Very Good Thing, so I bought some squeeze cheese because the nozzle will fit through the wires more easily than treats will.  So we’ll spend a few minutes working on that and then we’ll be done for the evening.

Happy training to everybody!

Started new class yesterday!

Inara and I started a new class at Fortunate Fido yesterday – Attention at Heel.  The description is:  “We work on attention and proper heel position.

  • Heel position
  • Find heel games
  • Back up in heel position
  • Attention games
  • Canine freestyle moves

I thought this would be a good class for us as Inara’s loose-leash walking (LLW) is atrocious and this can only help.  This will also help us in our C-WAGS competitions.

There are only 3 other dogs in class – a young yellow Lab (who likes to stare at Inara, not aggressively, just rudely), a Golden that thrashes at the end of his leash and plays tug with it, and another Golden who is very very senior.  Tough crowd for Inara!  Ginger gave us our usual spot by the bathroom so we can easily do our “Sucks To Be You Sequestering” (STBYS) as that has been so effective so far.

Inara was a little more worked up yesterday than she has been, but I attribute that to being cooped up for the past week due to the heat, as well as having been out of class for several weeks.  She did her usual “I’M HERE!!!” barking upon entering, so I just picked her up by her harness and carried her straight into the bathroom for our first STBYS.  It took her a couple minutes to settle down but she worked well once she was relaxed.  She got into a couple barking matches with the young Lab, forcing us to go into the bathroom.  We had to do several STBYS’s, some of them for a few minutes at a time, but overall I was pleased with her behavior.

We worked on “fronts,” which Inara can basically do but often is slightly crooked.  Ginger said that this class is to prepare us for competition so we’ll only be accepting perfection – time for the crooked fronts to stop!  We obviously worked on attention/eye contact, as well as having the dogs sit, down and stand in the heel position.  Inara doesn’t know stand, so that’s another thing we need to work on.  I’ve worked so hard on ingraining an automatic sit that she gets confused when I want her to stand!  I can’t even lure her into a stand from a sit – she just scootches forward on her hiney and stretches her neck real far.  So I have to get her up and walking and then click the split second we stop before she can sit.  I think this is going to be a tough one for us.

She did impress me though because Ginger wants us to teach them to target things with their back feet.  I’m pretty sure Inara doesn’t realize she has back feet most of the time.  But Ginger used us as the example pair since Inara’s done some shaping exercises before.  She put a folded blanket in between 2 ring gates set up to mimic a hallway.  I walked Inara toward the blanket and then backed up a step so she was sitting in front of me, with her back to the blanket.  I then used social pressure to encourage her to move backwards and get her back feet on the blanket.  With just a few clicks she was doing it on her own, and making the other people laugh because she was trying to stretch and reach the treat while keeping one foot on the blanket, LOL.  I was really impressed and it was fun having my dog be the “this is how you do it” dog.  🙂  We then worked a bit on the touch command, which Inara is great at – she can be sitting in a heel beside me and jump straight up to touch my hand and then land still in the heel position.  It was a good class and I think we’re going to have fun and learn a lot.

Outside of class, we’ve been trying to meet with friends 2-3 times a week to walk with another dog.  She’s doing great!  She’ll bark a couple times when she first sees the other dog (shocking, I know), but then very quickly can walk beside it, just a couple feet away, like it’s not even there.  It’s very cool.  🙂

I hope everybody else is doing well with your challenging dogs!