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By Marilyn Millermmoonpye@gmail.com
Written by Marilyn Miller
Whether it is the first time your dog has been in the ring or the first time in years since you last showed there are important things to remember before entering the ring. My trainer ( Merrillynn Hill) went over some of these reminders at our private lesson on Feb. 23 2017.
Blaze and I were entered in Rally Novice on March 2ed in Portland, Maine. The Collie Club of Maine was putting on the show. This was to be the first time in the ring for Blaze. Our lesson was on Thursday and the trainer's first suggestion was to take one day off from training between then and Sunday. The show was on the following Thursday. The second suggestion was for me to have two hands on the leash at all times. This was to give me more control over a small dog.
Merrillynn uses the "up here" command to get the dog's attention and to look at the handler, rather than having her nose close to the ground sniffing. Every time I give Blaze a treat I should say "up here" and have her look at me. I prefer to say "Watch" and that works for us. It is a one syllable word and I don't have to hold my hand up for her to look at. She looks at my face instead. I should always be aware of what Blaze is doing, like sniffing and not paying attention.
It would be a good idea to get to the show 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours early to give Blaze a chance to look around and have her settle in her crate. She will certainly be interested in all the other dogs, people and different sounds there.
Hopefully Blaze will have a chance to sniff around the ring and check it out before any judging begins.
I should try to give her three ten minute warm ups before our turn. This will consist of some heeling, about turns, fronts, etc.
I must remember not to praise Blaze too exuberantly until we are out of the ring. She tends to bark when she gets excited which praising her does. A judge can deduct one point every time a dog barks.
During that last private lesson we also worked on warming up the dog outside the ring, and how to enter the ring properly.I was reminded when to give Blaze her last treat before entering the ring and to make sure she has time to swallow it and not cough it up in the ring. (She has done this in class a couple of times).
The following Monday night around dinner time I did not feel quite right - a little light headed. The next morning I was also off balance. Freaking out at this point I called my doctor and got an appt. for later that morning. She diagnosed me with Vertigo, something I had never had before and hope not to again. She sent me home with a prescription for antihistamines.
Blaze and I continued to work on our exercises the next couple of days. Thursday morning came and I still did not feel quite right. I thought of the spirals, weaves, 270 degree turns, circles, about turns, figure 8, etc. that might be on our rally course and I opted not to attend. The thought of falling down in the ring was not a pleasant one. Then there is always the thought of the little dog tripping me up (even on a good day).
I was very disappointed. The show had a good venue and I like the judge, Tibby Chase. There won't be another show for us before June. Of coures , the next day, Friday, I felt fine and even attended my exercise class. This show was just not meant to be. Maybe it worked out for the best. Blaze is still a baby at 16 months. No point rushing her.
This week at home we are doing something different - some dumbbell work, concentrating on the "hold it" part. Blaze is catching on to this a lot faster than she did "take it".
The good news is we seem to be making progress with her anxiety and the car. I purchased a dogie car seat from Amazon which allows Blaze to see out the window, face forward in the car, and she is able to see me driving.
The combination of the anxiety pill, the Thunder shirt, the drool towel she wears over her head and the car seat seem to be helping. Hopefully we will be able to wean her off the pills and the drool towel eventually. She looks too cute sitting up in that car seat !
Frigid weather and a blizzard coming this week will prevent us from going to any different locations (or anywhere outside the house) for training for another week.
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Recently my trainer, Merrillynn Hill, suggested I take Blaze to as many different locations as possible before her March 2ed show in Portland, Maine. This is good advice but considering how this month is going (with one snow storm after another) it is next to impossible. I did manage to get Blaze to a local Petco last weekend where one customer pet her and one of the men who worked there got down on the floor and pet Blaze while giving her treats. She needs to have more people touch her, especially men, in preparation for an eventual Stand For Exam. We did have one workman in the house last week and before he left I asked him to please pet Blaze while giving her treats.
There are many exercises we work on inside while being house bound. Today we did some heeling and recalls in the hallway. While Glenn cooked Grilled Cheese sandwiches for lunch I put Blaze in both a sit - stay and a down - stay on leash where she could watch him and get the good smells from the stove. This was not only good practice for her but kept Blaze out from under his feet. In our breakfast nook we worked on fronts and finishes. Also "setting up" around a large cone, in preparation for setting up in the ring. A sit -stay with 3 pieces of food on the floor in front of Blaze is a good exercise which does not require much space. Also the Stand For Exam. Some mornings when Blaze is on the grooming table we do a little "take it" work with the dumbbell.
Some things M. Hill specifically asked me to work on are...
1) Desensitizing Blaze to having her collar touched. She comes into me at such a fast pace on the recalls, I need to grab the collar and slow her down to do the front, otherwise she will run by me. Blaze does not like her collar being grabbed, so we practice having cookies while I touch and hold her collar. This seems to be working.
2) The command "UP Here". I hold a treat in my left hand above Blaze's head and give the command "up here". This is to be used when her nose is to the ground and she is not paying attention to me while heeling.
I can also use this command guiding Blaze between exercises and entering the ring gate. It will be very useful when doing Rally as I have guided all my Lhasas with my left hand when doing Rally with them. I just never had a specific command to use before. Blaze already looks up when I say "Up Here." This is an easy command to teach while sitting on the couch with your dog watching tv. We also practice it going through different doorways in the house.
3) When I praise Blaze for doing a good job, I need to do it more quietly. The more excited I sound, the more excited she gets. A judge will not appreciate her barking her head off or jumping up and down in excitement.
Last week in class we worked on entering a ring gate. Heeling up one side (several gates set up in a row) and down the other. Then we did weaves in and out of the four gates. Then a "fast" up one side and a "slow" down the other. We also did this variation in heeling around large cones. Learning to "set up" around the first cone, heeling between two other cones at different paces, and circling another cone before finishing at the last one. We tried this off leash (successfully) a couple of times also. M. Hill had us do sit and down stays with a ring gate behind the dogs. The handlers would walk behind the dogs on the other side of the ring gate. It is an excellent idea to get the dogs used to ring gates. Some dogs have a disadvantage of never seeing a ring gate before their first show.
In our private lesson the next day with Merrillynn we worked on setting up a course for Rally Novice. Blaze knows all the exercises but she never saw a course laid out. She thought the signs were great for sniffing and tearing out of the holders. I would not want this to happen at her first show ! A couple of the exercises I am still not quite clear on, so I will have to watch a Rally Novice demonstration of all the exercises on the computer. The Spiral can be very confusing and I need to concentrate on that one. M. Hill also said I was making my 360 degree circles left and right much smaller than necessary. I ordered the most up to date Rally Rule Book which needs to be studied!
A friend of mine recently surprised me by saying she is through with showing. Her exact words were "There is not enough reward for training my dog and earning titles". I thought working with your dog, thereby creating a strong bond, was reward in itself. I know Blaze enjoys training with me and I love to see her learn more with each training session.
Written by Marilyn Miller
BLAZE and I had our first private lesson in two weeks on December 8th. Glenn and I had gone to Florida for five days over Thanksgiving to visit his family. We boarded Blaze with our vet. It was the first time we had boarded a dog in thirty years and fortunately she did fine. The staff there fusses over her and the Office Manager refers to herself as Blaze's "Auntie Shannon". She was in good hands. Of course there was no training going on at this time and when Blaze and I began our lessons at home she had noticeably regressed in her exercises.
The first exercise was Heeling. There was lots of sniffing going on. Lhasas are close to the ground so sniffing is a real temptation. Merrillynn suggested I pick up my pace while heeling which would give Blaze less time to sniff. Her attention needs to be on me not on the ground. This worked. By my picking up the pace of heeling Blaze had her attention on me and with a lot of eye contact. It was suggested we try working to music which would help build up a rhythm in heeling and make the exercise more fun and interesting. Not quite so boring. I have a radio set up in the basement and we play music when we work down there on frigid days.
We really lost ground on the Stand For Exam. On our lesson two weeks before Merrillynn said we were "really solid on that exercise". Now we were back to square one. Time to start at the beginning in teaching this exercise. I could not believe it ! Blaze moved her feet, turned around, sat, and did everything possible wrong. We went back to standing Blaze next to a large cone and keeping some tension on the leash. I walked around the cone when returning to heel position, paused for three seconds, then walked Blaze forward before praising her and giving her a treat. This is to teach her there is no "Sit" in the exercise.
Beginner Novice. We worked on the Sit-Stay while I walked around the ring. Blaze did not want me out of her sight and turned around and stood up looking for me when I walked behind her. It was suggested I start by walking around Blaze in three foot circles, then five foot, then seven, and to keep increasing the distance as long as she held the stay. Blaze needs to have the confidence that I will return to her. When this is evident I can keep increasing my distance from her. I do not want Blaze to be afraid she will not see me again if I disappear behind her.
Recalls. Hooray! Our recalls were solid. I had practiced leaving Blaze, going a distance straight out in front of her, turning sideways (instead of facing her) and saying "stay". Then walking a few feet forward and a few feet in the opposite direction and then say "stay". Now I stand and face Blaze for a few seconds before calling her to me. I do not want her to anticipate the recall.
I was discouraged and asked Merrillynn why things had disintegrated so in two weeks time. Her answer was that "puppy brains" do not retain lessons like adult dogs do. I need to be patient and remember that Blaze is still a puppy and to enjoy her. Very good advice !
In October, the Contest Chairwoman for the Dog Writers Association of America asked me to be one of the judges for the annual writing competition. I was very flattered as this is the fourth year in a row I have been asked and accepted. I enjoy getting a box of reading material to judge never knowing what categories I will be covering. This year my topics to judge were on National Club Publications (such as West Highland White Terriers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Pointers), Service Dogs, and training unconventional breeds such as certain Terriers. I also had one book on all the different breeds. I cannot get into the specifics about the reading material or the authors as the awards will not be given out until the Sunday night before the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in NYC in February. The DWAA Banquet is always a fun event. Unfortunately I will not attend this year, but I have in previous years. Any dog writer can enter this contest. You do not have to be a member of DWAA to do so. Last year over 600 pieces of writing material were entered. I try to request articles on Obedience, Rally and Therapy Dogs, but it does not always work out that way. This year I really enjoyed the Club Publications. They were done beautifully with many interesting articles to read and learn from. They did not just pertain to a certain breed. I also get to keep all the material I have read.
Written by Marilyn Miller
Blaze and I had our first private lesson with Merrillynn Hill in almost two months last Thursday. Even though I had been doing some training with Blaze on a daily basis at home, we needed some advise and instruction from our trainer. Blaze was a little distracted at first since she had not been in the training building for awhile. Lots of new smells to sniff. We began our lesson by going over some basics such as : 1). always treat for a "set up". 2). Always give the treat with the left hand, close to your left knee. This should discourage the dog from foraging ahead. 3). Don't practice heeling every day as it is boring for the dog. (Boring for the handler also). 4). Start your heeling with a few "watch me's" and a treat. With off - leash heeling just heel a few steps, halt and treat. Incorporate an about turn, left and right turns, then halt and treat. Limit your time on the heeling part of the lesson (no more than 10 minutes) and try to make it fun for the dog. Encourage your dog when she is paying attention and give lots of praise.
Merrillynn reviewed the Figure 8 with me and the one important tip I got was to pull back on the leash when going around the turns so Blaze would not get close enough to trip me.
On the Recall, after I walked away from Blaze and stood ready to call her to me she would anticipate the command and run to me. She might have jumped the gun by a second, but it could have been enough time to NQ us, or at the very least lose points. Merrillynn's strategy in solving this problem was interesting. Instead of turning to face Blaze, I am to turn sideways, look at her and give the "wait" command. Then walk forward a few steps, turn around and look at Blaze from the side again, continue walking forward, turn around, go back to face the dog and call her to come. By doing this the dog will not anticipate the "come" command.
Blaze is pretty solid on the stand for exam, but one important point that Merrillynn stressed is that "It is crucial to have the dog's attention when going from the stand for exam to setting up for the heel off leash." If you don't have their attention before the set up, chances are you won't have it while doing the heeling pattern.
It was suggested that I get my feet wet by trying Beginner Novice with Blaze. It would ease me back into showing which I have not done in three years. It would also be a good introduction to shows for Blaze. She does know all the Rally Novice exercises so Beginner Novice would expose her to some Rally signs.
When my first obedience Lhasa, BABY MING SQUEEZICKS, CDX. earned his CD title on August 31st ' 91 there was no Beginner Novice title. This optional titling class started in July 2010.
Our trainer thought BN might be a good place for Blaze and I to start as it is fun and not as stressful as going for a real title. It would introduce Blaze to a ring and show situation. BN is for handlers who have never shown before, or people like me who have not shown in competition for a long period of time.
The day after our lesson I looked up Beginner Novice on the computer and watched some videos which demonstrated the different steps in the title.
First of all the judge walks the course with the handlers and explains the different exercises. The first exercise is the Heel on Leash which uses Rally signs for the start, finish, fast, slow and normal, left and right and about turns and halt. The halt and sit are at the end of this exercise which is worth 40 points.
The second exercise is the Figure 8 which is similar to Novice and Open Obedience. In Novice and BN it is performed on leash. 40 points.
The third exercise is the "Sit" For Exam (instead of Stand For Exam). The dog is placed in the center of the ring.The judge approaches the dog from the front and touches the dog's head only. The handler then returns to heel position. This exercise is worth 40 points.
The fourth exercise is "Sit Stay - Handler Walks Around Ring". Upon the judges command the handler will place the dog in the center of the ring in a sit - stay position. Then proceed to walk around the perimeter of the ring and return to heel position. The judge will position herself so that the dog and handler are completely visible for the entirety of this exercise. This exercise is worth 40 points.
The fifth and last exercise is the "Recall" which begins in the center of the ring. The handler removes the leash from the dog and holds the leash in her hand. Then walks away from the dog to a spot designated by the judge. The dog must come when called and sit close enough in front of the handler that she can touch the dog's head. This is worth 40 points making a total of 200 points.
I will find out what shows will be in the NH. - Mass. area this Spring and Summer. Maybe Blaze and I will give BN a try. It would be nice to get Blaze acquainted to showing without a lot of pressure. It would be nice to get me reacquainted to showing without a lot of pressure also. Beginner Novice just might be advantageous to both of us !
Written by Marilyn Miller
On August 11th we woke up to Luckee crying in the kitchen at 4 am. I rushed to him and he could not move his legs. Maybe his crying was because of pain or maybe fear. It looked like he had a stroke. Glenn and I tried to make him comfortable: put his favorite blanket under his head and wrapped him in it. Glenn and I took turns with him on the floor, talking to him and petting him. We left two messages at our vet's office. They called back at 8 am. and told us to bring Luckee in at 9 to be put to sleep. We knew there was nothing to be done for our best boy. He had turned 16 years on June 17th and had been declining the last several months. I sat on the couch with Luckee, telling him what a good boy he was and how much Glenn and I loved him. He seemed content to have me hold him and his crying stopped.
Luckee was the last surviving Lhasa in our last litter of 7. He was the last of our "Moonpye" line and one of our best dogs ever. He was a very even-tempered sweet boy. He knew he was special to me and never took his eyes off me. We had a very special bond. Luckee earned his Companion Dog title at the ALAC National Speciality in Massachusetts in 2002. He and his litter mate, Mandi Ming earned first place in Brace at this Speciality. Luckee also had a Canine Good Citizenship title, a Therapy Dog title and was the first Lhasa to earn the RAE title and with a First Place out of 9 other breeds in August ' 09. He was a happy boy, always on the lookout for rabbits in our yard. His tail never stopped wagging. We were very fortunate to have had Luckee as long as we did. He is greatly missed !
On August 29th I was at the exercise gym I had been going to for 4 years. This was my last day. I was not planning to renew my membership. I was using a Bungee Exercise Cord with handles doing stand up rows. The Bungee cord was secured around a piece of stationary equipment. The cord snapped out of the right handle sending me flying backward. I landed on my left wrist, then twisted onto my back which also caused pain. I was right in thinking the wrist was probably broken. The owner of the exercise studio drove me home in my car. My Husband took me immediately to an Urgent Care center where x-rays were taken which showed my wrist was broken and my back strained. The doctor sent me to nearby Exeter Hospital to see an orthopedic surgeon. After seeing my x-rays she strongly recommended surgery as my wrist was not just broken it was crushed. Four days later, on Sept. 2ed, I had surgery on my left wrist. Nine screws and a Titanium plate were put in to hold it together. I had a soft cast up to my elbow for two weeks followed by a shorter velcro cast that I can remove when doing my therapy exercises and bathing.
I began physical and occupational therapy twice a week for both the wrist and my back with lots of exercises to do at home also. Little Blaze wants to help me. I have to be real careful she does not jump on my arm in her puppy exuberance! We missed our dog training classes for a month. I did manage to work with her almost every day either on our back deck or in the house. Besides Novice Obedience training we covered most of the exercises through Rally Advanced. When I did go back to my first class, Glenn went with me as I cannot lift Blaze in and out of the car. It is going to be quite awhile before I can do that. Blaze lets me know when she wants to work. She gets into mischief when she is bored and may shred a paper napkin or rip the back off the remote control when she wants attention. One morning she got hold of my velcro cast and was gleefully running around the living room with it.
A lot of things are difficult using one hand such as putting a leash on a squirming pup. Holding the leash in the left hand or giving treats with the left hand in class are impossible until I get some mobility back. Brushing her is difficult and trying to get a mat out with one hand is impossible. I couldn't send an article in for last month's issue as I was only typing with one hand. At least now I can type with the left hand also. This week Blaze and I are both taking a training break as she was spayed a few days ago. She hates the physical restrictions and most of all the E Collar. (She can lick the incision with the soft round collar so that won't do.) We are both looking forward to getting back to regular classes and some serious training soon. Hopefully entering some shows in the Spring.
Written by Marilyn Miller
Recently a friend asked me what I hoped to get out of taking my dog to obedience classes. My answer was that I hoped to achieve the Companion Dog and Canine Good Citizenship titles and hopefully go further. Cynthia asked me if having the Companion Dog title would allow my dog to fly in the cabin of an airplane with me ? At first I thought this was an ignorant question, but after thinking about it I realized that most people (even dog owners) have no idea what the CD obedience title entails. I told Cynthia she was probably thinking of different types of Service Dogs which are also companions to people in need for different reasons and disabilities. When I tell friends in my exercise classes that Blaze and I are training for competition they immediately mention Westminster. I try to explain that is the Breed classes of showing and that no obedience exercises are involved. I get a blank look in return. Trying to explain the different exercises to a person who has never been to a show is almost impossible. I thought I would look up what showing in Novice is all about and what it entails to earn the title. Not to mention the number of hours the handler and dog put into learning these exercises. Lots of patience is involved. Since it has been 16 years since I trained a dog in Novice, I decided to refresh my memory on the standards a dog must meet to earn the Companion Dog title. I also ordered a new AKC Rulebook since mine is dated 2012.
The following information came from "The Dog Owner's Guide" the online magazine for all pet and show dog owners.
The Companion Dog title is the first title awarded in a progression of titles by the American Kennel Club. When a dog earns this title, the CD letters are placed after the dog's registered name.
To earn this title, the dog must score 170 out of a possible 200 points. Half the points must be awarded for each exercise and must be won under three different judges at three different shows. Each qualifying score is called a "leg".
Six exercises, worth a total of 200 points make up the Novice class. The judge deducts points from the total score of 200. These points are deducted based on errors made by either the handler or the dog. The team gets a score of zero if the dog leaves the handler or fouls the ring.
The Heel on Leash and Figure 8 is the first exercise and worth 40 points. The dog must walk on a loose leash with the dog staying close to the handler's left hip. The dog must stay in position as the team goes in a normal, slow and fast pace according to the judge's directions. Left, right, and about turns are also included in the heeling pattern. Lagging would be penalized as well as crooked sits.
The Stand For Exam (worth 30 points) is the second exercise. The handler stands six feet away from the dog while the judge touches the dog from the head down the back. The handler then returns to the dog in the heel position. If the dog sits, moves away from the judge, snaps or growls the team will receive a score of zero.
Heel Free (worth 40 points) is the third exercise. This exercise is performed off leash and there is no figure 8.
The Recall (worth 30 points) is exercise #4. The dog must sit and stay while the handler moves approximately 30 feet across the ring. When the handler calls the dog he should run to the handler and sit in front. The dog must return to heel position (with either a left or right finish). To qualify on this exercise the dog must stay, come on the first call, and must sit close enough in front for the handler to touch her head.
Exercise five and six are the Group Exercises also known as the long sit and down. Blaze and I call them the "Ups and Downs". The long sit is for one minute and the long down is for three minutes.
Both exercises are done off leash while the handler stands several feet away facing the dog. The dog will fail the exercise if he moves out of place (to find the owner or visit another dog). Barking is penalized also.
The AKC will send a free copy of their obedience regulations handbook to anyone interested. Write to: AKC 5580 Centerview Drive, Suite 200, Raleigh, NC. 27606-3390.
The companion dogs my friend, Cynthia was thinking of includes; Service Dogs who help people limited by a disability such as blindness, MS, limited ability or autism.
Emotional Support Dogs: These dogs provide support for people with Bi-Polar problems, depression and anxiety attacks.
Therapy Dogs are dogs who provide emotional support and love to people in hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes, etc.
Any breed is is allowed to be a member of the above teams and all are allowed to fly with their handler on airplanes.
Those of us involved in obedience should realize that we are talking a "different language" to the average dog person. We should not get impatient, but try to explain what we do with our dogs. Even encourage them to attend an obedience show so they can see first hand. That is how I got involved, when my Husband Glenn and I attended a show in Boston and were in awe of a woman sending her German Shepherd over the jump for his dumbbell. "How did she ever train the dog to do that ???"
Training the Novice exercises are entirely different than I remember when I trained Luckee Fella and Mandi Ming for their Companion Dog titles 16 years ago. Even more changes since Baby Ming Squeezicks, CDX (my first obedience Lhasa) trained years before that. Our trainer Ms. Hill has us break down all exercises into small parts and eventually work up to the complete exercise.
Every class begins with heeling. Short steps at first, then a halt. Hopefully the dog's attention will be on the handler and not sniffing the floor. Small dogs take more time keeping focused as they are so low to the ground and their noses pick up all the smells. When Blaze's nose starts to sniff the mat, I give a slight upward tug on her leash. When she looks up at me I praise her. Left and right turns are also done with just a few steps in between. Over time these steps are lengthened. Walking on tape on the floor that hold the mats together keeps me walking in a straight line. If I am walking straight my dog should be also. We incorporate the slow, fast and normal in our class heeling exercises. Eventually an about turn is introduced. At home when we practice on the back deck I use a crack in the wood (between boards) for a straight line to heel on.
Ms. Hill suggested I use a long wooden spoon on my about turns to lure Blaze. I put peanut butter on the spoon and stick a piece of cheese or chicken on it and hold it under her nose when making the turn. This saves on my bending over considerably. The spoon extends the length of my arm. I also use the spoon to lure Blaze on the outside turn around the cone on the figure 8. What a simple yet ingenious idea !
We have worked on "set ups" in class for when we enter the ring and set up. We practice this by setting up around a cone. We have worked on heeling toward the cone and doing a left or right turn around the cone and halt. At home I practice each direction around the cone three times. This is also to "cue" Blaze in to which direction I will make the turn and to get her used to my footwork. This was our first step toward an off leash heel. We set up, walk a few feet to the cone off leash, turn around the cone and halt. Every time I have Blaze set up she gets a treat.
Our sits and downs are improving. This week I am to bring a long line to class. Ms. Hill thinks (because she is so young) Blaze needs me on the end of a line for security. Blaze just turned 8 months old on July 9th. Still a baby. At home I can test how far I can go beyond the end of the line. Blaze is doing much better with the long sits and downs. We practice this exercise every day, preferably when she is tired in the late afternoon. We also do a little heeling every day. All the other exercises we practice on alternate days. This week instead of my heeling "inside" the group in class, I will join the mayhem and heel right along with them. At shows there may be practice areas for dogs at all levels of competition to warm up and Blaze should get used to being in the middle of chaos. In all the years of shows I entered I remember extremely few warm up areas. Maybe this is something new since I last showed Mandi three years ago.
The last week Blaze and I have been working on the "wait" command. In class we are taught to give the dog a treat and say " wait". Leave the dog (holding on to the leash). Walk a few feet, looking over your shoulder several times to make sure she does not move. Over time increase your distance away from the dog. Return to the dog and treat. This exercise eventually leads up to leaving the dog for a recall . The dog might be able do a great recall and front, but if she gets up when you leave her it will be a NQ. I will use the long line on this exercise in future classes until Blaze does a reliable stay. In class we also work on fronts. Both straight fronts and fronts off to the side. Blaze knows both the right and left finishes, however, only the left finish is practiced in class. With a left finish the dog does not go around behind you facing distractions as with the right finish. We are not adding the finish to any fronts yet. They are being taught as separate exercises.
I have decided that the clicker is more of a hindrance than a help. I can get out the words "good girl" faster than I can find the button on the clicker. I don't have enough hands to hold the leash, clicker, treats etc.
Our second set of four classes begins tomorrow evening. We will build on what we have already learned. For example, people will replace the cones for the figure 8. The class will take turns giving other dogs the stand for exam. We will work more (with longer distances) on off-leash heeling. Blaze likes the class, the trainer, and being around other dogs. She has two friends in particular in the class: a one year old Golden Retriever and a young King Charles Spaniel. Blaze really seems to enjoy learning which is a huge plus for both of us!
April 21st was the last class in our group Beginner Novice series in Hampton. The trainer was going to take three weeks off before the next set of classes would begin. I did not want to wait three weeks to continue training Blaze. A friend recommended a trainer in Kittery who is giving her private lessons with her year old Golden Retriever. I called Ms. Hill and made a date for a private lesson for Blaze and I. Our first lesson was on April 28th. The trainer wanted to see what Blaze could do. We began with heeling . No Heel command. just "Let's Go". With a treat held under Blaze nose I would walk a few steps (no more than 10 steps) at a time. Then I would stop. and when Blaze sat I would click and treat. The number of steps were to be increased in small increments every time we worked on this exercise. The command "Heel" would be added at a later date.
We practiced the sits. down and stands on a grooming table, which I also do at home. It saves on a lot of bending over and an achy back. Stays were practiced on the table also. The leash is held tight up close to the collar and the stay hand signal is used. Just a few seconds at first and slowly increase the length of the stay over time. With the down we practiced getting the dog's front end down before the rear end. This would be necessary for the drop - on - recall. For the recall I was instructed to call Blaze's name repeatedly. No "come" or "front" words were to be used yet. The thinking behind this is that it is too soon to introduce the command words to a young puppy. For the dog to come to front, I make a "V" with my feet. Hold the treat low, between my legs and have the dog come in. This was taught 30 years ago when I was training my first obedience Lhasa, Baby MING Squeezicks, CDX.
When we are out for a walk, or in a training building and Blaze is not paying attention to me (sniffing the floor or interested in other dogs) I get up close behind Blaze tug on the leash, back up a few steps and call the dog's name.
Ms. Hill discussed using eye contact with Blaze (for attention). We could do this while relaxed sitting on the couch. Say the name Blaze, click and treat when she looks at me. I can hold the treat off to the side of my face, but only click and treat when Blaze makes eye contact with me. Blaze thrives on praise so I must use lots of it. Also I vary the treats on different exercises and on different days. Ms. Hill suggested giving Blaze 2 - 3 ten to fifteen minute practice sessions per day. Generally puppies cannot retain much if pushed to a longer time. Ms. Hill was extremely surprised that Blaze kept working for almost the entire hour lesson. She noticed that Blaze enjoys the class and learns quickly. We had play breaks during the hour.
On May 5th we had our second private lesson. Again we worked on the sit, down, stand and stays on the table.This time I was to lure Blaze with a treat while holding the leash tight near the collar. I would gently pull the leash forward and hold Blaze back with a hand on her chest. I would keep saying the word "stay". When she kept the position I would click and treat. A slight tap on the chest along with the click would become a release command.
We worked on finishes next. Blaze had the basic idea on how to do both left and right finishes as we had been practicing at home. I did need some help with the Right finish. Ms. Hill suggested I have a treat in each hand (plus the leash and the clicker). This is a lot to handle and coordinate. With the dog in the front position, I lure Blaze as far to the right as I can turn and give her the treat. When she comes around behind me into the heel position and sits, click and give her the second treat. I repeat this several times. The Left finish is much easier as it involves one hand and one treat.
We even started some work on scent articles. I told Ms. Hill I have no interest in doing Utility work again. My goal for Blaze is to earn a CD title and her Canine Good Citizen title. Possibly a CDX. I think Blaze would make an excellent Therapy Dog. I did take Lilly's old wooden dumb bell with me. Blaze did retrieve it for me. She loves to retrieve balls and rope toys on our back deck. We worked on holding different dumb bells to the clicker. If Blaze showed any interest in the dumb bell (like sniffing it) then I would click and treat.
Apparently the idea of training today is to start with the hardest exercises (Utility) then work your way down to Novice exercises. This way when it is time to show in Utility the dog will not be too old to earn the title. Her joints and body will still be in good enough shape to do the jumps. Her mind will be sharp also. When I got home from this class I looked in the basement for Lilly's scent articles. All my training equipment for Utility work was there. If nothing else, working with the articles will be good mental stimulation for Blaze. She thinks it is all a game which is a good thing. As soon as I get home from any class I write down in detail what we learned that day. Before any training session I look over my notes. One day we practice two or three exercises and the next day we do others. We try to work on every exercise at least three days a week.
Blaze and I are having fun working together and that is what counts !
The puppy play group that Blaze was in for four weeks improved. The second week she came out of her shell and played with the other puppies. Being the smallest puppy she got pushed around a lot and rolled over, but she dove right back into the fray for more. The two large puppies were put into a play class the next hour. The last play session was Easter Sunday morning. It was held in a basketball court so there was lots of room to play, work on heeling and recalls.
On March 31st Blaze and I began a Beginner Novice 4 - week class at "My Dog's Mind" in Hampton, NH. The time is perfect for me - noon on Thursdays. I have not taken a novice class with puppies in 15 years when I began training Mandi and Luckee Fella. A lot has changed since then. The first week there were six puppies in the class, all larger than Blaze of course. Terrence Kirby is the trainer. The first thing he looked for was a training collar on the dogs. I had a snap-together collar on Blaze with her name and phone number stitched on it which would be allowed in the show ring. Blaze was the only puppy without a chain collar. Mr. Kirby let it go as she is so small. I said the chain would break her beautiful coat. Most people brought clickers which he recommended, but were not mandatory. I never got into clicker training. I have a couple of clickers which I have had for 20 years and never used. I did take one to the second class with me. I was willing to give it a try.
The first week we worked on eye contact, learning how to use the clicker and recalls on a 30' line. When the dog comes in to you, hold him under the collar, then click and give the treat. Do not lure the dog in with food. We rotated chairs so the dogs had different distractions around them every time we moved to a different chair. Eventually each person sat in the chair facing the group. We worked on sits and downs with eye contact. I learned a good trick for getting the dog to down and that is to squeeze gently on the dog's back (around the shoulder blades) and at the same time pull the leash forward. We also worked on the command "back away" so that the dog learns to give the handler some space. Blocking them with our feet seemed to work.
On April 7th (the second class) we worked on clickers again. Mr. Kirby said the dog can learn a lot faster by clicking. When he hears the click for performing the command correctly he know a treat will follow. The click is instant praise. You can also teach the dog that a click is a release command. My clicker is in the shape of a frog that fits on my finger. It takes some getting used to coordinate the click at the right second. After one lesson using a clicker I seem to be getting results with Blaze. "You're Free" or "O.K." are also good release commands and the dog knows she can take a break.
On recalls we called our dog, threw a treat between our legs and had the dog go through. While the dog was eating the treat we would turn around and have the dog return to us. This is preparation for a nice straight front. It is also to teach the dog not to be afraid of going through narrow spaces. We used 30' lines for recalls and if the dog ignored us, a light tug on the leash would get their attention. We worked on Heeling and walking on a lose leash. Two rules that were emphasized are " never follow the dog" and "never allow your dog to pull you". When the dog is not by your side you do not have his attention. Turn around when the dog ignores you and click when she is by your side. Reward for distractions such as other dogs or treats on the floor (click and treat). I use toys at home as distractions on the floor. We also used a hand signal for "sit" while walking the dog. We walked a few steps then gave the "sit" hand signal. Then click and treat. We repeated this a few times. Any position of sit is allowed to begin with, then later we would work on a good straight sit. I try to get a good sit right away as it is hard to correct a sloppy sit once it has been allowed. The hand signal we learned for the sit while walking is more like the one used in Rally for "get back 3 steps".
We also covered sit and down - stays, keeping our foot on the leash to keep the dog in position. Gradually increasing the length of time of the stays and using the stay hand signal. As the time is lengthened, click and give a treat, wait a few seconds, then click and treat again. Don't forget to verbally praise your dog.
I am finding this class interesting and Blaze seems to enjoy it also. We are both learning and looking forward to the next two sessions.