Tonight's class was monumental in ways I can only somewhat understand. Tonight, Scorch and I clicked into a true team, moreso than I ever have with any dog. The dog you hear about that can almost read his handler's mind, that works hard to get into the "flow", that exudes the want-to, the desire to learn new things and streamline them and earn that cookie or belly scratch or cooing praise.
I'm not saying we had the most successful night of training as far as perfecting our routine goes. We still have things to work on and we will be gently, casually tackling them and reinforcing the most correct responses.
But tonight, Scorch really "got it". Got what this whole thing is about. He started paying attention to his positioning and realizing I was only reinforcing the straightest responses. He worked with me instead of just working for the cookies. I was a gimpy, painful mess from my physical therapy session today (damn you, sadistic man) and he still stuck with me at heel position as best he could. At one point, as he looked up at me with rapt attention, I saw my baby puppy, my adolescent leggy-monster, and my beautiful adult dog at the beginning of his prime all at once.
Angie was out with a migraine, so Fran taught the class. I adore Fran. She has a little blonde Schipperke (with a tail) who was in Intermediate with us. He's similar to Scorch in energy level and enthusiasm. She has another Schip and a Corgi who are trained to high levels of obedience, and is always available with advice or answers to questions.
She gave us some pointers on straightening him out in fronts and finishes, which helped a ton. We're pretty much polishing most of our act at this point and working on his forging (our biggest issue but I'm not too stressed).
I ended the night asking her how far to push working formally with him since I didn't want to overstress him for the upcoming show. It made me laugh because she gave me advice that I have given clients over the years dealing with basic obedience and manners: work it into the every day routine. Have playtime and occasionally ask for a front. Give him the ball even if he isn't totally straight, but if he is, jackpot him with treats and more play. Have him work a finish before dinner. Etc, etc. Make it casual. It was nice to hear my own advice turned back around on me.
The best part was what she left me with. She adores Scorchie's drive and passion and attention and kept commenting on it. She mentioned dogs who seem lackluster in the ring, who aren't having fun doing it, and she was thrilled to see us enjoying ourselves so much.
"If we can keep it together and keep it fun, I think he could be a really spectacular obedience dog," I said.
She said, "He will be."