Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy 4th birthday Scorch!

My heart beat...
8wksattention best friend...

...the dog of a lifetime...
8 weeks old

4 years old today. And very happy about it.

Even from puppyhood, he knew how to ham it up for the camera.





He was good company for Dad when things were changing. And he would never judge him for wearing mis-matched socks. :)

He is the best dog I've ever known. And the cutest.
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So today, we played ball at the park.

Bryan came too. Those are not my legs

Scorch finally agreed that kiddie pools can be fun.

We followed up with a trip to Petsmart for some toys and treats. I even snuck in a few heeling sessions and drops-on-recall. For fun, we did a few moving stands, which we haven't practiced in a while, and he was fabulous as usual. Then we shared dinner at Cheeburger Cheeburger. Scorch VERY MUCH enjoyed his hamburger with mozzarella.

It was a great day, with a great dog, and a great boy. I can't believe 4 years has already flown by from when I first brought the little puffball home. I was watching some videos I took of him at 6 weeks old... already a tugging machine and connected with me. He even still runs exactly the same, just a little more gracefully now.

I love this dog.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Starting scent work & Open prep

Tonight's training was fantastic! My scent articles came last week. I've had to resist really playing with them a whole lot, because I don't want to mess anything up. But Scorch is so visual, we've started to work on teaching him to use his nose. Connie Cleveland has a great technique written up in Front & Finish, July/Aug 2010 and we're trying her technique.

Basically, her method uses metal cookie tins to teach the dog to locate a treat in a scented tin. The articles also get put in the tin, and the dog learns to alert to the correct tin to get treats. Eventually, all the tins get cookies (and articles) but only one is scented; then none of the tins get cookies and the dog is working for scent alone.

This time of year, I'm having some trouble finding tins in the stores; I suppose they're a seasonal item around here. So for now, we're playing with plastic containers. It's really fascinating watch Scorch problem solve. The lightbulb has tentatively gone on a few times, but I don't think the connection has entirely been made. We've only had 3 days of work on this, so I'm pleased.

We're starting Utility class next month, so it'll be nice to at least have a headstart with Scorch understanding that sometimes he can use his nose to work out a solution.

Our broad jump routine right now is about 4 reps of "Jump, *toss treat*, front" followed by a rep of "Jump, *no treat toss*, front". As long as we warm up with treat tosses, he's having perfect broad jumps. We've done some barrier work in the past and he tends to trample right over it, or avoid the jump entirely, so I'm liking this method right now. We'll see if the success continues. We have to make a decision about an October Open debut (under Bob Withers!) by September 21st... I think we'll be alright as long as nothing breaks between now and then.

His drop on recall is having a few blips. When I'm very firm with my "down!" and/or step towards him, he remembers what to do, but obviously I can't be gruff or move in the ring.

His go-out training with the target and PVC box is going great so far! I'm able to send him from farther out, which I think is actually helping him stay straight at the target. He's not tempted to keep an eye on me when I'm farther away.

I've also been asked to teach a tricks class. Which is great, except I haven't really had a "trick dog" since Jack. Wolfie knows "bang" and "wave" and that's it. So I've got to get Scorch working on some tricks if he's going to be my demo dog. All of my competition instructors have told me that tricks would be good stress relief for Scorch at shows too... I'm just always afraid of "breaking" something (obedience-wise).

So for now, we're working on a little "bang!". I'm trying to get him to lift his paw AT ALL for "shake" or "wave"... he thinks I'm testing him on "stay" and holds his feet even tighter to the ground. I've been manually lifting them but I might just work with a target for his foot and then try to take it away. That's one of the first tricks most people teach a pet dog, and all my dogs have known some variation of it... except for Scorch. Oh well. I also might try "take a bow", although I have to come up with a name that doesn't sound like our other commands. Part of me thinks it could help with his drop on recall/stationary drops by reinforcing that the front end goes down first, and part of me is afraid I'll break the behavior.

But there are plenty of people whose dogs known HUNDREDS of commands/tricks and differentiate between them all. My dog is definitely smart enough, *I* just have to be.

My precious boy turns 4 years old next week. It's been an incredible journey and I'm ready for so much more.
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