Saturday, November 19, 2011

Beginner Utility work

I guess what's interesting about spending the past 4 years working on Scorch's attention is that now it's hard to get him to look anywhere else. We ran into this problem in agility, when he was supposed to target facing away from me. Now we've run into it again with go outs.

My instructor, Lisa, puts cheese on the stanchion, Scorch is in a heel position looking at me. I stare at the cheese, Scorch is in heel position looking at me. I go up and point to the cheese, return and Scorch is in heel position looking at me. Lisa makes noises and points to the cheese, Scorch is in heel position looking at HER, deliberately NOT looking at the cheese, then looking back at me.

Oy vey.

So after a couple of weeks of not making much progress, Lisa recommended we take him out of heel position entirely. She had me straddle him, lace my fingers under his chest, and lift him up slightly. AH HAH! That got him looking at the cheese. So I've gradually faded that position. We still have to start with an off-heel position somehow, but after a couple of go outs, he can be sent from heel. I'm using the word "spot" to have him focus on the stanchion. It's the word my instructor uses, which makes it easy to remember. I was going to use "look", but we play the "look at that" game sometimes with dogs he doesn't care for, so "spot" it is.

Speaking of dogs he doesn't care for... Scorch made HUGE progress yesterday at work. First, we were walking towards my office when my coworkers MASSIVE chocolate lab, Cooper, came galloping towards us (on leash). Even though he's neutered, he's still huge and Scorch froze in place. The fear on his face broke my heart. Cooper sniffed Scorch, who was stiff as a board, and then turned away, distracted by someone else. I encouraged Scorch to go visit, and he sniffed him tentatively. Once he realized he was neutered and not paying attention to him, I think Scorch relaxed a bit.

Then we walked into the office, and Brooklyn the boxer was sticking her head out from under Tara's desk. Scorch wouldn't even come through the door. No one else was in there, so I had to encourage him to pass her. He rushed past quickly and greeted his usual office-mate, Bentley. I let him off leash and eventually, curiosity got the best of him. He went over to sniff Brooklyn. She's female, which helped, and pretty gentle for a Boxer. Long story short, within a couple of hours, they were playing nicely together. What a HUGE step for a dog who was paralyzed by his fear of her.

We saw Duke the pit bull later, and Scorch politely declined to play with him. He kept his tail up and wagging though, so that's still a positive step forward.

Bliss with his fleece tug, a gift from a coworker.

In other training news, we've started scent articles!!!!!! It's really exciting to learn things that I've never gotten to work on with previous dogs, and I always dreamed of having a dog I could take to Utility. We still have to finish Open of course... but we're still having fun prepping and training. Scorch is still largely guessing with the scent articles. The nose games haven't quite kicked in yet. I'm using very small amounts of squeeze cheese, so hopefully it'll be easy to wean off of. When there's too little cheese, he starts guessing. I'm sure he'll put it together soon.

Directed jumping is also ten thousand times better than the last time we attempted it (which was the beginning of this year). The jump training we've done has paid off. Lisa recommended I do some directed jumping and put a dumbbell in Scorch's mouth too. Hopefully that will help with the Open jump refusals (only ever when he's holding the dumbbell, which makes me think it might be a comfort issue... he hated the dumbbell to start with after all).

1 comment:

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Utility is way more fun to train than open or novice!!!

I had the same problem with Lance when I started training. He was sure it was a cruel trick when I wanted him to look at food (for our glove training as our go out is a paw touch to the gate). But it didn't take too long before he understood that looking not only got him to eat that treat but got him a 2nd reward from me. Maybe if you back up on the distance for a bit he can build his confidence up.

Great progress with the other dogs!!!!