Monday, March 11, 2013

Back in the groove

Our Police K9 narcotics detection class wrapped up on Friday, and now it's time to get back to work with the client dogs. I find it relaxing to go up to the kennel, turn on the radio and spend a couple hours working my way through the dogs.  I have to be able to change gears based on the level of training each dog is at, and what they give me in the session.  I will be sharing our training progress here and introducing some of the dogs. 
This evening a male German Shepherd Dog gave me some very nice heeling, and was an improvement from last night.  The dobe is so big and so used to pulling everywhere that he is oblivious to leash pressure and resistance to moving off leash pressure, so that is where we had to start tonight.  No sense in continue with any heeling work until I can get him to move off the leash pressure.  Chica, a Dutch Shepherd and sister of Cooper, is a super-star.  I like to throw her in the mix in between dogs that require more attention because she frees my mind.  She comes out asking "what are we going to do today?" and I is so easy to shape behaviors with.  Push this wheel stool? you bet.  Lay on your side? sure.  My latest work in progress with her is to get her to move her rear feet onto a perch and eventually rotate around using her front feet.  We had a nice break-through tonight.  A young German Shepherd female is working on basic manners such as sitting to come out of her kennel, not mugging food off tables and not biting.  She is not malicious, but gets very chewy when you pet her or when she is stimulated, so we are working on impulse control. I started to teach her to go to a "place", which in her case is a rug, and she took to that very easily and enthusiastically.  Another female Dutch Shepherd practiced heeling, as well, along with her positions, backing and turns.  Everyone had a real nice session.
Then there was Excel, a Small Munsterlander male.  He was never sold as a working dog because he is very soft. His littermates showed great ability, and one is part of Tom's regular South Dakota hunting party.  Excel is like the boy in the family of NFL players who prefers ballet.  We thought he was going to move to Holland last year with a friend, but her trip here did not materialize and so he remained.  I decided to use the clicker with him in our session tonight.  I placed a box on the floor to see if he would interact with it, but he thought that must be a trick! I clicked and fed a few times as he acknowledged it, but then decided that I would capture a behavior HE wanted to perform and go from there.  I held the food in my hand and he hesitantly began to raise one front leg. Click!! From there, it was paw to knee.  Hey, I'm digging this!  We isolated right paw to knee.  Added the word "right". A couple times he started to raise the left one, but I said a gentle "nope" and he then raised the right instead. Yippee!! We had a very positive session because I didn't insist on our path of discovery, and Excel was empowered by it.
It takes me a couple hours to make one session with all the dogs.  This is where they earn their dinner, as well.  In another week I will be adding a wee little German Shepherd female to the crew and sharing her lessons, too. I've been able to hone my puppy skills in training Eric & Dahlia, so no excuses!
I'm back in the groove..............