Monday, March 18, 2013

the Boss is Back!

Boss is back!  He has been with me for several weeks now and had to enlist in the Fat Farm program.  When he sat down he had rolls over his butt.  He had rolls over his withers.  He was just a chunky monkey, and that is simply no good for creating food motivation nor for a dog with a dysplastic hip.  Yes, sadly, the owner Xrayed him and discovered he is dysplastic.  I require Xrays prior to preparing a dog for schutzhund titles, to be fair to the dog.  I don't want to demand a dog jump who physically isn't able.  This does not mean that a dysplastic dog cannot jump or that they cannot compete; my former dog, Digit, is living proof of that!
However, it is critical that you are careful about their weight.  Too much weight on the joints will shorten the life of the dog.  You cannot judge the value of the dog on how much he weighs.  It took me several weeks to get him back in reasonable working weight, where he cared about working for his meals. Since he is registered to attend a seminar with Debbie Zappia next weekend, this was important!
Here is Boss, looking significantly more svelte, and practicing his "perch".  The perch is nothing more than a rubber feed pan purchased at Fleet Farm.  They come in a variety of sizes, from Boss-size to puppy suitable.  The dog can learn to go to the perch as a placement exercise.  The perch can then be used to teach the dog to relay back and forth, used as a send-away target or placed on each side of the jump to reinforce distance.  It can be used to teach the dog rear-end awareness, moving in heel position and pivoting with the front feet. It can also be used to teach the front position, as you see here.  How you hold your hand to deliver food determines which way the head, and therefore the rear, will move.
 Sometimes a dog needs a little help in understanding how to move their rear, especially if their rear is a long distance from me!  Here I am employing a hula hoop to guide his movements.  There is nothing magical about the hula hoop, it is simply a tool I had available.  Using the perch, Boss can practice centering himself to me, wherever I turn.  By the way, someone who saw these photos asked if Boss was a color termed "Isabella."  He is not.  He is a dark red/rust but due to the lighting and the dust, the color is not true in these photos.

Boss loves to jump up on me when he is happy.  I like it, too; just not all the time. So I put it on the command "bump" which gives him permission.  You can imagine how hard on the body that is at full tilt!  I am 5'9", to give you some size comparison.
 Here we are practicing the sit with attention.  I am using my hand as a target, marking and lowering the hand if we are continuing or allowing him to jump up if I terminate.  We also practice the tuck-sit (for fluency) and make sure that he is tucking his rear underneath him, leaving the front legs in place.

..and working the "back" command.  "Back" means to back up, independent on my movement.  This is not the same as following my left leg whether I move forward or back, but in understanding he can physically move backwards as I stand still.
Heeling.  Shaping his head position and shoulder to my left knee.  To look at this photo makes me laugh when I remember what it was like to work Boss on heeling when I first started.  He was all about the paws, and getting his front feet over my hand. Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!
What I have to work on is keeping his butt straight, though.  I've tried several things; heeling in big circles, then figure 8's, adjusting my feeding position and even the hand I use, and moving off leash pressure.  I feel I am making progress but have not found the perfect solution yet.  As you can see, he tends to crab. I had introduced moving off leash pressure when I had him last summer, but since his return he has been very resistant to that.  Sometimes he will just sit down and not budge at all.  So, we went back to baby steps with that and he is improving.  I have been practicing having him move from a front position, moving off leash pressure to swing left and to my side and then back.
 And here is the Boss, practicing his down.  I usually end our sessions with a send-away to his meal (if he has given me effort in the rest of the lesson).  I place him on a down and he remains there until I return and send him.
We've made progress in the past several weeks and I'm looking forward to the Zappia seminar.   I think Boss has the ability to look very dynamic in his obedience, and his BH is on the agenda for spring.