For the past couple of weeks we've been working hard and playing harder! Our friend Huey was staying with us for a week. Roxy and Lilly are quite besotted with him. Easy to see why, he's a handsome guy!
Huey is very gregarious and a good influence on Roxy who tends to be fear aggressive in new situations. We did a lot of walking around town and had a good amount of play time on the grounds of El Morro and San Cristobal. Whenever people wanted to meet the dogs, which is all the time, I let them say "Hi" to Huey first and then Roxy could see that there was nothing to fear and she warmed right up to the new person. Thanks Huey!
Not being wary of new things enables Roxy to pay more attention to me instead of worrying about what some person or another dog is going to do. Today we had a major breakthrough in this department. As we were running through the park another dog about 50 feet away started barking like crazy at us. Roxy looked, I said her name and she looked back at me straight away!!! Hallelujah! I gave her one a piece of hot dog(big favorite) and we ran on with me telling her how good she was and acting really silly. She loves the silliness so she keeps looking at me to see what I'll do next. I'm sure we look crazy but who cares.
Recently I've started to think about getting ready for a 10K run/walk which is in February. I walked last year but I want to improve my time so I've slowly started running more. What the point of doing it if you're not going to do better, right?! The dogs love this. I guess it's just more interesting plus I make all sorts of changes of directions and circles so they have to pay attention. I play a heeling game which is fun. Every so often I drop a treat on the ground. The dog goes for the treat and looks for more. Since they know I have the treats they come back to me. When they get to heel position, or at least near, I give another treat. This shows them it's OK to look around but they have to check in with me, so to speak. Easy and fun.
This weekend we have another show. It's the last show of the season. Things may go differently as this is an outdoor show. Hopefully that means all the people and dogs will not be quite so close to the ring which is extremely distracting. We have checked out the show site and are as ready as we can be. A couple more days to practice and a little praying to the Attention Gods will wrap up the week.
Since our amazingly fabulous and at the same time disappointing debut at our first competition we've gone back some some basics in our training. Because of Roxy's trepidation in performing with lots of people and dogs around the ring as well as reactive issues, I decided we needed to do some more socializing, sloooowly. Besides our usual walks around Old San Juan, we've been to a new park, a couple of mall parking lots and to Ponce, on the south side of the island, to check out the grounds for the next show. I need to have Roxy's attention on ME no matter what the circumstances. Practicing maneuvers with various distractions is called proofing. I had fallen in to a false sense of security in my training because the majority was done in my house and at a park near my house. These are comfortable places for us. We know the surroundings, the people and the dogs that may show up and it's easy to ignore what we see everyday. When we get to a new place, Roxy's head goes up, the ears are pricked and attentive, eyes wide and alert and her brain is going at hyperspeed. WOW!!! JUST LOOK AT ALL THIS! I'm obviously not nearly as exciting as that smell over there, those people having a picnic, that person in the big scary hat or that disgusting piece of trash. So what am I, the handler, supposed to do? And how do I compete with all this? Luckily Roxy is food and toy motivated, although not so much that if something is really freaking her out that she'll look to me for advice. We've had to work slowly on this and at quite some distance. I use really yummy(for her)treats and toys. She loves a good game of fetch and jumping up to catch things. If I whip out a toy that she loves and get very excited about it, it's contagious. She then focuses on me and what I have in my hand rather than whatever else has caught her attention. I've read a couple of good books lately of which one in particular has been very helpful. It's called Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. Leslie is a behaviorist and the book is aimed at agility dogs but the principle can be used with any type of reactive dog. Some of the stuff at the beginning is a little New-Age-y for me but hey, whatever works. As far as actual Rally moves, of which there are 31 signs for Novice, we've been working mostly on heeling skills, tighter turns(especially left) and the Down-walk around dog. Roxy tends to sit up when I get behind her. I 'm guessing this is because she can see me easier and also really wants that treat! I'd say we've got about a 50% success rate right now. I started out telling her to stay in the down position and putting a few treats right in front of her. Then each time I walk a little further around her. Sometimes I stop by her hindquarters and come back, other times I move out away from her. I continue to change it around because she tends to get bored. YO! Mom, I did it twice already. What MORE do you want?! After a long, very exciting weekend on the other side of the island we had a couple of rest days in our own comfortable surroundings and are ready for more adventure in the next couple of weeks leading up to a show on the first weekend of December. So that's what's happening on my little island. Until next time, Train, don't complain!