This week we started off by practicing walking/heeling. I’ll admit right now that I jumped ahead.
Maybelle and I had been working on her walking for weeks, so this week I read ahead in our training booklet and started working on teaching her “heel the position” and then transferred that to our walking. Because she’s super smart she picked it up very quickly and by the time we got to class she was way ahead of the pack, especially the nutter dog.
If you’re wondering how you teach this, here is our method: Start with the dog in front of you and use a treat to lure it behind you, and turn it around so that it is standing with its head by your left knee. Then raise the treat above its head so that it sits (this isn’t strictly necessary, but if you want to teach the position it’s easier that way). When you step forward keep the treats right at the dogs nose (and close to your leg) so that the dog moves with you. You can say heel when you take a step forward. If your dog is food motivated, and you have the motion down right, it’s actually a cinch.
Then the trainer had me start asking a series of behaviors before giving a treat. So, for instance, I’d have her sit, lay down, get up and heel, and then sit again before finally giving her a treat. That was actually more difficult because, like many dogs, she just starts going through all her behaviors automatically to get a treat.
It wasn’t long before we moved on to “stay.” Now, in the past I realized that May actually stays quite well when you don’t have a treat — the treat almost served as a distraction. I think the reason for this is that in the past she’d probably been told to stay and then called to come. This is, apparently, the wrong way to teach this behavior. You have to return to the dog and give it a treat while it’s still in the position. Since she already had the concept of “stay” she learned this quickly as well. And the nutter dog came in very handy and served as a great distraction.
That brings me to the nutter dog. I will openly admit that I don’t have a lot of patience for ill-behaved dogs. Now, I’m sure this dog is young (which is why I did not want a puppy) but you can also tell the owners don’t have much control, or a desire to practice and enforce the rules. This is not something I can understand. Most people probably would not have bothered taking May to obedience. She’s perfectly well behaved enough for the average family, but I take her just about everywhere with me — “well behaved enough” won’t cut it for me. Also, as we’ve established before, I’m a control freak. So when this dog lunges and is practically pulling over its owner (who is a man well over six feet tall), I get very annoyed. On the one hand I appreciate that there is a completely distracting dog to help May learn to ignore dogs and focus on me, but the dog isn’t the most friendly and as my Nana would say, “I can see it coming off” — which is limey for, “something bad is going to happen.”
Then we had a short socialization. Maybelle is a control freak, like myself, and though she’s not aggressive she has a tendency to be bossy — hence the herding. So when she first meets a new dog she gets her hackles up. Even when her back is way up, she mostly just gets super excited, but the trainer has instructed me to turn away from the dog and walk away–letting her relax, and then try it again.