Phoenix and I went to train at a park this morning. We've been training basically at home for the last six weeks with occasional group sessions at buildings with friends. I wanted a change of scenery.
The only drawback to training early in the morning was the wet grass. Not that I really minded. I knew my old battered Merrills were no longer waterproof. No surprise there. And I knew Phoenix didn't mind getting his paws wet. He is a lot of things but a prima donna is not one of them.
I just didn't realize HOW wet we were going to end up. It was relatively cool at 7 a.m., 70 degrees. I say relatively because we've had a lot of 75 to 80 temps before the sun even comes up lately. The air was dripping with humidity, so what didn't get soaked from the wet grass absorbed it out of the air. My hair objected and did its she-stuck-her-finger-in-an-electrical-outlet imitation. No wonder the clerk at the convenience store gave me a funny look when I stopped to get a cappuccino on the way home. He had piercings all over his face so I didn't think he had any room to talk.
Back to the park. I like going new places to train to test how well my dog knows his job. Granted at 7 a.m., we pretty much had the park to ourselves, not a lot of distractions around. But there were still new smells and the novelty of not working in the back yard. Plus I like being able to go train first thing in the morning, knowing there's nothing else on the morning's agenda and we have all the time in the world —we don't have to rush to be somewhere else at a certain time.
I was really happy with our session. Phoenix is still working without food for 98 percent of the exercises. He's responding better and better to verbal praise and seems more comfortable with and understanding of working without the expectation of cookies. I'm using limited food for a couple of skills we're re-training.
I've added a toy back into the mix but it's not a reward. It's just a toy and we play when I feel like playing, not with the intention of rewarding any specific behavior or building attitude. Whether Phoenix sees it that way or not, I don't know. But I'm not expecting our play to produce miraculous results — I just really, really love playing with my dog and he loves it too.
I don't know if it was the cool (ha-ha, see how hot it's been here, I think 70 is cool!) or the wet grass or what, but Phoenix was absolutely squirrelly. He worked hard and made some mistakes and we had some corrections and do-overs and let's-take-this-apart-and-work-on-it moments but he was happier than I've seen him work all summer. Seeing him so relaxed and silly made it easier for ME to be relaxed and silly, too, once again making me wonder how many of our problems I've created by being too stiff and formal when we train.
It was worth getting wet. Now all my training gear is laying on the patio table to dry out. My wet clothes are in the laundry and my wet dog is taking a nap. It's 9 a.m. and I have a whole beautiful Saturday at my disposal. Love it!
Tonight is the paranormal investigation, starts at 5 p.m., ends at 10 p.m. Can't wait, this will definitely be a new experience!