Thursday, August 9, 2012

New rules

Yesterday was day #2 of Jamie's "show dog" training. I am amazed at him - both on how he has picked up on new cues so quickly and on how determined he is that some of the old rules are set in stone.

Gaiting is going well. I think my body language cues here are the key. In all his years of obedience work, I NEVER asked him to heel while my left arm was held down and slightly away from my body. He has figured out this is not heeling and eye contact is not required even though he's on my left side. In fact, he seems to enjoy just running around and around in circles and is good about staying in a nice trot. There is occasional joyful gallumphing but that's generally my fault.

Stopping and stacking is something else. I can throw out a Utility stand signal when we stop and he gets that. What he doesn't get (yet) is that it's okay to stand in one place while I move around in front of him and fiddle with his feet or back him up into a better stack. And he has absolutely no use for staring at cookies.

This isn't surprising. I have never asked him to stare at cookies. If a cookie was presented, it was for eating immediately, not looking at. He has rarely been lured or baited except for a brief period when training foundation skills as a puppy.

For 98 percent of his life, if a cookie was presented in plain view, that was always a cue to ignore it and look at me.

And any time I am at his head, he is sure it means he needs to do a front, especially if I am doing any kind of sideways movement. So at the moment, any time I'm in front of him, our free stacking looks more like a canine dressage routine, with dog and handler doing synchronized sidepasses. I know this will get better because Jamie is the Most Patient Dog in the World.

This is showing me how deeply ingrained certain behaviors become in our dogs. I hope this fall when I go back into the obedience ring with Phoenix, our summer of building excited, happy response to cue words is this strong!

I'm working to change MY body language and cues to help Jamie understand the new expectations. Some obedience cues are helpful here, others not so much. Jamie is reveling in the attention and the joy of having a job other than being a sit/stay and down/stay partner for Phoenix.

Judie, your comment yesterday was dead-on. Jamie is absolutely a We Do Things By The Rules kind of guy and is dismayed they have been changed overnight without any committee discussion or public hearings. Behold the power of cheese, however, and if I manage to get around the sweeps ring without choking on an errant piece, we'll do just fine.

Jamie is apparently recruiting his own media entourage, as several friends have volunteered to video and photograph the event.


  1. Sounds like you're doing as well as you can! It's hard to figure out how to tell them what you really want. And my boy is the same way about any type of treats - we've always done the show ring without them. I've always rewarded after.
    My wake up call was at our very first show during sweeps. Imagine my embarrassment when after our up and back, the judge called his attention to her and he promptly sat down, just as nice as could be, in the middle of the ring. Thankfully, the judge smiled and told him he was cute and told me to keep working at it.
    Sorry, that was a book...

  2. Maybe a little squeaky toy to focus on in the stack, rather than a cookie?

  3. I took my old girl to our National for Veteran's Sweeps and let me tell you, the joy on her face at being the focus of my (and everyone's) attention again made it all worthwhile. She was on Cloud 9 and I am so happy I gave her the opportunity to relive a moment in the spotlight. I'll treasure that memory.

  4. Lucky for me, Jazz was never really well trained! He is joyfully doing Cyber Rally. No sits at the halts because his knees hurt, moving in heel and side, and he seems to think the whole thing is pretty silly. He is having a blast because this is for him only. Most things these days are for Coach and Jazz is definitely not above hogging any spotlight he can find. There is nothing on earth better than an old dog. Nothing.
    I can't wait to see film of you and Jamie - maybe I will even get to see it in person. I'm sure it will be wonderful!

  5. I am currently going through the same thing with my puppy - I'm showing her in a puppy match in the end of October. A day later I plan on debuting in Rally Novice... I'm obvisouly insane.

    The not looking at the cookie thing confuses the heck out of me! Who doesn't stare at cookies? My trainer had to point it out to me that she's never been trained to stare at cookies - who knew you had to train a dog to look at food?