Thursday, October 28, 2010

MacNews, 1(2)

This is not a picture of Mac, but it is a funny one of Asia wondering, "where is my mom" when we were visiting my daughter's house last Saturday -- this is the window OVER her kitchen sink, with Asia on her hind legs looking in from the backyard!

It is hard to get pictures and train a dog so I am sorry that I do not have photos to go with the updates -- I will try for a video this weekend.

Montana Mac is doing VERY well -- he LOVES to train! Let me give you an example of how much he loves to train -- today I was working off leash with Mac in the yard. Zoey and Asia were on the other side of the fence barking at him, and I said his name to (hopefully) have him come to me. Hmmm.... two cute girls, one sort of in season (they have still not met) or the person with the newly baked peanut butter treats and fun ideas -- what is a boy to do?!

Montana Mac did not even hesitate -- he ignored the girls and came right to me (and the very yummy treats)!!! Isn't that amazing???

In draft news, Montana Mac is now walking with the cart behind him and with me holding the cart as if hitched to him. A light bulb went off a couple of days ago and his hesitation about the cart behind him just sort of disappeared. I suspect I will be hitching him up sooner than I expected -- maybe in a week or so.

I just do short straight lines, with the shafts gently bumping him to help him get used to that whole experience. I also have him sit when we stop -- so he is sitting between the shafts and with the cart behind him, which is excellent practice for what a dog needs to do in a draft test (as opposed to running out from between the shafts when we stop, which is what most beginner dogs will do at first). So draft is going very well!!

Montana Mac loves agility!!! We have been working on handling, which means we are running little sequences without jump bars up. Remember -- it is very important to break training down into small units so if we want to work on jumping, we do not work on handling and vice versa. However, today we advanced to baby steps of handling with the jumps at 20 inches, and he was excellent! He thinks agility is the most fun ever! However, he is still not so sure about that teeter but has advanced to putting his paw on the (very low) board to pull it down and make a bang -- excellent progress :) Rome wasn't built in a day!

Montana Mac and I have agreed on our cues for "stay" and also a release word, and so he is doing a great job with those things. Again, baby steps -- he sleeps in his own room (right next to me and the girls) and so what I do to make it fun to go to bed, and also to get a little training in, is to practice a stay with yummy treats when we go in the room. So we go to his room and close the door, and then we practice just a quick sit or down stay. I do this kind of "speed training" a lot -- training does not have to be a big formal session and really -- it shouldn't :)

We continue to work on attention, which is the foundation for everything else. Montana Mac is very handler focused -- he likes to pay attention to what I am doing, and this is something I reinforce. Remember -- ignoring a dog who is doing something right is asking that good behavior to go away (extinction). And making a fuss about "bad" behavior is a great way to make sure it continues (reinforcement)!

Mrs. Maize tries to go to work with me on Thursday so she can have a fun outing doing what Maize does best -- leaning on people and giving unconditional positive regard :) The students -- many of whom left family dogs at home -- love her! One volunteered to walk her on Thursdays so today was the first walk -- apparently Maize was fine around campus but when the student tried to take her on the bike path, she dug her paws in and would not budge -- I found them in the student lounge where Maize was holding Court :)

The student described Maize as being so sweet but stubborn. What an excellent opportunity this is to point out the power of language. If we believe a dog is stubborn, we will feel/behave in ways that are appropriate for a stubborn dog. However, if we (correctly) see a dog as knowing her own mind or persistent, we will feel/act very differently about that dog.

A stubborn dog is not a positive thing -- it does not evoke positive feelings and it sets up a contest of will. A persistent dog is a smart dog, worthy of admiration :)

Words are powerful -- the words we use -- with the thoughts they engender -- create our feelings and our realities. And the best part is that all of this is within our control. I choose never to see a dog as "stubborn" or "bad" (except Halo deVil, who is slightly devilish in a cute and amazing way) because I do not want to feel the feelings that come with those labels, and I do not find those words helpful in training.

I know Maize can be a little mulish (a very cute word/image) but I choose to see it as simply her right to convey that I have not been clear enough with my expectations, my reinforcements, whatever. A dog that is not doing what I want does not deserve an unflattering label -- s/he deserves a better trainer!

Back to Montana Mac (aka Macaroon) -- by focusing on what he is doing well, we are getting better. And rather than freaking out about areas that need extra work (teeter), I simply break it down to such a small piece that he can have success and get that coveted cookie/praise :) This is how I train all my dogs -- it is a constant process of assessing, training, more assessing, more training -- and no mean labels that result in negative feelings/experiences!!!

In other fun news, Sunday is Kaibab Tracking Day -- Barb/Maddie will be in a TD test in Washington (GOOD LUCK!!!) and Cadi/me will be in a TDX test near Spokane (YEA!) so think good thoughts for us :)

I hope that you are having an excellent week -- fall is such a wonderful time of year with lovely colors -- unless you are in Utah where they are trying to have a White Halloween!

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