The end of our second week of serious training -- or maybe it is the third but it is the end of some week and the second edition in the second volume of MacNews :) Again, I had to take these pictures myself so not the best but they give you a visual image of what we are doing...
Montana Mac is amazingly like my girls in terms of attitude and love for training. This is him running to the training arena -- he has caught on quickly to what is fun, hasn't he?! He thinks his Real Mom back east will need to plan one of these fun places for his coming home present :)
In the meantime, Montana Mac is thinking his Real Mom might need to send him a present right now -- he wanted me to ask if anyone else sees a problem with this picture???!!!
And he wants everyone to promise never to share that picture because he is very embarrassed about it, and thinks the other dogs will laugh. He is collecting ideas for what color harness he should have, and he is pretty sure it should NOT be pink!!!! Please post your color suggestion in the Comments...
However, let's look beyond color and check in with his progress! As you can see, Montana Mac is somewhat hitched!!! A dog is hitched to a cart in two ways. First, the shafts go through little loops on the harness. Second, the harness is attached to the front of the cart through two traces.
In the above picture you can see that Montana Mac is attached through the two loops on the shafts -- he is not attached with the traces (which are green in the picture -- click on picture to enlarge). Why not? If he were to get worried -- which most beginner dogs do -- he can easily escape the cart because the loops come quickly off the shafts. You never want a bad, scary cart experience -- ever! And so one takes baby steps, building confidence with each tiny step.
We have progressed in a systematic way to what you see in that picture. He is pulling the cart hitched as above (with me holding the shaft to make sure the cart stays connected) in straight lines and with a gentle bend -- not a real turn -- just a bend. He once today got worried and I let go so he could easily go forward without the cart. He turned and looked at it and I just invited him to turn around and get hitched again, which he did with no problem.
At the end of the session he was perfectly comfortable posing for pictures -- what excellent progress he is making. As he pulls I am a cookie dispenser -- treat after treat in front of his nose. This not only reinforces his excellent work but it also creates a great association with the cart. When my handful of treats is almost gone, I ask him to sit while I reload my hand -- and so he gets practice sitting/staying with the cart.
I treat in front of him to help him understand that he needs to pull straight ahead -- this is important because if the dog tries to turns in to get a treat, the dog will likely feel trapped by the shafts and get scared.
Yes, my fingers get nibbled at times by both Mac and Syd -- but one must be willing to sacrifice for training! So a handful of treats and off we go in a straight line. When there is one treat left, the dog sits and I reload. After that we either go straight again or I release the dog and turn the cart around, hitch up again, and go straight :)
I will decrease the frequency of the treats from one every 2 seconds (seriously) to one every 3 - 4 seconds and so on. As the dog gains comfort in the cart, he no longer needs the constant treats -- but they typically do at first and that is just fine.
I will not connect the traces to Montana Mac's cart until next weekend when my various family members are showing up with the furniture from the Utah house (YEA!). Galen has helped me train every draft dog I have had (n=7) so I will put him back to work -- a second person is great for managing the cart in case a dog gets scared when he is hitched.
Okay, let's move on to agility! Yesterday I started Mac on weave poles. I teach these using what is called the 2 x 2 method from Susan Garrett -- it involves teaching two poles at a time and gradually bringing sets of two together into six. So Macaroon got rewarded simply for going between two poles -- pretty easy for a smart guy like him.
He is now doing lovely sequences from Novice level Jumpers agility courses. I started teaching him front and back crosses this weekend and again, he is doing very well. He tries very hard to do what is right, and loves to work. Today when he ran into the arena he immediately raced over and did the broad jump, and then looked back at me as if to say, "well, whatta think of that?!"
Montana Mac is an athlete -- take a look at this picture of him jumping the triple which was set at 20 inches!!!
Holy Crapola - the dog can jump! Here is Montana Mac coming out of the tunnel...
He thinks there is just way too much pink around here!!!!
Finally, here is a picture of him as he was running about and playing with Zoey...
I think Montana is agreeing with Montana Mac -- what do you think???
Lest you think the girls are getting neglected, in addition to Montana Mac's training session today I have also done obedience with Asia and Cadi, agility with Halo and Cadi, walked two miles with Syd and Zoey, and practiced breed ring stuff with Zoey. Mrs. Maize is tired from her walk yesterday and so is just being the Chief of the Fun Police today -- in between naps :)
I had to get everything done this morning as it is supposed to start raining at any moment, and you know I cannot have unchecked boxes on my Dog Week Schedule!!!
Have a wonderful, special, exciting and productive Sunday :)