More training progress

Out and about – agility show

We have continued to have adventures – going to another agility show last weekend.  It’s a lovely place to take a Border Collie puppy, because there are so many collie families there, so everyone thinks Ounce is amazing!  She was pretty well-behaved on the whole, considering that it is quite a ‘full-on’ environment to be in.

Most of the time though, we just go down to the field by the lake, or along the river, wander around for a bit and then have some fun and games, before heading back up to the house.

New training to consider

I have continued to work through the list I described in an earlier post training progress @ 3 months I’ve also started to add in some additional things.  These include:

  • Formal recall.  This is where the dog is put into a sit and told to ‘wait’.  You then turn round and walk away from the dog, increasing the distance over time.  Turn to face your dog.  Wait for a second or two, to make sure that the dog is not ‘anticipating’ the recall.  Call your dog to you,  bringing your hands down between your legs, so that the dog is ‘guided’ into position.  Reward with them up against your legs, in nice and tight.  Reward from both hands, so that the dog stays central and doesn’t try to wriggle over to one side.

  • Catch.  Having seen a video of Ounce’s brother Lenny catching a ball and a treat, I realised I needed to work on this with Ounce.  Puppies can’t automatically catch and need to practice, just like us.  They learn quickly of course, especially when a treat is involved.
  • Twist.  I have been trying to teach this to Aura and Busy as well.  I was told by my agility trainer to work on ‘impulse control’ in both of them, as Busy in particular becomes EXTREMELY excited when doing agility.  At the show last weekend she was pretty hysterical in the ring and couldn’t concentrate properly.  She went under poles and past the weaves, rather than listening to my instructions.  Teaching dogs to ‘twist’, ie to spin round in a tight circle, is a great way to get them listening to you.

Impulse control is actually the main lesson your dog needs to learn.  It’s what I was talking about in my last post when describing desirable behaviour in dogs as it is the way to get our dogs to listen to us, even when something very exciting is going on nearby.  The starting point for this to be really exciting yourself, with lots of play and rewarding behaviour.  Be better than the other thing going on – very challenging I know!

Here’s a video showing our progress with a general wait, aka stay.  Again, I am working on this from the point of view of ‘formal obedience’ as I have done this training with the others.  You don’t need to be so formal about it, but having a great wait is so important; it’s worth spending a bit of time on this every day.

As you saw a few weeks ago, I started by trying to stand facing Ounce and helping her to wait, giving her treats for even a few seconds’ waiting.  Here you can see that I am a bit further away, standing sideways on (so I can still see her but am not so much in her face) and waiting for a few seconds longer.  I then move to stand beside her and give her some positive reinforcement, but without releasing her.  I then walk calmly around her, so that she gets used to me moving about. Not bad eh?

Here are some targets for waiting/stays:

  • Waiting for 30 seconds to 1 minute in a sit position
  • Waiting for 1-2 minutes in a down position
  • Waiting while I am out of sight
  • Waiting while I move about, moving towards me running around in front of her shouting and waving my arms around (I know, it’s a treat in store!)
  • Waiting while I throw a ball (it’s a really tough one this)

How long before I can do these, do you think?  Of course as well as that she needs to learn to wait to cross a road, or to wait while sometime walks or cycles past.  Some people teach a wait to have their dinner, or a wait with a treat balanced on their nose – I think that’s a bit mean.

All of this helps improve focus and control.  It keeps the dog with us and not running after someone else.  Best of all, it keeps the dog happy and mentally stimulated, rather than bored, neurotic and snappy.


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