Monday, November 28, 2011

Training updates.

Just a little training update.

I am terrified of stay. This is ridiculous, because it's absolutely one of the most important, basic commands. You'd think Violet would have known stay before spin, but for weeks it's been "The next thing I teach Violet will be stay, but first maybe she should learn another thing," because she's so damn exuberant. She flies through her commands, which is my own fault. In the beginning, when we were working on building training drive and making it a game, I was playing the how fast can you go game, "sit-down-sit-stand-touch-touch-touch-down-spin-paw-touch-sit," and she loved it, but I didn't segue out of that and into adding time and distance to my criteria as well as I should have. I'd set myself up for a disaster in teaching stay, and every time I'd tried, it was a disaster. I was doing it when she was too charged up to be still or using treats that were so high value that there was no way she'd be still for them. It was going badly and I was getting frustrated and discouraged and guiltily shoving stay to the bottom of my to-train list for my nine month old. Eric asked yesterday to just work with her for a few and see what he could do, and I'll be damned if she's not doing wonderfully now. She was alert but not off the wall and he was using her regular kibble, right after dinner. The timing was ideal, but probably more importantly he didn't have the "This is going to fail" air that I'd had. We've had a few more training sessions with stay since then and she's doing amazingly. Yesterday she sat and stayed in a corner of the room while I walked around, turned my back, talked to Eric, picked things up, opened the door, and came back and she hadn't moved. Without a doubt, my dog is smarter than I am; her training issues are generally only me. It's hard to believe that a year ago I was utterly disinterested in training or dog sports and new to herding breeds. Now, I can't even decide where to start. I'm interested in herding, agility, rally, obedience, working on her CGC, I have a bee in my bonnet that I want to get her trick dog titled, the list goes on.

Piper, meanwhile, is not very drivey at all. Eric is the resident GSD person (though since we've met I've become very, very, very fond of the breed), and GSDs work unlike any other, so he understands the way her mind works and is in charge of her training. The only training issue (not really an issue per se, just a challenge) that she's had that I have some kind of personal interest in solving is that we haven't really discovered her currency. She's not food driven, she's not toy driven (she enjoys toys under the right circumstances, but when she's training she's all business), she seems to find praise rewards frivolous. I was messing around with some online dog IQ test a few days ago that required me to put a treat under a cup and see how long it took them to get it out from under there, and I used a piece of roast beef lunch meat. Piper went nuts. She reacted similarly to a small piece of chicken that I slipped her a few days ago. I'm interested to see how she works for some sort of meat the next time she's training. I feel like a dunce for not trying that sooner.

Dewey. You have to see him train to understand him, but he's really something special. He's the driviest dog I've ever personally met, and even Eric says that the only comparable dogs he's seen have been Border Collies and Cattle Dogs, and he knows more about drive than I can ever hope to. Dewey pretty much came to us obsessed with frisbees, to such an extent that I think it'd almost be inhumane not to do disc with him, which pains me a little because competitive frisbee does not ring my bell, never has. But, then again, neither did training, and then along came Violet, so...more personal growth here, I suppose. Dewey has more or less become mine, he was not working at all with Adam and he just clicks more with me than he does Eric, which is ironic, since Eric is the frisbee fiend (as is Dewey) and I am disinterested on a good day, but that's the way the cookie has crumbled and now it's time for me to pull up my bootstraps, follow Dewey's drive, and let the rest develop on its own. When he trains, he is insane. He's so smart it's unreal, and he's so excited to get the next command that he's barely able to be still. I was also intimidated by stay with him, perhaps a little more understandably, but I knew I needed to buckle down with this one while he's 16 weeks old, not 9 months, so we started on him with stay at the same time as Violet, and to my surprise he caught on almost instantly. He's wicked smart, but self control is not his biggest strength, so I wasn't certain how it would go. I've been watching him work with Eric on the frisbee, but I know that they're not going to go far with it together so I'm learning and may work with him on it alone today, after I hit the gym and run some errands. He's a completely different can of worms as far as learning style, compared to Violet, and neither of them is a thing like Piper, so it's interesting, switching my own training styles as I move between dogs.

That's all for today. It's just a very interesting time, all of them are at important stages as far as learning, and I'm learning right along with them.


  1. Training stay has never been something I put a lot of emphasis on- until recently, I wasn't interested in obedience competitions, so felt no need to have a stay. Instead, I trained a stellar "wait" command with both of my dogs, meaning they can shift position all they want but have to stay within the boundary (such as the front door, on their mat, or in the car).

    Its always interesting to read what someone else is having problems training.

    Oh, and for motivational treats- have you tried chopping up a hot dog, putting the pieces in the microwave to dry them out a little, then using that? Most dogs will go totally bonkers for them.

  2. I haven't, but that's a fantastic suggestion. I've used hot dog bits but was put off by the slimy feeling. I never thought of drying them out like that, but I'll definitely try it. Thanks! :)

  3. Fascinating to read how different all three dogs are and how they react differently to training. :D