I woke up this morning to snow again. Last week we had an incredible thaw and it was almost like April weather. Today it’s white out again, and back to being below freezing. And so it should be, it’s January after all!
I actually managed to exercise and train all four dogs today before heading off to work. I love having a flexible work schedule. I brought them out in pairs: Ross & Mira, then Hannah & Finn. I have decided that my winter goal is to instill a very solid base in each dog, rather than trying to look or think too far ahead, worrying about how quickly I can get on the trial field. The trials will be there when we are ready, and I’m more about process than goal anyway.
I have a number of goals now that I will list separately, but to briefly sum, I want each dog to have very solid manners and foundation obedience and agility skills. That means everything from not jumping up on me or others to not stepping out of a crate unless released. It means staying in a lie down for as long as I leave them there, a solid nose touch in contact position, backing up until I say stop, rear end awareness games and solid weave entries.
Each of my dogs can already do all of the above (well, Finn still has a few things to learn, like weave entries) but I am now going to raise the criteria sky high. When I say they won’t leave their crates unless released, I mean I want to be able to sit down and have lunch, and come back and still find them in the crate with the door open. Same goes with the other aspects. I have bits and pieces of this, but I want it all solidly in each dog. If I can do that, I think I will really have made progress this winter.
Today I worked at heeling nicely to the park in pairs. I was absolutely delighted with Ross, who was perfect all the way to the park on a slack leash, prancing beside me. I have done way more obedience work with him than any of the others and his heeling is amazing. This is the first time I’ve asked him to do it along side another dog (Mira) but his foundation is so solid that her presence didn’t affect his performance one bit. This is the level of performance I want in all of the aforementioned skills.
Mira, on the other hand, is going to need work. But she still needs work heeling on her own, so no surprise there. She was not bad though, and the two did stay beside me the whole way to the park. Once there they got to enjoy a good run and slpash in the mud puddles that have yet to freeze over (ugh!).
Next I took Hannah and Finn out. Today I introduced Finn to the gentle leader. He was not impressed. I have shaped putting in on him already, so he accepted that very well, but when he realized that I wasn’t taking it off, he thought he’d take care of that himself. I stopped him each time and I was very pleased to see that he adjusted to it very nicely very quickly. He fought it most of the way to the park, but on the walk home it only took one reminder and he walked perfectly.
I also did some work recalling him from people along the path. After he nipped that jogger last week, I am being careful with him around moving strangers. I don’t think for one second he’d hurt someone, but he’s big enough now to frighten some people, and if he grabbed someone’s pant leg again, I could get in trouble. Fortunately he recalled very nicely off each person and I think it won’t take long to get him to ignore others while we are out.
Hannah was Hannah – her lovely self. She walked nicely all the way to and from the park, recalled perfectly every time, fetched perfectly and found the ball every time we lost it in the snow. She’s my star these days. Of course we still have plenty of work to do and there’s lots to polish and perfect, but taking her out to work or play always leaves me in a good mood.
Finally, when I got home, Finn was back to being the mamma’s boy he’s always been. I didn’t think it would take more than a couple of days of one on one focus to get that back. He fell asleep on my feet as I ate breakfast, right next to Ross.