Yesterday I didn’t walk my dogs. In fact, I barely let Kess out of her crate. I was just exhausted and couldn’t face doing anything chaotic. I spent a good part of the morning and early afternoon helping a friend at her market booth and I think the constant interaction with all those people drained me. It was fun, but I usually spend a lot of time in quiet isolation, so by the end of the day I was beat. And the thought of taking crazy border collies to a park full of people (it was the first really warm, sunny day we’ve had this year) was overwhelming. So I didn’t take them out. I just started working on my garden and let the dogs sit out with me, and poor Kess had to stay in her crate. She would have easily burst through my falling down chicken wire fence to join the children racing around just outside of it.
Kess continues to be quite obsessed with meeting every person we pass, but she is also getting much better at staying with me when I ask. If I have one of the other dogs with me, or a toy, I can keep her focused quite nicely now. She will glance at the person passing us, her whole body doing a flash of submissive wiggling, then she turns back to me to continue our game. (this wouldn’t have worked yesterday as I simply did not have the energy to keep her focused on me, plus I was gardening).
I took all four dogs out to the agility arena on Friday and had another great session of training. Hannah was her usual brilliant self. There was a course set up that was quite challenging but after a few tries we were able to run it very smoothly. Of course at a trial we wouldn’t have a few tries! I think the course was probably about the level we’d be running, so I guess we’re not quite ready to trial. This is mostly due to lack of practice over the winter. I wish I had known about renting this arena sooner as I would trained all winter.
The night before I watched the Crate Games video I borrowed. It was good to go over the techniques again. I need to get working on polishing my dogs’ crate skills. They are all fairly good, but don’t have the precision that Susan Garrett demonstrates in that video. These are really good skills to develop in terms of self-control and understanding of boundaries (such as doorways, curbs etc.). One thing that really impressed me was how well Susan’s dogs can sit and watch her work another dogs. Both Hannah and Mira can sit quietly next to me while another dog works. I can even leave Hannah in an open crate and go to the bathroom while she sits and watches another dog run an agility course. But having them sit quietly while I work another dog? Especially one of my own dogs? Now that’s somewhere we have yet to arrive.
So I started working towards this with Hannah on Friday. I left her in an open crate and worked Ross around the crate. I only train Ross with treats so it was relatively low distraction for Hannah. Playing tug with Mira would probably have been too much for her at this point, so I put Hannah back in the car before bringing Mira out. But Hannah was quite successful in staying her in crate while I worked Ross. And Ross was quite successful at staying focused on me and working this week. A big improvement from last week. I am amazed by how much they are each improving with these short but super fun sessions.
Mira was brilliant: she sequenced 6 obstacles in a row. Not only that but I was able to point at a jump and have her go over it while I was running past and several feet off to the side. This is a huge improvement for her as she has always just clung to my leg and would only take a jump if it physically got in her way, i.e. with me hugging the wing and nearly knocking it over. I seem to have successfully built value into the jump itself and now she actually wants to go over it. It has only taken 3 times out to make this much progress! I’m delighted.
Kestral was a star as well. I shaped her to do a jump (set at only 4 inches because she’s still a puppy). It only took rewarding her once for her to get the game. She then gleefully offered the jump every time I stopped our tug game. This dog is so, so smart and so easy and fun to train. I love working with her really can’t bear the idea of giving her up. I am pretty sure she’s here to stay. Besides… she’s only the second dog I’ve met since his death who reminds me of Jake… (the first one was adopted out before I could take him home, which broke my heart but left the door open for Ross)
Speaking of which, I have discovered part of her lineage (her dam’ side). Kestrel comes from lines from Deerplay Hill. Jake’s registered name, which he came to me with, was: Deerplay.