Archive for March, 2010
After our first adventure at training class I spent the next week working on of the necessary assignments with the little Dachshund. We worked on sit with hand signals and then a verbal cue, and the same with down. I also practiced teaching him not to pull on the leash and to follow when I walked. And most importantly I worked on getting him to look at me when I called his name and keeping his attention. And yes, proudly I worked with him EVERY single day. We practiced at the shop in between customers, we practiced at the farm when he was distracted by ponies and farm smells, we practiced at my parent’s house, we even had a session at Petsmart and we practiced at home.
I think my insistence on practicing ALL day long really paid off, because at last night’s class he was an angel! I was completely amazed when I was able to keep his attention throughout most of the class. Yes, he did get distracted a little and focus on some smells, but the difference this time was that I was able to snap him out of it and bring his attention back to me.
We started off class by working on a watch or look command. This command can be used when you want your dog to look at you (in your eyes) but not necessarily come. Our instructor gave an example of doing agility with her dog. She wants her dog to wait on the start box and look at her but not move off the box. We practiced this command by holding a treat at our dog’s nose and then moving it up to our noses asking the dogs to keep focused on the treat. When their eyes met ours they were clicked and rewarded. Eventually we moved onto moving the treat to the side of our face and when the dog’s eyes landed back on ours instead of the treat they were rewarded. Eventually the treat will be faded out all together and we will add a “look” cue to get our dogs to look into our eyes.
Then we worked on resetting our dog when we are loose leash walking them. If they start to get out of position we can use this technique to reset them into position. Here are two videos of Ammo working on his reset.
Next up we worked on the come or recall. First we lured our dogs away from us by dropping a treat behind them. As they were finishing up the treat we called their name and backed away from them, when they turned and followed we clicked and treated. Eventually we will add a verbal cue to this such as Come or Here. The important thing about this recall is that you have to be prepared to reward your dog EVERYTIME they come to you, otherwise they will decide its not worth listening. I like to think of it as an emergency call. Like if your dog was going to run into traffic you need a verbal to yell that brings them running EVERYTIME. So for example I might use come to call my dog in from the yard because I’m not going to reward him everytime he does this. But if I yell HERE my dog should drop everything all the time and come sprinting and I need to be prepared to reward this – EVERYTIME.
Overall I was very pleased with the Dachshund’s progress. Its been hard carrying around treats with me EVERYWHERE and remembering to practice practice practice with him. But I think in the end it will give us a much better partnership, and the more I do it with him the more it will become second nature. Anyone that has or has had a Dachshund knows how stubborn they can be, I’m determined to break this stigma with Ammo and have a dog that listens more like a Labrador would. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Last Thursday I started taking the Dachshund to his very first training class at the Dog Training Club of Chester County. Since Ammo will be attending these classes for the next 6 weeks I thought it would be neat for me to post about what he learns each week. Even though this training is for a dog, a lot of the same principles can be applied to the horses or any other animal.
The last time I had been to dog training classes was when I was about 12 years old and a member of the Heel n’ Sit Dog 4-H club. I did monthly classes with my large black lab, Jack, and my brother worked with his golden mix, Sneakers. Sneakers even went on to get her canine good citizen certification. Back then it was about choke chains and tugging on your dog, that’s just how it was taught. I know now this wasn’t the best way to train a dog, but I was a kid….and this is how we were taught to do it.
Having never been to the Dog Training Club of Chester County, I was pleasantly surprised when my welcome e-mail said NO CHOKE CHAINS. I was half expecting to have to defend myself for wanting to use a harness on my dog. I was even more surprised when we showed up at the first class and the instructor handed out clickers to everyone. She explained that DTCC was a positive reinforcement training club and the classes were more about training us than they were about training our dogs. Score!
We started the class by introducing our dogs to the clicker and teaching them that click meant food. We then worked on gaining our dog’s attention, something thats very hard for the little doxie. He was much more interested in the new smells and the new dogs. So we worked on clicking our dogs each time they looked at us or responded to their name being called.
Then we worked on helping our dogs to learn the sit and down by luring them into position with food. Finally we worked on pulling on the leash. We learned that if our dog starts to pull us we should stop and anchor ourselves, waiting for the dog to release the tension of the leash themselves. Then rewarding them.
I realized after our first session that the dachshund’s biggest problem is keeping focus. He has a very hard time paying attention to me, even when I have food. At home even carrots warrant undivided attention, but amongst new smells and new dogs, even cheese couldn’t keep my fella’s attention. Our instructor suggested we search for a treat that made the boy go gaga, so I have since tried hot dogs, which seem to work fairly well – but cooked beef might have to be implemented for our next class.
Over the past few days I have been working with the boy throughout the day. He has the sit and the down mastered with hand and verbal signals – although to be fair he already knew these commands, but now atleast he can perform them with a verbal or hand signal. And he isn’t really pulling on the leash on our walks, although he wasn’t a “big” puller to begin with. I’ve also been working on keeping his attention, I think he still has a long way to go, but I have noticed some improvement. I’m anxious to see if he’s any different by our next class.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Minnow is one of the smartest ponies I have ever met. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he’s really cued into my body language – and I’m good at using my body to over-exaggerate what I want.
A few days ago I again was working on Minnow’s rear a little bit and I decided to mount up and see if he might do it for me while I was on his back. I imagined gathering my energy into my lap, I then tapped my toes a few times on his legs and lifted up into the air. After a few initial paws to the ground Minnow hoisted himself up into the air.
**sorry about the cry baby pup in the background – Trooper couldn’t stand to not be involved with this trick, but for safety I made him wait outside the ring.
I captured it with the click and that was that. I now had a pony that will rear from a hand signal on the ground and the verbal cue up and a squeeze and gentle pull motion in the saddle. Pretty cool.
I know a lot of people have negative thoughts about teaching a horse to rear. So I thought I would explain why I decided to teach Minnow to rear. #1 he’s retired, which means no one should ever be riding him again except for the occasional bareback stint I do with him. #2 I’ve been working with him since 20o2 so I know that he knows the difference between trick time and not. #3 I handle him nearly everyday and aside from the small group of people at our farm around him I never let anyone else handle him unless I am there to supervise. #4 He will live with me for the rest of his life, so I know that I have no fear of him going to someone who would find this trick dangerous. So that being said I was confident in teaching Minnow this trick. As you have seen I haven’t at all attempted to teach the younger boys, Boomer and Blitz. Because I know that since they are young they would more likely offer this behavior when I don’t want it, and it could just turn into a dangerous situation. I probably won’t ever teach them to rear unless they are retired like Minnow or I have much more confidence in them, or when I am certain they will be living with me forever.
Many of you have probably already seen this video on Horse Agility.
Well I was trying to help my mom come up with things she could do with the ponies on the ground – since she will be getting her knee surgery in a week after her fall from Blitz. She really won’t be riding for a while, but there are still plenty of things you can do with your horse from the ground.
The horse agility sprang to my mind as something fun that both my mom and Blitz could do together. So yesterday I grabbed Boomerang and started working on some liberty leading to see if I might be able to get him to do something agility wise. He actually picked up what I wanted pretty quickly and within 15 minutes I was leading him around the arena without a rope. The next step was to bring out some of my bending poles to see if I could maybe get him to bend them on his own. Here’s our third try:
Pretty good for only his third try. Boomer already knew how to pole bend (from our gaming work) – so the hardest part was getting him to recognize that I wanted him to do it on his own and then asking to move away and to me in order to weave the poles.
Anyway I think he did pretty well and I’m looking forward to doing more ground work with him in the future. The funny thing I’ve been noticing about Boomer is that ever since he saw me working with Minnow on his Spanish Walk a few months ago he has begun mimicking it whenever he recognizes that its “trick time”. He’s been doing leg lifts randomly in order to try to get me to reward him. All because he watched Minnow do it one time….smart pony I’d say!
As crafty as I am, I am a terrible sewer. I don’t know how to set the machine right, the thread always bunches up, my stitches break, I just really can’t do it. I have grand images of making jackets for the Dachshund, saddle pads, or maybe even horse blankets! But I’ve come to realize this is just never going to be possible.
Molly Mutt is a fantastic online shop where you can purchase dog bed duvet covers. Simply pick a fabric (and the fabrics are oh so cool!) and it comes ready to be stuffed with an old dog bed, or even blankets and old clothes from around your home. You can even buy a nifty “stuff sack” which will hold all of your “stuffing” neatly together.
Today I purchased the robot duvet cover and a stuff sack for the Dachshund. He has this horrible habit of chewing up his dog beds – and actually sleeping inside of them. But it comes to a point when he has stuffing all over the floor that I decide its time to part ways with the bed. Except this time. I’ve decided to be ECOFRIENDLY by simply stuffing his old bed into a new duvet cover. Plus the cover is just so cute I couldn’t resist!