Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 11: Walking Walking

The focus of today's training was leash walking, since she has been doing so well at recall. we stayed inside in the morning, as it was pouring with rain and then a hail storm hit, but after that the sun came out, just in time for a play date with her mini-Aussie puppy friends, Star and Rosa.

Rosa found her a little overwhelming, but Star and Sage had some good chases.

Next we went into town for our leash walking bonanza. The idea was to walk in different parts of town, on a flat collar and leash only. That meant we could not rely on equipment to do the teaching - it was all about technique, taking it slow and not proceeding to the next place until she had aced it in the one we were in. Dogs tend to generalize behaviors after they have perfected them in 7-12 places (not factoring in the ability to ignore distractions, which is another whole 'nother ball game!)

So that's what we did today. I picked 7 parts of town and we walked in each one, back and forth until she was working perfectly. Then we hopped in the car or took a sniff break, and then moved on to the next.

As it happened, one of the people  who attended play and train happened to come to the post office when we were working there in the car park, so I asked her to take photos. She was happy to oblige - after we had chatted for a while and Sage had  done a very nice Sit to Say Hi, Sit Stay, Down and Stand-Settle while we were talking.

When we get out of the car, I always have sage on a fairly short but loose leash. I wait till she has a look around, sniffing the air and getting her bearings, and say nothing until she looks back to me. then I praise her and give her a treat. Today she voluntarily sat nicely in front of me with a cheesey grin as if to say: "I know this game, let's get going" :)

 So we did! As we move off, I get her in the game by delivering several treats in rapid succession just behind my left leg - this teaches her to orient slightly behind me (and therefore be roughly level with me) keeping the leash loose.

I chose the parking bays at the post office as our first walking course.
I give the cue "Let's Go!" as we move off.
I keep my focus on Sage, and praise her for being beside me with the leash loose
I turn left across her body putting gentle pressure not to forge ahead
Then I go back to praising and treating for being in position
Now I am looking ahead, not at Sage, but still praising her for being in position
Right turn "This Way" 
Praising and treating after the turn
Left turn, cueing  "This Way" just before the turn 
Good girl, nice pace and position!
Treating during the turn to add motivation and precision
It takes two to tango - focus and connection from both ends of the leash
That was really good!!
Sage smiles at her audience! She knows she did well!
Final treat before moving on to the next practice location

Sage did extremely well today. This was very focused, precision training. It was slow and steady and repetitious, not really like  a normal walk - and yet by going slowly and sticking to the training protocol we actually walked all over town, without any pulling on leash.

We'll do more!

Sage just had a big frolic in the meadow with her senior pal, Sy. Now it's time for dinner!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 10: Beach Walk

Today was the first day we practiced whistle recall outside, playing the "Drop the Treat and Run Like Crazy" game. We have done this inside but not outside in the yard. This is the beginning of conditioning a solid response to the whistle in distracting conditions, using movement to make the recall more exciting and fun. As with every other step, it is critical to blow the whistle only when you are sure to get a positive response.  Sage did very well, and we kept it short to be sure she didn't lose interest and ignore the whistle.

Sage is a really good dog, but sometimes her brain is full of other things - sights, sounds smells, that she is not familiar with. Then she acts temporarily as though she hasn't learned a thing. This is not true - she is just so absorbed (and sometimes a tad anxious) that she can't focus and respond. Both for recall and leash walking, it is important to bear this in mind and not ask more of her than she is able to do while she is in the process of learning.

This was the main thrust of her leash walking lesson today. We drove into Yachats, and I parked at one end of town, and then walked her all over town and to the State Park. Because she was distracted when we first got out of the car, I gave her time to adjust to her new surroundings, and do some sniffing (with me keeping the leash loose by standing close to her and moving with her as she sniffed). I think this is also a respectful thing to do for a dog. In an interesting new area we would want to look around, not be marched off without having a chance to see anything. When possible, I like to afford dogs the same kind of opportunity (only the olfactory version) before making them focus on a leash walking task.

Once Sage oriented back to me, I knew she was ready to work.  "Let's Go!" - it was time to practice leash walking. From then until I next gave her the "Go Sniff" cue, she had to walk next to me keeping the leash loose.  If she went a head even a little, we turned right or left or went back the way we came, but we never went forward with the leash tight.

She did really well after about 5 minutes adjustment, and after we had walked for a while, I took her down to the beach at the State Park for some free sniffing and beach recall practice. The tide was low so it was safe to climb on the driftwood and rocks. She had a great time!

We also practiced Sit, Stay, and Say Hi to some adults and a little boy with curly blond hair just like Sage!

I dream of seagulls

I would so love to chase you!
This rocks!

I like beach!

 The beach is enclosed by cliffs and there was no-one around so Sage practiced recall off-leash, after testing her with the leash dragging. She came every time, though when she was deeply engaged in sniffing something new, she was not quite at the point of coming immediately. When she is physically active (running around and even playing with other dogs) even quite far away, her recall is better than when she is  mentally absorbed, but closer.  So we practiced that quite a bit, and I made a note to work on this further.
Sage, Come!
Here I come, good as gold!
 Next we wandered over to some huge tree trunks that had washed up in previous storms. Sage practiced Sit Stay in unusual circumstances.
I really don't want to do this
Just tell me one thing? WHY do I have to Stand/Stay on a log?
 Sage's Sit was good but we had to repeat the Stay a few times till she got that down. The more places she practices all her basics, the more reliable they become!

Of course, when you go to the beach, you have to take a few selfies ...

 The Yachats River estuary is so beautiful on a sunny spring day!  We sat and watched the ocean for a while.

Eventually, we walked  back to town and did more training in car parks, and on the streets, till we were both tired. By this time Sage was walking really well,  and I was hardly having to remind her to stay by me. The leash was loose and she walked right by my side.

I had to buy a few things from the store, so she practiced spending some brief alone time in the crate (not her favorite thing, for sure - she panted a bit but was Ok, and settled quickly when I returned).

We are having a little lighter day today as the weekend was so full on and we are tired! Sage is fast asleep beside me, happily dreaming of seagulls perhaps!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 9: The Wild is Calling

Today the big event was The Wild Is Calling Hike. This was a triumph for Sage in many ways. She was completely off leash the whole time, and played with a range of other dogs, from a tiny mini-Australian Shepherd to a Doberman. She was appropriate with each one, had an enormous amount of fun, and came every time I called her. She was a total pleasure to hike with!

The hike led across the meadow, over Wenner's Creek, into old growth forest, up and down hillsides,  along "elk highways"  and down to the Yachats River, then back on a de-commissioned logging road.

Making new friends before setting out  
Lulu the Poodle couldn't wait to meet Sage
Sage, Hank the Yellow Lab, and Lulu quickly became fast friends
Harmony, Mini -Australian Shepherd 
Sage doing a sterling recall at a flat run before we hit the trail
Big rewards for coming in such an exciting situation
The trail gave the dogs lots of opportunities for navigating obstacles - jumping fallen logs, fording creeks, etc.  

 We climbed up a ridge with stands of cedar, hemlock and fir.
 Sage, Hank and Lulu were the most vigorous players, charging up and down the slopes and chasing each other endlessly. They were perfect play partners - and lost no time in connecting with each other and getting going.

We had to watch out for our knees, but their brakes were good, and no-one got hurt.

Rowdy got a lesson in rowdiness when he ran smack into Hank The Tank. He had been a rather rude player before, but from that moment he was a changed dog. Hank taught him respect in one lesson!
Rowdy leaves his mark.
 Hank has the usual Labrador love of water
Come on in, the water's fine! 
Betty loves to share her excitement.
Sage ran and ran, until her tongue was heading towards her knees
Rowdy pretended to be a Disney coyote 
Sage and Hank plunged into the river together
The dogs loved scrambling  and leaping up the steep, elk-made track from the river  
Olive takes a breather
The energizer bunny is still going strong
Betty doing a long jump over two fallen alders
Sage takes the jump in stride
A rare moment of rest
Sage came every time I called, however much fun she was having!
What  a great dog!
Snack time for everyone
Photo ops.
Sage's good friend Lulu, and her people, Anna and Jim 
 We made our way back to the house, and all the dogs got a Frosty Paws ice cream (made specially for dogs) - a great way to end a wonderfully fun afternoon.

Sage passed a big test today. She engaged in full-on play with other dogs, but was also very responsive and came running to me whenever I called her.

Of course back home she was ready for a big nap before dinner. After dinner, she went straight back to sleep.  I think that is all she'll be doing till tomorrow morning. What a great dog she is - I love how active and fun she is outside, and how calm and easy to be with inside. She's a winner!