Thursday, April 2, 2015

Day 13: The Best of Times

Sage and I had a magnificent  day today, as you will see!

We started off with a big cuddle. During my stretching exercises on the floor, Sage came and sat down next to me, then lay down on top of me as I lay on my back. I stroked her and rubbed her back and face and eventually she rolled off and onto her back, so I could rub her tummy too. Such a sweetheart!

Next we got to work, starting with our usual whistle recall drill, which is progressing nicely. Last night we had done some whistle recalls all over the house. This morning we took it further and did them all over the yard, dropping a treat, running away and whistling, and rewarding for 15-30 seconds when Sage got to me. She came every time without fail, and was getting nicely excited about it.

Then we took off on an all day training and exploring adventure. Our first stop was Yachats, where I picked 3 new areas to practice leash walking. Sage is settling more quickly,  is less distracted and stays next to me more of the time now. She also practiced Sit to Say Hi with my assistant Julie, whom we met in town.

Next stop was the house of a private training client. I had decided that Sage was ready for a longer stay in the car by herself, and this would be a good time to practice. She was able to stay in her crate for 90 minutes. The first hour I was out of sight in the house, the last half hour, I was outside near the car and she was able to see me. She remained calm and seemed reasonably happy, though it is not her favorite thing. Crating her in the car is a good way to work on her separation issues because she gets repeated fairly short experiences of me leaving and then coming back.  

After that, we did another leash walking practice and then Sage had another spell in the crate in the car while I had lunch. I was able to watch her through the window to be sure she was Ok. She was fine and after a while, lay down to wait for me.

Then came some fun at the beach. We stopped at one of the turn outs as we headed south to Florence. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm, and the beach was so beautiful. We practiced recall, on and off leash. Sage came to me every time. I put her back on her long line when a man parked his motor bike and came onto the beach, because she  was staring at him intently (wherever a dog stares, their bodies often follow, so I did not want to set her up to fail by letting her run off to check him out and not come back right away.) With more practice, she should be able to deal with this level of distraction just fine.

 Sage was a bit worried about the waves, but then she got more confident
Hmm.... still not too sure about this watery stuff.
 Th beach was empty - lots of open space to let her wander off and then call her back.
Sage Come!

OK, here I come!
 Our next stop was the Fred Myers car park in Florence, for two reasons. It was a new place to practice leash walking, which we did first. Then we went for a walk on the dunes that come all the way down to the fence behind the store.

Car parks are great places to practice walking nicely on leash
 Sage said hello to three store employees who were taking a smoke break behind the store. She sat to say hi, and was polite and friendly.

Sage of Arabia
 There was no-one around and I could see for miles, so I let Sage off leash and she did some stellar recalls

 Then we played a fun game with the sand. Sage loves spraying /falling water, so I figured sand  might fall into the same play category.  I tried kicking up a little shower of sand with my boot. She was delighted.
Do it again!
 Sage thought that was very much fun, and got into the swing of it quickly
Play with me, sand!

Sage enjoyed this so much! She tried figure out how to make the sand kick up - first she bowed to it.
 Then she lay down in case that would make it do what she want.
 Yep, that did it!

We moved on to our next destination. This time it was to a suburban area of Florence where we did another 10 minutes of walking practice on a quiet street.

Then we met up with Debbie and the Moose for  a practice session with Sammy, a service dog in training.  Sammy needs more experience ignoring other dogs when she is working on leash. Sage needs more practice with that too, so it was a good opportunity for both of them.

Both Sammy and Sage did really well! We walked them apart at first, then closer and closer, and eventually they were able to pass side by side and even completed a CGC item (sitting at heel, while their handlers shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, and walking off calmly when we moved on).

A little too interested at first
Better with practice
Acing a Canine Good Citizen test item!
After that very successful exercise, we went on to Old Town, where Sage had had some  difficulty earlier in the week. I wanted to see if all the training she had been doing had made a difference. We walked the exact same route as the previous time,  and Sage was much, much better. Although she still needs help to walk next to me at times, she was much less distracted and needed less input from me. I used fewer treats and more praise, and did not have to change direction as often as last time.

A bit distracted at first
But quickly settling down and walking nicely
Sage and The Moose caused quite a stir as they walked down the street. People stopped to say hi, admire and pet them.

A part of Sage's difficulty with leash walking is really a socialization issue (the world is still somewhat new and fascinating to her, so it is hard for her to concentrate. If she is nervous she pulls forward; if she is attracted or preoccupied by something, such as a dog in the distance, she stands tall and stares). So walking her in many new places and giving her time to look and sniff and explore (but only with the leash loose) is important.

We went to various interesting spots as we walked through town, and played treat games with her.
We did lots of short leash walking practices interspersed with sniff times.
My job is to keep close so the leash stays loose during a sniff break
When I say "Let's Go," it's Sage's job to keep the leash loose by walking next to me.
Another break -  time to play Treat Tree
Treat Tree is a game that involves hiding treats on the branches or trunk of a tree and letting Sage hunt them out.
Back to work!
All that hard work (and stinky salmon treats) make a girl thirsty.
What is that??????
Sage is allowed to explore to the end of the leash, but not to pull me.
If she does, I stop dead and wait for her to choose to reorient to me.
Sage really wanted that ice cream but restrained herself
Last time we came to Florence we didn't make it all the way to the boardwalk at the end of town because it was too much for Sage. Today - we did!
Made it!
We tried some changes of pace, and some recalls on leash.

Practicing Come with a dropped leash
Look,  no hands!
Good girl Sage! That was awesome!
Next we decided to go down to the docks where the fishing boats are moored. Walking down a metal ramp and along the floating dock walkways was fascinating for Sage. She was especially taken by the round balls that buffer the boat from the dock.  She thought they were kind of scary at first but then got used to them.
A little scared but doing great!

Whoa, what is that thing?!

Sage checks in with me about every 7 paces, and sometimes gets a treat for it. 
Another weird thing. What is this place anyway??
I am a very good girl, aren't I!

Eventually we came back up another ramp (Sage did well on unsteady and see-through grating surfaces) and headed for dinner.

We looked for a place where we could sit outside with the dogs. On the way, Sage played a treat game on an anchor. These simple sniffing games increase confidence in new places.

We found the perfect spot. The view was amazing and dogs were welcome. We had some fun with the dogs before we ate - there were a couple of chairs and a table in front of a backdrop photo of people partying. Sage and I posed for a photo, and then I just had to seat Sage and Moose in the chairs, to look as though they were partying too!

Hey babe, wanna walk on the wild side?
During dinner, Sage behaved like a service dog - she just lay down and quietly waited, relaxing in the sun.

On the way back to the car, Sage met a small Shitzu whom she wanted to play with, and a miniature Labradoodle, 7 months old,  named Moss. She tried to pull  a little as she got close, but was able to be redirected and greet them politely. She was friendly and appropriate with both of them.

Sage: "Let's play!"
Small dog: "Let's not!"
Sage meets Moss: " Hey, are we related?"
Sage and Moose were a big hit with  a table of diners on the sidewalk
Almost back at the car - Sage is still keeping up the good work! 
It was a long and very satisfying day. Sage has obviously made a lot of progress, which made me happy. And she enjoyed herself a lot, having new experiences, learning, and hanging out with her BFF (Big Furry Friend) The Moose. I am grateful to Debbie for taking such great photos - they really show how well Sage is doing.

She slept all the way on the 45 minute drive home from Florence, ate her dinner and went  back to sleep as soon as she was done. Sweet dreams, Sage, you are an awesome dog, and I am most certainly in love with you!    

1 comment:

  1. I am missing my beautiful, sweet dog! But we are so proud of her!