Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Rehab and Retrain: Handler and Dog Team Effort

Everyone who reads our blog knows that Abbey and I have had a pretty rough year in 2011. While Abbey is still the best little dog that the shelter could have turned out on a Christmas night (anyone who doesn't get it, feel free to ask), she turned 7 on the 15th of December and I not only want to get started on more consistent strength building exercises, but diet, and joint supplements as well. Of course, these are all technical things that I consider part of her "rehab" before we start trialing again. The exciting part of the beginning of this coming year is going to be the training. Back in November, I began teaching Abbey how to keep the majority of her overall focus on ME. Abbey is very heavily food motivated and sometimes will not accept playing with a toy. I wanted to change this behaviour. I also wanted to make sure she stayed more focused on the tasks I was giving her NOT on the food that was about to come. Well, after about 6 weeks of on and off training, Abbey has had a MAJOR breakthrough.

TODAY: December 29th, 2011

I took Abbey into the backyard with a bowl filled with cookies and kibble, a holiday tugging wreath, and my car keys. I know that the car keys part sounds really odd right about now, but trust me there's a reason. Abbey has been learning how to retrieve, so I was testing her focus on her task by having the bowl of "treats" on the floor while I asked her to perform specific tasks. Mind you, Abbey and I had practiced variations of this, but this is the FIRST time that the treats were within her sight and where she could reach them. After retrieving the car keys several times without going for the treats and actually waiting for me to reward her, I decided to move on to something harder. I played the bang it game! But Abbey's reward wasn't the bowl of treats it was her wreath toy...or so it would seem. At the beginning of training this behaviour I was using toys as a catalyst for Abbey's #1 reward...FOOD! But the overall enthusiasm for said "catalyst" has grown exponentially. Abbey banged the teeter and jumped up to tug the toy with vigor and excitement several times with the bowl of treats RIGHT beside her. When I thought we had tugged enough I would say "drop" and she would immediately drop the toy and I would reach into the bowl to get a treat.

Raising the overall criteria...well this part is where I knew Abbey and I were moving forward. We did a full teeter and I threw the toy with the bowl of treats right beside her. She CHASED the toy after the teeter brought it to me, we tugged for a bit, and then I said "drop" and I reached into the bowl for her treat. JACKPOT, obviously!! I repeated this 3 times. Abbey nailed it all three times, chasing the toy and bringing it back with enthusiasm (by the way, the teaching of the retrieve also helped build that behaviour). I added the tunnel, which is the only other obstacle I have, and Abbey performed stupendously! She took the teeter and tunnel, came to me to TUG like a monster and then of course I rewarded her with her ULTIMATE currency. I am so pleased that I took the time to train this!

Abbey has also been getting a lot more exposure. I have been taking her out to the park across the street. This is mostly to help her little (almost completely diminished) reaction issue. I took her out on Tuesday and she actually enjoyed her time running in the field with a little baby! They were like two peas in a pod!

Now, I have spent all this time talking about Abbey's rehab and re-training, but I haven't mentioned anything about mine. I also realize most of you probably don't even care about my part in this BUT the title does say handler and dog "team effort." So what am I doing? Well it isn't nearly as much as what Abbey is partaking in. I am losing weight, working on better stamina, and being a more involved handler with my dog. Have I not been involved with her? No, I wouldn't say that, but I vow to be MORE involved than I have been. This dog deserves a lot more in my opinion. Plus I also vow to be a more patient and understanding pet parent.

There you have it! Abbey's amazing training session and details on our rehab efforts! Hope you come back to read our blog again soon as there will be very few YT videos this year. Most of them won't even be up until the very, very end of 2012. Your entire All-American fix will come from the All-American blog ;o). Come read about US!

Hails to 2012 "Improving the Self"

1 comment:

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

What a great day!!! Self control and tugging!