Monday, October 3, 2011

And I thought walking the dog was a trick with yo-yos

Gracie and I will be going to class tomorrow night, and this time, I am ill prepared. I haven't been doing our homework.

Gracie no longer barks at the other dogs in class. (Especially when I am carrying shaved particles of steak as treats to get her attention.) She will sit and stay. It amazes me how 3 five-minute sessions a day can shape her behavior so quickly.

A Pembroke Welsh Corgi, she is much happier when she has a job to do, even if she doesn't like what I am teaching. We are interacting. I have HER full attention and she has mine. This is not a dog you should routinely leave alone in the back yard all day, even with a Kong toy full of peanut butter, which I haven't gotten yet. Maybe later. She's just five months old and craves company.

Sigh. maybe too much. I played tug and fetch with her this morning before getting on the computer. She then settled by my feet to play while I write. She just interrupted to "yell"--her loud bark that demands, "play with me." Or equally, "Pay attention to me." I told her no firmly and set her down (because she jumps up to do this.) After three such interchanges, she took her tug rope and went in search of another toy. Three times it took me. I can see trainers everywhere shaking their heads at my poor work with her. (Meanwhile, I am such an amateur I am just secretly pleased she eventually followed my order.)

I admit I don't have the detachment to be a good trainer. Yes, she's a dog. Yes, I did the alpha exercises, and she responded. She has so much vitality, so much intelligence and personality, however, that I play to her sensibilities. She does have them. Like all young things, she can also be sneaky. I have to be aware of that, too.

Last week they told me I shouldn't have fed her before coming to class, which ends about 8:30 pm. I ate a sandwich before training, and Gracie was right there, so I fed her a small meal of dry food. We ate together. She was totally responsive in class to her steak bits. I am not trying to train a competition obedience dog, and I see no sense in being austere. I am the novice, however, and almost everything they are teaching Gracie and me works well.

Spraying her in the face for barking or play-biting is one distinct failure. The bottle I found shoots more of a mist rather than a stream like a water pistol. The stream might work better. After I tried it, she backed away, barking furiously and would not let me near her. I haven't tried it since. Redirecting, or using "no" sparingly, seems slowly to be working. A snap of my fingers on her nose works well, but my blasted arthritis mostly prevents my being able to do so.

She seems to respond very slowly to hand commands and I believe I am consistent. I try to say certain words predictably before we do certain things. Right now I suspect she understands, all right--she's just waiting for the treat to appear first.

She will sit as I face her and remain sitting till I pivot forward and give her treat. Good. Then we walk and she is supposed to be heeling more stylishly. I haven't practiced near enough this week, and she hasn't improved much there.

I am supposed to say "down", making a down gesture with my hand, and get her on her tummy. She dodges my hand, knowing I am going to press her tummy down. She REALLY doesn't like this one but eventually will lie in tummy-scratching mode when I take my hand away and wait for her treat. I am not physically strong and it usually takes me two or three tries to accomplish this. So far, each success takes 2-3 tries, no improvement.

She's not mean, or even unfocused. She doesn't like it and will do so only after much effort. The trainer told me all that is required is that she go down--on her back, feet in the air is fine. It seems silly to me.

I thought surely corgis are so prized there would be no rescue groups, but there are, of course. Gracie was turning into a brat and still has her moments. They take a lot of work and interaction to become the wonderful family dogs they can be. I've been tempted twice by ads in the paper offiering free young corgi males to anyone who has the time foe them. Another dog would be company when I'm not here, and I'm not here a lot. BUT. I can keep up with her--barely. Two, I think, would be beyond me, plus I bet these dogs need some corrective training and I'm still bumbling along at fledgling grade.

We'll see how far we get. A nicely mannered dog I can take out in public is my goal. Gracie's goal has a lot to do with keeping busy and doing things with me. Let's see if we can do both.

I have a deadline--I am getting the second knee replaced before Christmas and I think it would be nice if Gracie didn't trip me up as I relearn using the left leg.

I do well with deadlines. I suspect Gracie will, too.


clairz said...

I think it sounds like you are making wonderful progress, especially given the fact that the two of you started out speaking two totally different languages.

We have noticed that once our first dog was trained, the subsequent additions to "the pack" were so much easier--mainly because the first dog provides an example and helps us in training the newer pups.

I'm so glad you are going to have the second knee done, too. I did, and have been thrilled with the results. It's as though I got my life back!

charlotte g said...

This is not my day to interact successfully with technology. Anyway, I was trying to thank you for the tag-along on your trip, thanks to your blog and photos.
I've had a wonderful trip, and I haven't disturbed you even once!