Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Overstimulated Dog is OVERSTIMULATED

Ideally I know I should leave that last post alone for a few more hours but between jet lag* and distractions I need to put this information down where I can't lose it. I wish I had a larger font for the last word of the title. I want it to fill your whoooooooooooole screen.

While I was away Eddie had a ball. Nurtured by Robert and reinforced by Sara and Kath he became an awesome off leash dog. He comes when he's called, even with most distractions. He introduces himself and plays with other dogs nicely. He gets his ass out of aggressive situations with all appropriate haste. He runs and sniffs and whirls and twirls like a pro. It's great. As a result he's better exercised and therefore calmer all around and more concentrated. Much of the time his on leash manners are better as well. It's the trickle down theory of obedience economics.

I signed up for this tricks class before I left as a tool for calming down the limited off leash dog with aggressive on leash tendencies that I dropped on Robert & Sara's doorstep. I wondered if the dog I came back to would care about learning tricks. Then I realized he's calmer not stupider, he'll love it. Perhaps the greater calm would translate into easier learning. There was only one way to find out and tonight we found out.

I might have known all bets were off when I set the tote bag down so I could slide Ed into it to get on the subway. He immediately shoved his head and shoulders into the bag. Huzzah! He was getting into it on his own. Then his back legs mashed down the side of the bag and his foot got tangled in the handle and every time I tried to help him he turned around mashing the other side of the bag and started gnawing on my fingers. I'd have been frustrated if I wasn't so amused**. Laughing while crouched on the sidewalk by the busy subway entrance at rush hour did not make it easier. Eventually we got to class.

The teacher is fantastic and she's actually written an article about the one trick I really want to teach Ed, jumping into my arms. Ed is one of two dogs in the class (5 dogs total) who has the leg length and the right weight to do that trick successfully. I'm looking forward to it.

We laid the ground work for 4 tricks tonight.

1. Ring toss. We used rings made of that rubbery stuff that crocs and children's playroom floors are made of. You hold the ring steady and resting on the ground then lure the dog through. Then you have them sit, hold the ring above them and have them reach through it. Treat when head and shoulders are through the hoop. In each position work toward resting the weight of the ring on the dog's shoulders. Don't go to fast so you don't spook them. Work up to letting it drop onto the shoulders. Don't treat if the ring doesn't go over the dog's head, even if it's your fault, so the dog can't duck and still get a treat.

2. Jumping through hoops. Hold the hoop resting on the ground and lure the dog through. Treat when all four feet are through. Slowly raise hoop off the ground. Work toward tossing the treat forward so the dog actually leaps through. Don't toss until the dog's head is committed so they don't duck around.

3. Crawling. Sit on the ground and lure the dog under your bent knees. Only treat when the elbows are down. Keep your hand/the treat on the ground, don't raise it which encourages the elbows up. If dog is popping up when he emerges make sure to treat early, when he's still down so the treat is associated with elbows down. Put the dog in a down. Rest your hand on the shoulder blades. Lure the dog forward. Reward for each "step" crawled forward. Don't worry about the butt being up.

4. Handstands. Find a small step, phone book, cinderblock and lure the dog up on it. Reward slightly for front feet up, more for all four feet more for when the front feet come down and it's back feet only on the object. The most important thing is back feet on the object. Gradually increase the height. Make sure it's stable. Stop treating for the front and all four feet up.

Eddie was able to do all these things except the handstand and that's just because he didn't get a chance to try when we ran out of time. He was much more tentative than in his last class, especially with the teacher. Things he wouldn't do for her at all, or at least not easily, he did for me. He rejected her treats of microwaved chicken in favor of my crappy pupperoni. The dried chicken treats weren't right for class. Chicken, hot dogs and pupperoni are going to work better. Also maybe the tube food from Dick van Patten. I need to cut all the treats into smaller chunks. I know that Ed gets itchy when he's hungry. I gave him a couple of Scooter Snacks and some other treats before class but I didn't give him a full dinner so he might have been too hungry to concentrate. He did go a little mad and start to chew his leash and my hands a few times. He met all his classmates properly, though, including a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy in heat. He reacted slightly to the demo dog who was an older intact male but didn't go ballistic. His preferred resting spot during class was on my lap which I think means he was feeling unsure.

Much of the bad behavior was because he was OVERSTIMULATED in the biggest font. He hasn't been on the subway or in a new neighborhood for a couple of months and we did both leading right up to meeting three new dogs before heading into the facility. He remembered the training building and immediately started giving up good behavior in hope of treats when we got in the room so he gets the point.  He exhibited a lot of the same road blocks he did in obedience training. Crawl training is like down training and he's resistant to both but completely capable. He is habitually less well behaved in familiar situations with new expectations. He thinks he knows the drill and thinks that entitles him to a leadership role. I may be able to feed him a little before we go without compromising his motivation. The situation will be more familiar to him next week and we will have practiced our homework so he will probably improve with that confidence.

Dude is TIRED right now. He made a stab at playing fetch and chasing cats when we got home but the truth is he's bushed.  So MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, and not in the G. W. Bush sense of the phrase.

As much as we need to work on him we also need to work on me. My coordination has to improve and to keep ahead of him. This is going to be the story of my life struggling to keep up with my dog who is wildly coordinated and intelligent. Odds are good, though, that we'll be able to rent the dude out for parties in a few months.

*What's the time limit on that excuse? Can I get two more days out of it? Let's say yes. So when we reach exactly 7 days since I got home from China let's say I have to quit with the jet lag and call it something else. Lazy, slow motion, narcoleptic perhaps.

**Probably time to get serious about finding a proper pet carrying bag.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to see him do these tricks! So fun! I never thought there was actually a class for this...oh the things we learn!