Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Different Scaredy Girl

HOMER IS HOME. I would have updated sooner, but my internet was out again yesterday (which means ANOTHER week without the training update - and agility was cancelled due to rain, too). I don't have any details at all except that he was found. Thanks for your good wishes!


I'm very excited to announce that I taught my first class with my dog club Monday night as an assistant. It's a non-competitive agility class, where the dogs learn the basic obstacles without the competition skills. There are only three dogs in the class - a GSD mix, a Papillon, and a Lab mix. A fourth is slated to join us next week.

The Lab mix is a nervous girl. I knew it right away when I saw her - big eyes, ears back, tail low, tip-toeing. So, I kind of leapt at the chance to work with her and was put in charge of her for the night. She had taken this class before, but still was having a lot of trouble with the tunnel.

I started by simply going over to her, crouching down, lowering my head and letting her come up to sniff. She realized pretty quickly that I wasn't going to try to pet her, but was just going to throw bits of turkey her way.. we progressed all the way for her to come up and bop my hand with her nose. She seemed to learn quickly, as she didn't know "touch" before I started teaching her it. I informed her owner that "touch" was particularly good for fearful dogs as it lets them dictate the terms on which they interact with a person (without the invasive petting).

We moved the tunnel off to the side of the room so that the other dogs could practice jumping and recalls while we worked. I scrunched up the tunnel really small and it was evident that this dog was seriously afraid of it, giving herself a lot of room from it. Once we got her in to the vicinity of it, I told her owner: baby steps, lots of cookies, lots of praise. We ended up getting her to put 3/4 of her body in to the tunnel.. the most that she had done so far. When we were finished, she was still curious and investigating it. We ended with a fun session of running through the uprights, which she seemed to like. When she saw the other dogs going through it later, she was very interested in watching them.

I was going to introduce the clicker to see if that would help her at all, but I decided that the extra noise might not be a good thing, and told her owner to try it at home first.

She has a LOT of object and sound fears. She is afraid of the tunnel and the (very low) A-Frame, and would not jump when I put the bar up to 8". Hearing a dog scramble up the A-Frame sent her in to a tizzy. So did the hula hoops dropping on the floor. Agility can really go either way with a dog like this.. some soak it all in, and others really struggle. Her owner is also a bit over-concerned about giving her too many treats, which, of course, will be to the dog's detriment. The biggest thing with new trainers is that they really don't understand right away that treats are an integral part of getting the dog to associate the activity with something fun. It will be interesting to see how this sensitive girl and the others progress.


Diana May 19, 2010 at 10:46 AM  

A good treat is Natural Balance rolls. Its dog food , so its balanced. But works great as treats. Most dogs love it. She could skip his dinner on class nights and just use that in class. Diana

Sam May 19, 2010 at 10:54 AM  

Yup, I suggested something similar to her. I don't know if people are embarrassed, if they don't think it's necessary, or they just need to be taught, but so many people don't like to give out treats and praise to their dogs!

Cheryl, Indiana, Shingo and Molly May 19, 2010 at 10:54 AM  

Congrats on you first class!!

Woofs and Kisses!
The Fiesty Three

Scout and Freyja May 19, 2010 at 11:13 AM  

Congrats on the dog class!

Congrats on Homer coming home!

Yes, cat poopie doesn't sound bad, especially when you consider the cost of getting the rock out!

Two French Bulldogs May 19, 2010 at 11:27 AM  

Ut oh, now you have an agility teacher as a mom. BOL Congrats
Benny & Lily

The Army of Four May 19, 2010 at 11:34 AM  

First, we are SO glad Homer is home! Whew!!!
And that's so COOL that you're teaching a class!!! Especially given the "special needs" pupper!!! That's awesome!
Play bows,

AC May 19, 2010 at 11:37 AM  

Nice work Sam! Are you going to keep teaching classes? You have a ton to offer new handlers, especially those with nervous dogs!

The whole treat thing is interesting. Our trainer got mad at our class a few weeks ago because we didn't bring good enough treats! We often hear, "Your dog's better get a ton of treats for this!" I'm glad Kona and I train in the "pro treat" environment.

I know that when I first adopted Kona I had the idea that dogs should just want to work for their handlers, no food or toys as "bait." Well, that idea went out the window quickly with Kona!

Sam May 19, 2010 at 12:02 PM  

Thanks! I'm going to assist with this class for its entire 8-week duration. I didn't expect to do as much as I did Monday, so I'm glad that I'm likely going to have the opportunity to help work with these dogs.

I would LOVE to suggest that my club offer a shy dog class, but, since I'm still a fairly new member (training with them since Dec '08, became a member Oct '09) I'm still afraid to speak up...

LauraK May 19, 2010 at 12:53 PM  

How cool that you get to help teach a class! I bet you're really good at that :) And I'm so glad that Homer made it home- I'm sure his owners and him are so relieved too! What a scare!

Chris and Ricky May 19, 2010 at 12:56 PM  

Great news about Homer!

Sounds like you will be an excellent dog trainer - your club is very lucky to have you and all of your experience with a fearful and reactive dog!

About the double front - I don't really know the definition of one except that you are actually doing two front crosses (two side changes) that are blended into one motion and all on the landing side of the jump - I think that you meant one side of the jump end and then the other -like right side and left side - in the comment you left me?

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! May 19, 2010 at 1:24 PM  

Great news on Homer!


Khongrats on the khlass!


Sue May 19, 2010 at 2:05 PM  

Wow, that's great. Your experience with Marge can help you teach others how to deal with phobic dogs. Monty was terrified of the clicker sound.

Sara May 19, 2010 at 4:25 PM  

I'm so happy Homer made it home.

How fun to teach a class. They are lucky to have you helping out, especially for dogs with "special needs". LOL.

Misty was terrified of clickers for the longest time, but I think she is finally coming to terms with Karen Pryor's iclick.

Golden Woofs! SUGAR May 19, 2010 at 4:46 PM  

Woof! Woof! Lots of Golden Congrats. It sure FUN ... Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

Gus, Louie and Callie May 19, 2010 at 5:21 PM  

Oh you are so lucky to get to work with that pup. I am sure it trusts you a lot... Keep up the good work..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Kathy Mocharnuk May 19, 2010 at 6:08 PM  

So glad Homer is back home.
wow, you would be such a natural to teach in class, especially with a fearful dog because you have dealt with so much and so much clicker training, behavior mod, desesntization. Working one on one with a dog like that and introducing the owner to some of the ideas might really change their lives, even if they do not fully get it now, sooner or later it clicks in.
That is the biggest trouble I have when I teach classes, people who do not want to reward their dogs and do not understand in agility...the dogs have got to want to do it and it should be rewarding and fun. There always seem to be the standard stock excuses and I have even had students that when I will yell across the field REWARD THE DOG, they will pretend they do, LOL. I always bring some treats because there is always someone who shows up with kibble or a couple of hard dog cookies. I love useing natural balance and using it in place of their meal, owners seem to feel that is being mean not to feed the dogs before class. I love teaching and hope you have a great time with that.

mayziegal May 19, 2010 at 6:54 PM  

Yay, I'm so very happy Homer got home!!!! We were very worried.

It sure sounds like you had oodles of fun and did a good job helping out that skeered doggie. I'm sure glad that lady isn't MY mom cuz MY mom gives me lots and lots of treats. She says that "rate of reinforcement" is super duper important and I'm with her if that means I get more treats. Hopefully that lady will come around with your help.

Guess what? In my Rally class last night, my teacher used me as a demo dog and I was BRILLIANT if I do say so myself. My mom says it's fun to watch somebuddy else work with me cuz she could finally see what everybuddy's been talking about with me being so attentive and having a pretty heel and stuff. They even had some agilitys stuff stacked up around the room last night and I thought it was pretty interesting. Maybe someday!

Wiggles & Wags,

Cyndi and Stumpy May 19, 2010 at 6:58 PM  

It's just perfect that you are able to share what you have learned with Marge! Circles are a wonderful thing.

houndstooth May 19, 2010 at 7:31 PM  

Hurray for Homer!

I'm glad you had fun with your class! I hope you have good luck with it. We often tell our kids in class to break up their treats into small bites for class. That might help the lab owner some.

Amy / Layla the Malamute May 19, 2010 at 8:04 PM  

I'm so glad Homer is home. It's terrifying for any dog to be loose but so much worse when they're skittish.

It is sooo cool that you get to assist in training classes. That's awesome! What a great experience. Not only will you be able to share advice with people but you'll probably also see a bunch of different ways to handle things, even if it is a pet class.

Rebecca May 19, 2010 at 9:24 PM  

Love the blog!So glad you take the time to get to know the dogs in the class - we do them no favors if we rush. We added you to our blog list! We will be checking for updates!
Rebecca and Daisy Mae

Lorenza May 19, 2010 at 10:30 PM  

I am so happy to know Homer is back at home!
Congratulations on your class!
Take care
Kisses and hugs

♥ Sallie May 20, 2010 at 8:16 AM  

Yay! Homer is home! And you taught your first class? Awesome!

Dawn May 20, 2010 at 11:20 PM  

We're sooooo grateful that Homer is home again! Was he far away? How did they find him?

As for your class? How great is THAT! You are a real asset to the club, and you should bring up the possibility of a "shy dog" class just to see whether you'd get enough. I know I'd bring Katie (but it's a bit of a commute from MI!) She's been very shy, but after 3 years of obedience and now a bit of agility she's not as bad as she was. It's been a ton of work though! And hit and miss by me as no one was there to give me anti-shyness advice! LOL!

Good luck with it all! :)

Muttsandaklutz May 20, 2010 at 11:44 PM  

Fantastic news about Homer! What a relief.

The nervous dog and her humans are lucky to have crossed paths with you. Sounds like the knowledge you've gained through your experiences with Marge are exactly what they need right now.

KB May 21, 2010 at 9:28 AM  

Sam: I'm thrilled to hear that you get to share your hard-won knowledge with other dogs and their humans! It's fun following your blog and wondering where you'll end up in life. Dog trainer has definitely been one of my guesses!

BTW, I have experience with exactly ONE dog who was terrified of the tunnel (K) - so take my story with a grain of salt. We had our entire family - me, my husband, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephews all crawl through the tunnel with K watching. We acted like it was the funnest thing that we'd ever done. To my amazement, K joined the train, and that particular fear was history. I wonder if you and the owner crawling via the tunnel might help the scared lab.

Like I said, you know more than I do. I just thought that I'd share my experience with K.

Carolyn May 21, 2010 at 7:30 PM  

Congrats on teaching! That's great!

Sorry if you already addressed this, but are you logging hours towards your CPDT or just assisting for fun?

Either way, you seem to have such a solid base in training, it's wonderful that you are involved!


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