Thursday, March 4, 2010

Control Unleashed - Week Two

The class is down to five dogs - two BCs, two Aussies, and a Golden. The 6th dog transferred to another class. The BC who was very reactive last week gets the award for most improved. The owner has clearly been spending a lot of time working with her dog. She mentioned they were doing private lessons in addition to CU class. It's definitely paying off!

We started class with massage again. Iris was much more relaxed this week than she was last week. For the rest of class, one dog was working (or two for parallel games) and the other dogs were on their mats either working on attention or "Look at That."

Parallel Games
The first thing we worked on was parallel games. Emma had two rows of jumps set up (one row was three jumps, and the other row was two jumps and a table) parallel to each other. The jumps were set at 4 inches, so all the dogs in class just could just step over them. The dogs all stay on-leash.

The first time we went, Emma had one dog start earlier than the other so we weren't exactly parallel. Next, we turned around and Emma had the dogs start together, so we were actually walking next to the other dog. I had Iris on the outside with myself between her and the other dog. She really didn't seem bothered by the dog walking parallel to her. I think the jumps helped because she had something to think about. Walking back was definitely harder for her because we were walking straight toward the dogs who weren't working. When Iris started to get stressed, Emma had us pause and play the "Look at That" game until Iris started focusing again. Each dog got to go down and back twice.

Next we worked on the off-switch game. The purpose is for the dog to learn how to alternate between being revved up and then settling down quickly. Emma had a box of ring gates set up and each dog went in individually to work on this game. We were supposed to rev our dogs up by playing with them for 30 seconds. Then we'd stop playing and either wait for the dog to offer the default behavior or ask for the behavior we want to be the default (depending on the dog). As soon as the dog settled down and offered the default, we started playing again. The reason for the second round of play was so that the game wasn't ending after the dog offered the default. A fast was to ruin a good behavior is to have it mean the end of fun things! After another 30 seconds, Emma had us end the game, giving a release word in a neutral and uneventful tone.

Other dogs playing is a huge trigger for Iris. I moved her away from the ring-gate box and worked on LAT while the other dogs played. She did a pretty good job. She did do a little bit of quiet woofing and huffing but not actually exploding. I could get her focused again pretty quickly.

When it was Iris' turn to play, she refused to touch the toy. I brought her tuggy-fox to class, which is usually a favorite at home but I've never gotten her to tug in class before. Actually, I think the only toy she's ever played with in class is her screaming monkey (thank you Julie!) Screaming monkey is really her favorite, but I was worried about monkey being too much noise for the other dogs in CU class. Off-switch is something we'll have to practice at home.

Most people used a toy for tug, but the Golden's owner did some gentle wresting with him. They were actually really interesting to watch. The Golden wasn't mouthy at all and he was clearing having a blast. We talked about different ways of playing with our dogs. Emma asked us to think about different ways to play with our dogs, whether we really needed a toy or not, and could we use a toy or game to distract our dogs from a situation if we needed to. She mentioned that being able to play with your dog without a toy can be a really good and useful way of engaging (and distracting) your dog if you need to.

Emma set up two ring gates with a gap in the middle to make a "doorway." Emma had us take a step forward and then wait quietly for the dog to reorient ("reorient" depended on the dog. For some dogs, it was looking up and making eye contact. If a dog was really distracted, it could be just turning an ear toward the handler). We'd c/t for reorienting and after the dog reoriented a couple of times, take a step forward and repeat the process.

Emma wanted us to make sure we didn't have anything in our hands and our hands were down by our sides. She didn't want us luring the dog's attention (so the dog isn't thinking "I'm only supposed to pay attention to mom when she has food!" It should be that you're acting not very exciting and then treats appear for reorienting!)

Iris had a lot of trouble with this. The ring gates were in the center of the room and Iris started to stress as soon as I wasn't actively engaging her. She kept giving the deep little woofs at the other dogs. Not exploding but definitely treading right on her threshold line. She did manage to reorient to me a couple of times.

Mat Races (more Parallel Games)
The last thing we did was mat races, which is basically another form of the parallel game from the beginning of class. The same as before, we did this two dogs at a time. This time we had the dogs' mats at one end of the room and had to run to the mat from the other side of the room. When we got to the mats, the dogs had to down on the mat. Iris did really well with this. I didn't get her running, we just did a really fast walk. The other dog was running and Iris did manage to keep her attention mostly on me. I think by this point in the class she was starting to get a little brain-fried, so I didn't want to push it too hard.

Overall, it was a really good class. Iris was a little more tense than she was last week, but there was also a lot more moving around this week.

1 comment:

Jules said...

I really like the reorienting exercise. So helpful for entering and exiting new locations.

It sounds like you and Iris are really getting an opportunity to work some difficult situations!