The Little Things in Life (and Dog Training)…

…are not free, but sometimes they feel like “Amazing Free Gifts!!” when you forget how hard you worked to get to something “easy.” Lately, I’ve seen how the foundation training I’ve done with Barnum (via Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels) has increased our team repertoire, allowing me to communicate more easily with Barnum and request behaviors my previous SDs didn’t know.

Spending so much time training and longing for the day when I can definitively take the “iT” off of “SDiT” sometimes leads me to lose track of the point of it all: the end product. Yesterday was one of those days when I was able to marvel at my dog actually doing the shit I’d trained him to do! Not Big Impressive Service Skills (that’s a post for another time), but “little things.”

You see, yesterday was “Doggy Spa Day” here at Chez Wachsler. All those handling sessions — holding his paws, messing with his muzzle and tail, digging in his hears — certainly came in handy when I had to clip between his toes and when Betsy buzzed his tail and butthole and I debouverized him (removed his bouvier beard).

The positioning cues like stand and stay are gold when you need a duration stand for clipping. After all, there is a lot of dog to clip, and with my very limited stamina, time is of the essence.

A crucial skill for grooming is a targeting skilled I call “chin.” Chin means, “Rest your chin in my palm until you are released.” Or, “Rest your chin on the surface I’m pointing to until you are released.”

When I need Barnum to hold really still — such as when I am clipping his ears, which is anxiety-producing for me because I once nicked Gadget’s ear, and it bled profusely — I have him put his chin in Betsy’s palm. Then I lay his ear flat in my left hand or over the top of his head and carefully guide the clippers with my right hand.

It was also lovely today to be able to easily brush his teeth and to do some touch-ups with my curved, blunt-tipped scissors of the hair between his toes. Having him cooperate — not pull away or get antsy — uses less energy and is more pleasant for both of us.

But the most exciting moment was when we needed to do some cleaning and reorganizing mid-haircut yesterday. I have a large enough bathroom that I can easily turn my powerchair around in it, but it is still, after all, a bathroom. When it contains two large people, one large dog, a coffee table (which is what I use as a grooming table), and all the grooming paraphanelia (clippers, sheers, brushes, combs, broom, dustpan, bag to collect dog fur, hedge trimmers, etc.), it can feel rather small. Betsy usually does most of the clipping from the floor, and then to do the trickier parts (his feet and head, especially), I take over, with Barnum standing on the table.

So, we were moving the table out of the way and needed to sweep up the hair before repositioning the table (and dog). We slid the table to the side.

I said, “Hup!”

Barnum jumped onto the table.

I said, “Sit,” and he sat on the table. I decided I wanted him to stay right there, out of the way, while we swept up and got the blades ready for the next assault phase of the haircut, so I added a “stay.”

And he just sat there on the table while we did what we needed to do. I thought of the introduction to “Stay” from the Training Levels:

There’s a wonderful sense of freedom that comes when you can “park” your dog on the grass while you spread the picnic blanket, park her off the bike path while you dust off your kid, or park her on the front step while you carry in the groceries.

I would add that it is even more convenient to be able to park your dog on an elevated surface, if need be, which is also something I learned from the Levels list. When we had the “sit” contest, I taught Barnum to jump onto the coffee table and sit on it. (Here’s a post with some of our fun sit contest photos.) Now sitting on the table is one of his favorite behaviors.

You might not think that training your dog to sit on a coffee table is such a terrific idea, but you never know when it will come in very handy.

- Sharon and Barnum, (bald bouvier) SD/SDiT

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2 Responses to “The Little Things in Life (and Dog Training)…”


  1. 1 Sarah Skilling July 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I’m so glad to hear things are coming together for you and Barnum! That’s tremendous. I understand about the grooming. I groomed bouviers for my parents, and now I groom Liam, our toy poodle. Liam is still a work in progress as far as grooming behaviors go, but I have successfully taught him to accept grooming done in short sessions with breaks in between.

    • 2 Sharon Wachsler July 20, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      Sarah, thank you for the encouragement! OMD. You and your parents would probably be appalled at the grooming job I do! I have given up on caring whether my bouvs look like bouvs (especially in the summer). (One thing I agree w/your father on is a dislike for the trend in the US toward a very thick coat. Each of my bouvs has had a thicker coat than the previous. The grooming is probably the biggest drawback for me.) But yes, the short sessions thing is definitely the way to go when that’s an option. We used to do half of Barnum one day and the other half another day. On the day(s) between, he looked quite silly. Fortunately, nobody told him. ;-b I am still discovering that I should have done MUCH more handling work with him while he was growing up. We thought we were doing a lot, but we shoulda done more. Well, shoulda woulda coulda, etcetera. You know how it is!


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