When Life Gives You . . . Melon Heads?

I know I’m not supposed to think this, let alone write it on a public blog, but, as Michael Kors likes to say, “Let’s be honest.” Barnum is not as smart as Gadget.

(Don’t hang me out to dry! Read to the end, please!)

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe when Barnum gets older, he’ll surprise me. Maybe it’s because of all the training mistakes I’ve made. Regardless, Gadget was 12 months’ old when I adopted him, and Barnum is now eight months, and the distinctions become more and more stark with each passing week. These two dogs really couldn’t be more different.

There are many kinds of intelligence, so I’ll get specific.  I’m talking about doggy “school smarts”: trying to figure out what the trainer/handler wants from you, having the confidence to try out behaviors (and make mistakes), a gusto for training (assisted by a gusto for food), and a general ability to problem solve in everyday life. In all but the first category, Gadget leaves Barnum in the dust. (Barnum, however, is so anxious to give me what I’m looking for in training situations that he actually can easily become anxious and frustrated; he wants desperately to succeed, and is vociferous if he feels confused. He also is incredibly sensitive to unintentional cues, which means he’s super tuned in to me and body language. This makes some aspects of training much easier, and a lot of it much harder. All of which is making me into a better trainer — goddamnit!)

Barnum doesn’t intuitively grasp how to do what I used to think were basic doggy skills — until my first Bouvier des Flandres, Jersey, showed an astonishing lack of them. I attributed that to her not having had a very enriching first half of her life, but now I wonder if it had more to do with nature than nurture. For example, I’ve had to teach Barnum how to nudge open a door with his nose if he wants to get to the other side and how to use his paws to get at a treat inside his crate or behind an easily movable object. He hasn’t yet figured out that just by his sheer mass, he can move the (very lightweight, and thanks to his frequent full-body blows, very flimsy) screen door as he brushes against it. Instead, he waits for me to hold it open for him. If it’s partially closed, or swinging shut, he’s afraid of it hitting him. On the other paw, now that he’s learned he can nudge open other doors that are partially closed, he tries to open totally shut, latched doors (by pawing at them). And he doesn’t give up when the door doesn’t budge. Let’s be honest: he hasn’t yet connected all the dots.

Contrast this with Gadget, who, on our “gotcha day” drive home, pulled my sleeping bag out of the cardboard box in the back of my van, pawed and nosed it into the perfect nest, then curled up in it for a nap. That one act (rather, that series of complex behaviors to reach a goal he’d conceptualized from the outset), convinced me that Gadget was gifted, a natural-born problem-solver. (It’s also another example discrediting the assertion that dogs don’t think abstractly.)

I expected Barnum to become that kind of thinker. I figured if I started off with a promising puppy and did lots of clicker training from the beginning, lots of mental enrichment, I’d have a prodigy — an even more inventive dog than Gadget. But, as so many other parents have learned, babies — regardless of species — come with their own personalities.

Gadget learned cues and behaviors four or five times faster than Barnum does. In one of our first training sessions, he learned how to shut a door — in three-minutes. I had to stop teaching Barnum to shut a door because the sound and movement of the door closing frightened him (even though in general he is actually much less fearful than Gadget was). I train from one to four hours per day with Barnum, in several sessions, with breaks. We probably average about two hours a day total. I’m putting in far more work and getting much slower results than I expected, and certainly less than I got with Gadget. On the other paw, I’m also trying to build a much stronger foundation and not cut corners, like I did too often with Gadget. I’m holding on to hope that all this training now will pay off in more solid, reliable, and eager work in the future. (Please, please, please, Training Levels, let me live up to my expectations!)

Maybe it’s not so much a matter of intelligence. Maybe it’s youth and other interests. Specifically, Barnum has the distraction threshold of a paper bag because everything (except me and food) is so unbelievably compelling. He is so distractible that I can’t get him to move out of my way on the ramp once he’s crossed the threshold of the door, because he is arrested by looking at the gravel — every single time. We go out the door multiple times a day, every day, but the gravel never loses its fascinating appeal.

Gadget had his passions, and beyond them, he didn’t bother himself. Gadget loved to run and run and run, to train and learn, to eat, to chase (squirrels, cats, big game like bears and deer, and at the end of his life, pick-up trucks), to play with other dogs (if it involved running and chasing) and that was mostly it. The fact that one of his biggest passions was training (in part because he was so food driven) tends to overshadow the others. He loved me and the few other people in his family pack, in that quiet, aloof, dignified way Bouviers have, and he was protective of our home. He had no use for other people, which is also very Bouvy. He didn’t have much interest in play. He’d retrieve a ball a few times to humor me, and in return, I’d dole out some treats. (Yes, I was bribing him to play with me. It was totally not clicker training. I had to show the treats before he’d go for the ball.) He made it clear that he’d much rather be problem-solving — how to open a different kind of door or retrieve a new object or sniff out a stuffed Kong I’d hidden in a diabolically difficult place. He loved shaping, the ultimate form of puzzle-solving for a dog communicating with their handler via clicker. He loved to think, and he loved to earn his food.

And now here’s Barnum: The only dog I’ve ever had who leaves food in his dish. He doesn’t like peanut butter. (What dog doesn’t like peanut butter??) He’s not so into Kongs unless they’re packed solid with raw meat or cottage cheese, and even then, he often leaves them after a few licks. His attitude toward food can be summed up in one word: “Meh.” Of course, a dog’s gotta eat, and yes, if he’s starving or there’s nothing to distract him (and I mean nothing — no sounds, movements, smells at all), then it’s worth working for food.

Nonetheless, thanks to the magic of clicker training, he is much more interested in treats than he used to be. The power of earning the food, of training me to feed him, lends a higher value to all earned food. But he still only works for good treats. He spits out kibble if he knows I have something better. He even lets his favorite food (cheese) fall out of his mouth if his focus is elsewhere. I could hold a steak in front of him, and he’d duck around it to continue stalking a grasshopper (which, if he caught it, he would eat). I’m absolutely not exaggerating. He really would ignore the steak. He also often prefers to eat sticks and rocks to meat or other delectables.

More differences: He’s the first dog I’ve had who is happy to entertain himself, who actually likes being in the yard finding his own amusements, and doesn’t need to follow me around wherever I go (though he does keep an eye on me). It goes without saying that he loves to dig, and to destroy plants and shrubs by digging them up. So now we have a massive, ugly fence around our garden. Digging is new to me, too.

We named Barnum after the circus because he early showed his acrobatic tendencies. (I still need to post the story of how he got his name. Sorry, readers!) But it’s become more apt due to his clownishness, as well. For instance, he is entranced by watching his reflection in the glass doors. He doesn’t just stand there looking. He jumps up and down on his hind legs, catching serious air, watching himself bounce. He barks at himself. He gets a ball and holds it in his mouth as he jumps up and down. He runs back and forth between the doors, watching himself speed by. Barnum knows he is looking at himself, not at another dog. For one thing, he often watches me or makes eye contact with me in the reflection, using it as a mirror.

“What’s up Mom? Watch me!” (Grabs ball, bounces up and down, drops ball, barks, grabs ball and runs, skids, returns to original glass door, bounces more — all the while making eye contact with me through the glass.)

Here’s a short video of Barnum jumping and barking in front of the doors. Please note that usually he does less barking and much more — and higher! — bouncing. But it was late, and he was tired. I’d also recently started teaching him to bark on cue, so he was feeling quite barky. (We hadn’t established the cue yet, just the behavior.) I didn’t caption the video, because there’s no talking. Read the text description here. Access note: I sometimes tilted the camera sideways, so part of the video’s sideways, which might be symptom-inducing for some. (This includes me. I’ll know not to do that in the future.)

In fact, the first time I put a pack on Barnum to get him used to gear, he showed a Tim Gunn-esque sensibility. Once he felt comfortable in the pack (mostly, he still hates gear), he trotted over to the glass and checked himself out! He actually turned his head this way and that to get more angles. “Oh yeah, I’m a dude.”

Unless it’s hot (another difference — Barnum detests the heat, loves the snow and cold), he wants to be playing all the time. His signature move is to roll onto his back, all feet in the air, and swing his head to look at the nearest person, practically shouting, “Rub my belly! Lavish me with affection!”

Barnum Rolling in the Grass (7 months)

Barnum, at seven months, very much the playful puppy.

He even sleeps in “dead bug position” — a very relaxed, happy guy.

In fact, I think he’s actually a more well-rounded dog than Gadget was. He knows more different styles of play than Gadget did and plays better with a wider range of dogs. He has broader interests: he doesn’t limit himself to only squirrels or prey that’s turkey size or bigger, like Gadget did. Barnum will stalk and chase anything that moves, literally: bugs, song birds, laser dots, balls, toys, leaves blowing in the wind. (Oh, how he loves the wind.)

Jersey hated the van, and Gadget barely tolerated it. Barnum loves to go for rides, sniffing the air out the window and looking over the dashboard to take in the world going by. When we arrive anywhere, he is excited! Who knows what smells and sights and sounds await? Thrilling! Gadget and Jersey had to counterconditioned to numerous phobias. I’ve yet to expose Barnum to a strange noise he’s afraid of; chainsaws, airplanes, amplified live music are all just fine. The usual bugaboos for many dogs — skateboards, bicycles, grocery carts — don’t freak him out, either.

The biggest difference is that Gadget was cerebral, while Barnum is a love. A sweet, gooey, tender boy.

The telltale (pun!) sign is — no surprise — Barnum’s tail. Unless he’s concentrating hard on something (such as a moth), that tail can start wagging at any moment. I’ve never seen a Bouvier tail that wagged so much, even in videos of Bouvs excitedly working Schutzhund or herding. It wags fast. If I praise him, he curls his body with pleasure, dropping his ears and head, and wagging very fast. He will come over to me, and his little stubby tail is wagging so hard that his whole rear half is swaying to keep up. He’ll throw his head against me and press into me, and while I pet him, he wags ferociously. He shows such pure joy at receiving any kindness — praise, petting, chattering. Sometimes, he prefers praise to food, which is hard for training, but very endearing.

He is a believer in kisses. Lots and lots of kisses. On my lips, on my ears, on my nose. Anyone who gets on the floor in this house is in danger of getting French kissed or their ears cleaned or both.

Barnum at 5 months kissing Sharon on bed

He doesn’t reserve his love for family, either. It’s true that as he ages, he is getting more of the Bouvier aloofness with non-family, but he still rushes to greet anyone he sees (just lately, with a nose in their crotch) — whether they want to have anything to do with him or not. When big, strange men come into our house, he doesn’t even bark! He waggles over for some petting.

In other words, when he’s not aggravating the crap out of me by chewing everything he can find or staring at (seemingly) nothing when I want his attention, he’s enormous fun. In general what he lacks in focus, he makes up for in enthusiasm. However, when he’s playing, he is all focus and all enthusiasm. He thinks tug is the most marvelous game in the world, and fetch and balls and stuffed squeaky toys are great, too. Oh my goodness, yes — especially plush squeaky toys. He loves to tear them to pieces to extract and chew on the squeaker. While Jersey’s and Gadget’s toys lasted their whole lives, Barnum has already destroyed almost all of their toys as well as his own. I recently bought a bunch of stuffed animals at a garage sale for 25 cents each, just so I could let him dismember something for cheap.

Most of all, he’s a wonderful playmate, which I desperately need. I have few human friends these days. Indeed, because he requires a lot of heavy-duty play, Barnum is my best form of physical and occupational therapy: throwing and tugging, throwing and tugging, throwing and tugging. His favorite game is for me to hold up a toy and tell him “Get it!” so he can leap into the air and grab it, then we tussle over it. I ask him to release it, he does, I throw it, he brings it back, and we tug some more. It’s a serious workout. (Thank god for pain killers.) It’s also hilarious, joyful, and life-affirming. He makes me laugh more than any other dog I’ve ever had.

I don’t know if Barnum is the perfect service-dog candidate. Only time will tell. Lots and lots of time and effort; lots and lots of working and training. We are so far behind where I thought we’d be at this stage, I just try to focus on the little victories; otherwise despair can creep in. When I see the big picture of how far we still have to go, it’s a bit nauseating.

Yet, when Barnum wiggles up to me, cuddly and tail-wagging, a toy in his mouth he wants me to tug, and then just hearing my voice, he wags his tail faster, I rub his ears and my frustration disappears. He is clearly the perfect candidate for one job: mending a broken heart. Thank god he’s already on the job.

I miss you, Gadget.

Thank you, Barnum.

Love,

Sharon

We always welcome your comments!

Advertisements

16 Responses to “When Life Gives You . . . Melon Heads?”


  1. 1 Rebecca September 3, 2010 at 4:43 am

    You know what? Maybe he isnt the A #1 Service dog …. but Gadget knew what you NEEDED. & he sent it. In the form of that goofy, loving, waggling guy! Its so wonderful to hear the love you have for Barnum. Gadget would be … IS … proud!

  2. 2 Lolly September 3, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Sharron,

    Ah…the differences in service dogs – one of my favorite topics!

    They are all so different. Each time I need a successor dog, I try to think about what I should ask for. Most of the time I want the same thing I had previously, though with enough experience that’s changing.

    Amber – dog number 1, was purchased from a Lab breeder. She was scary smart! She made work where there was none. She was always thinking – not necessarily a good thing for a dog that spends a lot of “Down,” time literally. But, she was an incredible animal! She taught me a lot about life and just getting out there and living it! She wasn’t my best guide – on a scale of 1-10 she was about a 5. She had other things on her agenda that came first; scavenging for food, hunting, window shopping, and then guiding.

    Kallah, dog number 2, a GSD, who instructors said seemed to understand guide work innately. But, I found she had to be shown things several times for them to click. She couldn’t keep her mouth shut, growled and barked in inappropriate places and at inappropriate times. Our personalities were not a good match. I returned her after one year.

    Bandit, dog number 3. Bandit was a Lab from The Seeing Eye’s breeding program. He was goofy, smart, and incredibly loyal. He wasn’t my dog, I was his person. He really took care of me. He loved everyone and thought they should love him back! The world was his oister and he was the pearl. He learned quickly and seemed to love his work. He was very playful, but had digestive issues and food wasn’t always top on his list.

    Fiesta, dog number 4, was another Lab from TSE’s breeding program. She was timid, at first, so her intelligence was hidden to most everyone but me. I saw her problem solving ability, which is excellent! She didn’t like the work, at first, but she loved me, so she learned to like the work as she grew into it. She went from ducking into every doorway on our first trip to Manhattan, to figuring out how to follow the current in a swimming pool to pluck a ball out of it, and calculating where it might end up.

    Brook, dog number 5, another TSE bread Lab. She is smart, loves to learn, and she loves me. She also loves her work! She learns quickly and is sensitive at the same time. Just the right combination.

    One thing the TSE instructors say, is that intelligence isn’t always number 1 on their list of preferred characteristics for good guides. Being willing to please is their number one criteria, with intelligence coming in next.

    You are right to think there is different kinds of intelligence. Brook and Fiesta approach things very differently, but they’re both very smart dogs.

    If Barnam isn’t into food that much, maybe think about using a different reinforcer that is his preference – a toy, or a game… It might speed up the learning.

    Victoria Stilwell is a great Positive Trainer with lots of good ideas about things to use to reinforce behaviors when food isn’t the dog’s first choice. She has a show called, “It’s Me Or The Dog,” on Animal Planet. She also has a web site.

    It’s always a challenge to appreciate the dog we have for its best qualities when the dog we had, had so much of what we wanted. As a favorite instructor of mine said to me, “What we want isn’t always what we need.”

  3. 3 Doris Wachsler September 3, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I was reminded of Howard Gardner’s “intelligences”, but then, when I looked them up, they were very much human intelligences, except for the “bodily-kinesthetic”, “interpersonal” and “intrapersonal”.

    Well, inborn traits certainly come with the individual, don’t they? But you’re certainly maximizing all his potential.–And, he could’ve been shy and reserved in addition to non-cerebral. Or very problem-solving oriented, but no fun.

    Well, reading your thoughtful blog was fun, as always.

    Love,
    mom

  4. 4 Margaret September 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I love this post! It’s so beautiful and detailed and smart, and full of love.

    Salt used to do some of the same things Barnum does–I was especially struck by the “admire self in mirror” habit. 🙂

  5. 5 Brigitte Mang September 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Sharon, Reading of your adventures with Barnum, I’m reliving some of the stuff that we went through with Ozzy. The difference in behaviour
    at 8 months and 11 months is day and night. So chinup the best is yet to come! Was Gadget trained while he was still very young? Ozzy is catching on to stuff a lot quicker now. The best example is at 8 months Ozzy was friendly with everyone, everywhere. Now he has figured out that people shouldn’t put their heads or hands into our vehicle and a very loud bark or three gets them to leave. Mom now also needs to be taken care of, along with all the others in the pack. He started these protection behaviours at the end of his 10th month. This is what we require on the road, as we are usually parked in some funky parts of the different cities that we go to. When we’re at home he isn’t as protective, he goes on play dates with a couple of the neighbours’ dogs and this brings out the kid in him again. I was told that Bouviers mature late (around 2 years) by a fellow who does a lot of training with them. So as I said the best is yet to come.
    Love the blog, take time to smell the roses, Bri

  6. 6 Sharon Wachsler September 6, 2010 at 1:19 am

    Thank you, Margaret. Coming from you, that means an extra lot.

    I was so sorry to read about your recent loss of Salt on your livejournal page. I’m so sorry. Every time you spoke of her, it was with such warmth and compassion and humor. I know she had really been through the ringer before she got to you, but when she did, she hit the lottery. You must miss her so much.

    And yes, I did read the story about her admiring her GORGEOUS (ahem) self in the mirror. That was very funny. I think we can all take a lesson in self-esteem from Ms. Salty!

  7. 7 Sharon Wachsler September 6, 2010 at 1:25 am

    Thanks, Mom! Sometimes I think I have squandered some of his potential, but I am certainly doing the best that I can.
    There are all kinds of intelligences for dogs, too. For instance, just in terms of sensory stuff, some are very smell-oriented, others more sight-oriented or sound-oriented, etc. Barnum is exceptionally tuned in to sound, in a good way. I would say he’s also one of the most emotionally intelligent dogs I’ve had. Definitely more than Gadget, who was very self-centered!
    I can’t really imagine a problem-solving-oriented dog who wasn’t fun! For me, that is the most fun I can have with a dog — free shaping! It’s thrilling. But, it is a different kind of fun than fetch or tug or “pounce on the toy/bug/leaf” like Barnum.

  8. 8 Sharon Wachsler September 6, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Hi Lolly,

    Very interesting to read your run down of your guide dogs! I guess a case like Kallah is a definite advantage of a program dog versus partner training. If I don’t like the dog I’ve got, I’m in trouble!

    I do use play and toys as reinforcers for Barnum. They are just a lot slower and more work than food. Ideally, in a training session, you try to reinforce twice per second! I am not at that rate — don’t think I’ll ever be — but with using, for example, tug, as a reward, my RR is every 10 seconds at its fastest, and usually much less. I did a video recently of training loose-leash walking using tug, and I only got in 11 or 12 repetitions in 3 minutes. And I was in pain and exhausted by the end. I just can’t get enough repetitions in that way.

    Also, which will be a topic for another post, Barnum is Mr. Destructo when it comes to toys. Very aggressive chewer. I’ve been on a big search for the most indestructible toys I can find that are also 1. safe for me with my MCS, and 2. appealing to him. I hope to do a “review” in a future blog.

    My plan now is to use combined food and praise for reinforcers mostly, and occasionally to use tug as a jackpot. I’ve discovered that my RR doubles when I add praise to the c/t. This goes against what works for most dogs, who find praise a distraction. This is an example of Barnum’s emotional intelligence. I have to be careful to smile and act obviously happy when we’re training, because if I am silent and just concentrating really hard, and he is looking at my face, he seems to get nervous and think I’m not happy with him. Also, if I praise him, he tunes in to me more.

    I really like Victoria Stillwell. We don’t have TV anymore, but I used to watch IMOTD when we did. What I liked about her was her very flexible approach. She assessed both the dog and the people and what would work for them all, and chose her approach accordingly. She wasn’t married to any one tool or technique. She almost always used positive approaches, too, and she didn’t act like everything was a quick fix. She was honest with people about consistency and putting in the work.

    I also liked SuperFetch, which was funny and also showed how to train a lot of what were essentially service skills for nondisabled people! It was also great to see a show that was not about behavior PROBLEMS, just training for sheer joy. And Zach’s relationship with his dog was terrific; it showed people what you can aspire to. I think that’s the only dog training program on TV I’ve seen (and I’ve been watching them since I was a child), that didn’t focus on obedience or problems. The only thing is that so often, it was so clear to me the training would have gone so much better with a clicker. Because he was basically using clicker-type techniques, but without the marker signal. For the novices he was working with, who didn’t know how to give constant feedback, huge amounts of communication were lost. I would shout at the TV, “Use a clicker! Get a clicker!”

    There is another “dog trainer” on TV whom I detest. His ideas are from the Stone Ages. You can probably guess. I’m not going to mention his name because he has a huge, vicious fan-base who will flame you alive if you say anything negative online. (Has happened to me before.)

  9. 9 Sharon Wachsler September 6, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Aww, thanks Rebecca. You are such a sweetheart.
    I don’t know what Gadget would think. I think, honestly, he would be jealous, except by the end of his life, he was so tired, he was so ready to go. I don’t know. Well, now I’m crying! You know what it’s like. ;-/

  10. 10 caitmac September 12, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Don’t feel bad! Barnum sounds like a great pup, if a bit of a crazy teen at the moment. And yes, they are all different! There is no shame in comparing.

  11. 11 Sharon Wachsler September 25, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Thanks Caitmac. Yeah, he is a really sweetie, just a handful! Now I know why they warn you about the 8-month mark in the dog books. I appreciate your comment. I felt guilty about comparing in the beginning, but now I am seeing the aspects of Barnum that are similar or different than previous dogs while also seeing him for who he is. I think it’s making me appreciate them all, past and present, more, for their uniqueness.

  12. 12 CK Bales September 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Sharon,

    I found with Max that as he grew older his focus improved and his desire for treats (he too was not treat oriented) grew. He now nose nudges me and lights up like a bulb when he sees the clicker and treat pouch, but it took a full year or more of training before he did that.

    I also found that what is learned in play is learned faster, even with slower rewards. The anticipation of the frisbee being thrown means he’s willing to listen to my commands of sit/down/stay/stand and his focus is total.

    When I got Max I told people he would be a great guide dog, if he wasn’t so damn distractable. Like your Barnum, Max found trees, grass, gravel and anything more interesting than the clicker, the lesson and the treats. It took time to move past that and with that time came age – you may find your teenager now will become a very focused, but relaxed adult later.

    Max’s last brain cell seems to have arrived sometime after 2 3/4 years old. It took a week or more to teach some tasks, and months to teach others. Experience, age and tons of exercise should help with your bouncing teenager!

    Good luck!

    CK & GSD Max SDiT CGC & Attitude & Dieter (Dachshunds)

  13. 13 CK Bales September 28, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Just thought I would share my experience –

    http://ckbales.blogspot.com/

    CK & GSD Max SDiT CGC & Attitude & Dieter (Dachshunds)

  14. 14 Sharon Wachsler September 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks, CK! Yeah, he is getting more interested in treats and training as time goes on, and I do think maturity will help. I think Bouvs and GSDs are similar in their maturity timeline, and like you said, the last brain cells don’t arrive till about 3.
    I have actually found a way to get us out the door so hat we can move past the gravel and down the ramp! I go out in front of him, and then we are also practicing “behind, follow” so it works well all around. grin.
    I do sometimes use the Very Exciting Tug Toys for rewards for training. Someone on the list I’m on says it’s a lure because he’s focused on it to get the behavior, but I think that’s true for a chow hound who knows you’ve got treats on you, too, eh?
    Was Max a career change dog? Did you get him from a guide dog school, or are you training him to be a guide? For some reason, from your other posts, I thought he was a mobility service dog, but maybe he’s a combo dog?

  15. 15 CK Bales September 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Max was a backyard dog before I got him and had zero training at the age of 20 months. If you read through my blog http://ckbales.blogspot.com you’ll discover he’s a character also and has given me my “what the heck now” moments as well. The line about being a great guide is cause he prefers to walk where a Guide Dog would normally be in harness when on lead. This actually works for me cause I am blind on the left side and used to walked into corners and shelf edges. Since he and are out, he’s gotten into moving into me if I am too close to something on our left.

    Yes, I do believe both breeds tend to grow up around the age of 3. Max will do a down/sit/stay/stand without use of treats or toys, but to gain distance, or keep his focus in high distration areas I used what worked – which was play time. We spent his first summer just working on doing a down before I threw, a sit the next time, then a down/stay and so forth until he was so excited about the game he was offering the behavior. Then I took him out WITHOUT the toys and did the same gambit and he had it down.

    I found during Max’s most distractable times that if I gave a bit of “exploration” time before asking for focus he did better. A new tree or a new park or whatever meant I spent a few minutes letting him sniff and pee before I called him to work on a training session. He can now enter new areas and not need that, but at first it was to help focus him.

    And yes, it could be a lure if you are using it as one. If possible work on gaining distance on your loose lead – two feet if that is all he can do before he breaks and then do a big YES and THEN get the toy and play and end the session. Sometimes a one minute session can do more than a one hour one can.

    Good luck.

    CK & GSD Max SDiT CGC & Attitude & Dieter (Dachshunds)

  16. 16 IVY FAHRER July 23, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    MY LIFE WITH MY BOUVS………..ANYONE WHO HAS HAD ONE, KNOWS, THEY ARE LIKE POTATO CHIPS, ONCE YOU’VE HAD ONE, YOU’LL ALWAYS WANT MORE. I’M NOW BEING RAISED AND TRAINED BY 4TH LITTLE GIRL…MY GALS WERE TRULY UNIQUE JUST THEIR SIZE ALONE, 150LBS, 5’7″ STANDING…PEOPLE OFTEN REMARK NO TWO OF THEIR CHILDREN ARE ALIKE, JUST SO WITH ‘OUR KIDS’…..EACH TIME I LOSE ONE, I THINK I’LL NEVER SMILE OR LOVE THAT WAY AGAIN. ITS A GREAT TRIBUTE TO ALL THINGS 4 LEGGED, THEY BRING SUCH
    SPECIALNESS WITH EACH NEW SPIRIT ITS HARD TO REALLY PICK YOUR FAVORITE WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE. OUR FIRST, WELL LIKE ALL FIRST LOVES REMAIN NEAR AND DEAR TO OUR HEARTS JUST FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF ANSWERING EVERY 30 SECONDS, ‘SHE IS A BOUVIER….BOU VEE AYY, YES, LIKE ‘JACKIE BOUVIER KENNEDY, UH HUH, RIGHT, YESS, SHE DOES LOOK JUST LIKE A BEAR……….THIS WENT ON NON STOR FOR NEARLY TEN YEARS…..IT DIDN’T CROSS MY MIND AT THE TIME TO INQUIRE IF A BOUV HAD A PARTICULAR HAIR STYLE. KAILI’S HAIR WAS GLEAMING BLACK AND ALMOST FLOOR LENGTH TILL I FIGURED SOMETHINGS AMISS HERE, EH?! MY GIRLS HAVE ALL GROWN AND TRAINED OFF-LEAD, MY EXPERT OPINION (NOT) WAS THAT IF THEY LOVE YOU, THEY’LL NEVER LEAVE YOU, GOD LOVES FOOLS AND INNOCENTS SO I HAVE ACTUALLY PULLED IT OFF NOT KNOWING BETTER…..IT ALSO HELPED TO HAVE BOTH HANDS FREE……BY NOW YOU MUST KNOW ALL THERE IS TO KNOW AND MORE ABOUT OUR SPECIAL BREED…BUT IF NO ONE HAS YET POINTED THIS OUT, I HAVE NOTED THAT ‘OUR KIDS’ IF YOU GET THEM AT 8 WEEKS, REACH A STAGE USUALLY AROUND 8 MONTHS OR SO, THAT I ENDEARINGLY REFER TO AS ‘THEIR TERRIBLE TWOS’ I SAY THIS TONGUE IN CHEEK, ‘CAUSE IT IS AT THIS POINT I TRY TO RUN AWAY FROM HOME, NO NOT THEM, ME!! 9F YOU SAY COME, THEY SAY, F-YOU, BRING IT!, YEAH, RIGHT…WHAT HAPPENED TO SIT DOWN STAY???? UMMMM, MAYBE IT WENT BY WAY OF MY BABY TEETH?……..THEY ARE IMPOSSIBLE! CUTE! INCREDIBLY CUTE. NOT QUITE PUPPIES, FAR FROM THE MAJESTIC DEVOTEDLY ALOOF GENTLE GIANTS THEY EVENTUALLY BECOME, THEY ARE LITTLE BRATS……I SAY THIS BECAUSE YOU SEEM TO BE AT THIS JUNCTION WITH BARNUM, AND JUDGING HIS TOMFOOLERY AND TURNING A BLIND EYE AND EAR TO COMMANDS HE HAD DOWN PAT A MONTH AGO MAKES YOU MISS GADGET ALL THE MORE………REST ASSURE, IF YOU HAVEN’T COMMITTED HARI-KIRI IN THE NEXT THREE MONTHS YOU HAVE SURVIVED THE TEST OF THE BOUV-TWOS AND WILL RAPIDLY BE AMAZED AT HOW SUDDENLY IT ALL FALLS INTO PLACE…….BARNUM HAS SOME VERY SPECIAL QUALITIES I PICKED UP ON IMMEDIATELY. HE HAS NO ‘ISSUES’ EXPOSING HIS BELLY……..THAT IS AN EXCELLENT SIGN OF A DOG WILLING TO ‘SURRENDER’ OR MAYBE, BETTER SAID, IS FLEXIBLE. I FOUND THIS IS NOT AN EASY ‘TRAIT FOUND IN BOUVS, SO MORE POWER TO YOU THAT HE HAS IT, I THINK HE WILL BE AN EXCEPTIONAL COMPANION IN PART BECAUSE OF THAT. MY CURRENT PUP IS MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT MAKING HER MY SERVICE DOG. IT NEVER DAWNED ON ME THAT THE DAY ,YEAR, DECADE, MI,
    LLENIUM MIGHT COME THAT MY GIRLS WOULD EVER BE ANYTHING BUT MY BEST FRIENDS, BUSINESS PARTNERS AND COMPANIONS. LUCKILY I HAD THE EXACT LOVE AFFAIR ALL ALONG WITH THE VERY BREED WHO IS A NATURAL AT HELPING OUT WHEN YOU NEED IT. WHY AM I SURPRISED> I HAVE SPENT THE LAST 30 YEARS IN THE COMPANY OF THESE VERY SPECIAL BUDDIES. THEY INTUITIVELY KNEW WHEN TO HUG WHEN I CRIED, BACKED OFF WHEN I WAS ON A RAMPAGE, AND AMAZINGLY CAME TO MY AID ACTING OUT ‘LIGHT GUARD’ BEHAVIOR WHEN IT WAS ONCE ALMOST NEEDED!!!!!!!! BLEW MY MIND…….SHE WAS MY FIRST…….SHE WAS 8 MONTHS OLD AND OF COURSE BEING A LITTLE BITCH, WHEN OUT OF THE WOODS APPEARED A LARGE MAN TOTALLY UNEXPECTEDLY, AND SINCE WE LIVED ON THE SHORES OF THE HUDSON, THAT WAS QUITE A TRICK IN ITSELF. I WAS SPEECHLESS, WHICH IS A FIRST FOR ME, AND MANAGED TO CROAK OUT A WHISPERED, ‘KAI-LI, COME!……….YEAH, RIGHT………..HE WAS GETTING CLOSER VERY FAST………’KAI-LI, COME! SHE GRANTED ME A LOOK………HUH?…’KAI-LI, HEEL..NOW!……….WOW, HE WAS ALMOST UPON ME WHEN IN A BLUR THERE WAS A JET BLACK WHOOSH MID- AIR AND THE MAN WAS SUDDENLY A PART OF OUR TENNIS COURT GATE!
    IM CERTAIN WE COULD EXCHANGE ANECDOTES FOREVER, AND IN FACT, I LOOK FORWARD TO IT. FOR EACH ONE OF MY GIRLS HAS GRANTED ME THE GREAT GOOD FORTUNE OF THEIR UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, THEIR OWN UNIQUE BOUVIER HUMOR, AND THE HEART AND SPIRIT UNEQUALED BY MAN
    IN LOVING MEMORY OF ALL THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN AND ALL THOSE WHO ARE AND THOSE YET TO BE…………


Comments are currently closed.



Receive new blog posts right in your email!

Join 574 other followers

Follow AfterGadget on Twitter

Want to Support this Blog?

About this Blog

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

Read Previous After Gadget Posts


%d bloggers like this: