Lately I've been doing so much both physically during the first half of each week that by the time the weekend comes, I'm pretty burnt out and more in the mood to kick back and relax a bit. Especially if I have the luxury of no scheduled dog events. This morning we were going to go up to the mountain with a friend of mine so that she could try snowshoeing for the first time. However, the snow has continued to be crappy. It actually got into the low 40's during the week! And then there was the rain on top of that. Pretty much making for some very crappy snow conditions. I heard lots of complaints about last weekend's snow, and this weekend's looks to be worse. So that was cancelled.
Adam and I have a birthday party to attend at 3pm and then I've got the Columbia Agility Team holiday party and meeting tonight at 6:30pm to go to. It just kind of makes for a day where I'm not terribly motivated to do a whole lot.
On the up side, now that Heffner is getting longer walks and two a day to boot, he is a MUCH happier dog. It's really quite amazing. Lately, if I've slept in past 5:30am, as soon as I come out the bedroom door, he's almost beside himself because he's so pent up and just doesn't know how to contain his excitement that mommy is up! This morning, not only did I sleep in, but he was happy to see my come out, but wasn't jumping out of his skin.:) Two thumbs up to that!
I took the dogs for their separate walks this morning. I combined the walk with random obedience related work as well. I think they're both getting used to the idea that they will be called upon to heel or do whatever at random points and locations along our walks. There's always lots of treats and they're both working really well with just a sidewalk as their barriers until we get somewhere with a more substantial barrier that I can walk them along.
Once we were all back at the house, they were still wanting something, though not so amped up that either one of them was being overly obnoxious. I decided to wip out the box and see what we could get! Here are the results:
He automatically put one foot in the box and I rewarded. When I waited for him to offer more, he then put the second foot in the box. Jackpot! Since that all happened pretty quickly, I decided to push it a little more and see if I could get him to get a back leg in the box. That didn't happen. He was a lot less barky this time around too. Hopefully tomorrow we'll get a back leg in the box!
I sat on the ground with the box in between us for another five minutes with her staring, blinking, and drooling at me. I stood up and lightly bumped the box into her and clicked and treated in the hopes of getting her to start thinking in the direction that I wanted her to. Nothing! So then I decided that MAYBE if I clicked and treated when one of her drool drips hit the box and made a noise that I'd get some response. I know it's kind of a stretch, but I was also kind of hoping to elicit at least a sniffing of the box. Nothing! Hmmmmmm.....Not wanting to end on any sort of a non-positive note, I sat on the ground and she immediately laid down. I pointed to my leg and told her to touch and she immediately whopped on my leg with a paw. This is something that she definitely knows and loves how to do! I did a few more little bits of having her womp on my leg and she was QUITE happy! So we ended on a positive note.
Next up, the Find It game! Again, this is something that I've picked up from others. I think this is also a game that Jackson's mom recommended after one of my posts about Heffner and how he was driving me crazy. At that time, he couldn't do the game because it involved physical activity and we were still trying to keep him really quiet. Now, it's all good!
Since I haven't played this game with my dogs before, I put them (I worked with them individually while the other one was gated out of sight) in a down stay within easy sight of where I was "hiding" the cookie. Initially I wasn't really sure how good they were going to be at this game, but since Heffner is such a food whore, I figured he at least could start with a cookie that was actually a little more hidden. That was NOT the case. He watched me as I put the cookie on our downstairs couch and put a pillow over the top of it. When I released him and told him to go find it, he searched all over the general area, but never attempted to go under the pillow. For a dog who loves to root around under the covers to rouse me in the mornings, I was a bit surprised. I put him back into a down stay and re-hid the cookie, this time right smack on top of the pillow. When I released him again, he found it pretty quickly and I praised him. The next few times I just continued to hide it in an out in the open place, but moved the location each time. Each time he would check where the previous cookies were and then would start searching. He was pretty focused about it. Kept searching until he found the cookie.
Next it was Bess turn. I put her in a down say in the same location that I had been putting Heffner in and did the same exact thing, but starting off with the cookie out in the open. I released her and she went and did a quick sniff and then immediately came back to me and stood there staring. Albeit, she did a great free stack, it wasn't necessarily what I was looking for at that moment. So I put her into a down stay half again closer to where I was putting the cookie. She found it this time when I released her. I did this a few more times, changing the location of the cookie each time. She caught on, but I'm going to want to keep her close for a little bit.
The primary thing that these activities have taught me is that I seriously failed my dogs for not having done these sorts of exercises with them from the very beginning. I feel like I left this HUGE hole in their training and development plan. Yes, they get plenty of constructive and off leash exercise and they get to do all sorts of random fun things, but I never really did any thing to develop their free thinking. Everything I've done with them up to this point has involved using a food lure or telling them what I want them to do. Nothing to make them problem solve and offer behaviors of their own free will. That is definitely now going to change. I've got several other things that I want to do with them to get them offering behaviors and really starting to think for themselves. Definitely some trick training, more find it games, and more free shaping exercises involving random objects. I'm going to shoot for doing this every other day. I would prefer to try for every day, but that can be a bit challenging at times and I don't need to overwhelm myself right off the bat. Thankfully this stuff doesn't take much time!
Tomorrow is our first Work Out With Your Dog class!!! I'm super excited to see what Bobbie has in store for us! She sent out an email with recommendations of what we could/should bring to class. Things like medicine balls, exercise bands, and hand weights. It's definitely going to be lots of fun and I'll be sure to post about it tomorrow!