Monday, March 11, 2013

Celebrate the Ides of March

On the Friday, the 15th of March, Rigby and her litter mates will turn six months old!  The time has flown by for us, as I'm sure it has for her brother and sisters.  I will have to make sure I get some photos of Rigby this week to keep a good memory of where she was at six months of age.

Rigby enjoyed playing in the March snowfall.

This week Rigby started a new class which is designed to give her the basis for a solid retrieve, a talent she will need as she progresses through her obedience titles.  The class has only four dogs in it (the limit is five dogs) and is based on positive reinforcement training -- my favorite way to train. Through the weeks of the class we each shape our dog's behaviors in a gradual manner until we have taught a reliable and happy retrieve.

The first step in this week's homework is teaching Rigby to lay her muzzle in my outstretched hand.  She is getting that down pretty solidly, so I'm moving to the second step which requires her to lay her muzzle in my right hand and then I take my left hand and gently place it over the top of her muzzle.  At first she moved whenever my left hand came towards her, thinking I was delivering a treat to her with that hand, but she is now learning to wait and see what the left hand is really doing.

One lesson being taught in this class which I think will benefit Rigby down the line in her training is that her treats are in a bowl sitting beside me, not in my hand or my pocket.  She is learning that even though the treats are sitting at her eye level in an open container that she has to wait to be given a treat, it's not her choice to just eat because the food is nearby.  I can see using this technique to wean her away from food during training as she gets closer to the time to enter her in obedience trials -- keeping her treats in a container on a table beside the ring, train for a bit without food in my hands and then reward her from the treat container.

Rigby has learned to push the lever on the freezer to get ice cubes to come out.  We have not used the ice dispenser for several years because it was not working and I never thought she would get rewarded for her efforts, but she seems to have fixed the mechanism and she thinks it's grand.  We have been trying to remember to lock the water and ice dispenser, but have forgotten at times and, before you know it, she is pushing the lever and her icy reinforcement is delivered to her.  Dan and I will have to work harder to extinguish this behavior, as it's one I don't want to encourage.

Rigby was tracking again on Saturday.  She is now tracking in a leather harness that was loaned to me by a friend whose Lab wore it to get her TD.  We had to make many adjustments to the harness to make it large enough to fit Rigby.  I don't think she'll be able to use it for long and she may be using Rocky's harness very soon.  She is quite enthusiastic for tracking so far, but it's mostly the hotdogs that have her excited right now, as she doesn't have a grasp on the tracking game yet.  I'll try to get some new tracking video of her soon.

The tracking group following Ellen as she tracks Ava.
Ellen and Ava.

Linda and Katie

Katie working her track.

Next week's blog will celebrate Rigby's six-month birthday and how far she has come in such a short time!

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