The Education of Lacy, Week Three

Obedience Training

Review. See Week One or Week Two for details on any of the review items. Each training session builds on previous ones. For example, I am increasing by very small increments the length of time I am asking her to "stay." There are three factors important in the "stay" exercise: time, distance and distraction. As I change any one of those three, I make the other two a bit easier during the learning process. We are now at the point that I can tell Lacy "stay" and move back about 2 feet. If there are distractions, I must stand closer. She also is staying in an informal line with the shelties. I train stays by rewarding at random times with a treat. If she makes a mistake, I place her back in the sit position. This method gives her both positive (a treat) and negative (being placed back in position) feedback, to make learning go as quickly as possible.

Go-outs. Lacy learned a valuable lesson in her go-out training this week. She recognizes a go out target (margarine lid) and is very enthusiastic when I get it out to train. I put the target down, loaded it with cheese, and backed up with her, ready to send her. She started making a lot of noise because she was eager to go. I told her "quiet," and she continued to make noise. So I sent Rocky, my sheltie with two utility titles, out to get her cheese. She turned to look at me with a very shocked look on her face. She couldn't believe that another dog got her precious cheese. That possibility had clearly never occurred to her. I loaded the target again, backed up, asked her "ready?" and she was quiet as a mouse. So I sent her. Good lesson and a good time to learn it.

New this week:

Targeting. Lacy went to her first night of puppy class this week and learned to watch my hand and target on it. I use this technique in beginning obedience for the recall, and in advanced agility, when courses are complex. Basically, the palm of the hand is held flat. A treat is placed under the thumb and the dog is encouraged to follow the treat. We started with following the treat for a very short distance, and then increased the criteria, asking her to follow for several feet, and to make some turns. This technique comes in really handy on tight, complex agility courses, when I can use it to point out one obstacle instead of another close by. It is important to alternate hands during training so the dog learns to target on either hand.

Attention. In the obedience ring, the judge always asks, "Are you ready?" I like to answer "ready," and have my dog look at me. So I am training Lacy to respond to "ready" with attention. I am doing this by holding a treat in one hand where she can see it. When her attention is on the treat, I say "ready" and when she looks away from the treat and into my eyes, I give her the treat.

Kick-back stand. This is, amazingly, the hardest thing Lacy has tried so far. The first time I introduced it, I could only get three repetitions before it became clear to me that she was about to shut down. Because attitude is very important to me, I try very hard to "read" my dog and guess what she is thinking. My best guess was that she thought the kick-back stand was confusing! So I kept our sessions even shorter and more enthusiastic than usual.

The kick-back stand involves the dog rising to a standing position by moving her back legs, but not her front legs. To introduce the kick-back stand, I lured Lacy into the stand with a treat in my right hand, with my left hand blocking any forward motion. This appeared to be the difficult part for her - and something that frustrated her. If I wanted her to move her head forward, why was I blocking her from moving her body? Anyway, because I was able to lure her into this position, I quickly added the verbal command, "stand." I reduced the amount of blocking I was doing as quickly as I could, reducing the frustration level. We worked on this for just a few minutes each day, and now she is doing a kick-back stand with the verbal command, and the frustration and confusion are gone. It is important for her to do a kick-back stand because she will need it for the novice stand for examination and other exercises. If she were to move forward into a stand, it would encourage forward motion, which is undesirable.

Agility Training

Down. We practiced fast downs this week, making it a game to see how fast she can down from a stand. Times are tight, especially at the advanced levels, and there's no reason to waste time on a slow down. We are making it fun to down fast.

House Manners

Lacy goes to the dog show. This past weekend, house manners training became motel manners training. Lacy went with us to a big dog show in Wichita, Kan. She woke me up a couple of times in the night when she needed to go outside, and did super and had no accidents at the motel or in her crate. I attribute this to her excellent response to being clicker-trained to potty on command. Because she is a puppy, she was not permitted inside the show buildings. She still met lots of new people, got to play with a couple of new dog friends, and overall seemed to have a good time. I took her into the herding building and let her watch another German shepherd take a herding instinct test. She appeared to be very interested in the goings-on.

If you choose to train your puppy to potty on command, I suggest that you take the puppy outside to the same location each time, give your command word, such as "hurry up" or "go potty." Then stand around and wait for the puppy to go. When she does, click and then give her the treat when she finishes. I take Lacy outside on leash, and then after she eliminates, I take her leash off and let her play.

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back to The Education of Lacy

  • Week One - Dog walk plank, tunnel, table, sit, down, stand and more!

  • Week Two - TV downs, go-outs, walking on leash, teeter, jumps, sequences

  • Week Three - Kick-back stand, more go-outs, targeting, attention, agility quick downs

  • Week Four - Even more go-outs, heeling, finish, stay, teeter

  • Week Five - Go-outs again, "Choose to Heel" targeting, "come" and "get it," moving stand, go to table, putting "stretch" on command, leadership

  • Week Six - Resources, balanced training, recall, down, scent training, closed tunnel, house line, self control