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November 22, 2013: On Target

Last night, we had another good class with Claudia. I recently read that the brain is selective – we are constantly being bombarded with all kinds of stimuli. But for survival related reasons, we focus on those things that are most relevant to us at that particular point in time.

There was a lot going on in the two hours’ time I spent at the Regine Dog Training facility. I tried to take in as much as I could, but I know that I missed a lot. Claudia should make and sell video tapes of each session. It would be interesting, watching these videos later on.

For one thing, we worked on targeting. This is where you take an object and get the dog to focus on it. Yogurt container lids are a good example. (I’d brought a large, yellow Frisbee-sized horse supplement container lid to class, but I

was told that it was too large – best to first go with a smaller lid).

Claudia put the lid on the floor and Ryder was rewarded when she touched it with her nose. She was also given treats between touches, which kept her moving. The idea is that in time we’ll be able to send her to the target, by saying target. This is once she understands what it is that’s expected of her. Target training comes in handy in teaching a dog to go away from you. For instance, it’s a good way to get a dog out of the kitchen.

I stayed and watched the clicks and tricks class. Here the focus was again on targeting. Other uses for targeting then became apparent. For instance, you can duct tape a yogurt lid to a door, and the dog will learn to close the door. It is when the dog knows what to do that you introduce the command “close the door.”

I noticed that Claudia is not only in the business of training dogs, but she’s also in the business of training people. I saw this happen when Pete was working with Ryder on the stay command. Pete was told to give Ryder treats, fast and continuously, for staying in one place. Ryder pretty quickly broke stay. I was really disappointed when this happened, and was eager to do it again. Claudia, realizing this, pointed out that there should be a break between sessions, so that Ryder realized that there was a connection between her breaking stay and the cessation of treats. Claudia also took note of the fact that Ryder was going at this task slowly because she was taking time to chew the kibbles. At the same time that she mentioned this, I realized that Pete would have been better off using cheese instead of kibble treats.

At the conclusion of class I asked Claudia what we might do about a problem to which Pete and I didn’t seem to have an answer. This was that Ryder has been badgering Rainbow on the trail, barking, snapping, and chasing her around, relentlessly. Claudia said that this is a management issue – we need to intervene and get her off Rainbow, otherwise there might be a fight. What Ryder would then learn is that it’s okay to be aggressive. She suggested that we do this by grabbing her, putting her on the leash, and giving her two-three time outs if need be.

I was prepared to do this today when I took her for a walk. However, we did not have this problem today. Ryder was calm, and her yippy bark did not resonate through the woods. I think that what happened was that Rainbow took matters into her own hands yesterday, and one way or another made it clear to Ryder that her behavior was unacceptable. I say, good for Rainbow. Later today, I saw Ryder again go ballistic – this was in the yard. I headed over to see what Pete was going to do about this – his answer, a brilliant one I thought, was to give Ryder a stick.

Pete’s also been teaching Ryder to fetch and has been playing tug of war with her. So, we are making progress on all fronts. She’s now spending a lot of time crashed out on her dog bed, which is in the kitchen. This makes me think – we are managing to tire out a border collie. This is no mean feat. Guess us old people still have some energy left to burn.

Next: 242: 11/23/13: Sheepherding 101