Thursday, May 17, 2012


so i havent been posting much, because ive been having issues. ive got a lot going on here, but the dog training has been tough - mostly because cherry and i were having major issues.

 chill is sweet and drivey and sensitive and biddable and wonderful. he loves heeling, he loves trying, and i adore him.

 cherry i love, but i was so concerned about her working. she started acting spooky and spacey a few months ago, and i was concerned something was wrong - was she going into heat (no), was her thyroid off (no), was anything else going on (not that i could find). i had friends tell me she needed anxiety meds, i tried DAP collars, diffusers, i was banging my head against the wall. all of a sudden she had no attention at training, no ability to focus on me, no desire to look up. all our previous issues (she never liked moving watch, for instance), were magnified. she would go off sniffing in the middle of working, she would try to wander to visit dogs, she would glance at anything around the room and focus on it like it was the newest most exciting thing. hell, she actually laid down in the middle of class once and started rolling on her back. she couldn't work more than 10-15 minutes without a "cherrybomb brain break".

 i was lost. this dog could be on but now she was off more than anything else, she had no desire to engage me, and nothing i was doing seemed to bring her back. worse, she seemed to be getting softer and softer - the sound of other dogs collars would make her turn and stare, she got attacked three times int eh space of a week by other dogs (She must have a kick me sign attached to her tail!), and quite honestly none of us were enjoying work. people suggested seeing a behaviorist (to tell her what? my dog is an awesome pet, great with people and dogs, doesnt destroy things, but she wont heel with her head up and at TRAINING only she's a marshmallow?). there was even mention of rehoming her to a house that doesn't have her arch nemesis - oohrah (who still hates her).

 cherry and i had a private lesson with my trainer on sunday (chills breeder). i was so concerned about my dog shutting down, my dog being so soft, my dog being so sensitive. well she's not. kathy had me bring her out and work her and even in a quiet building with no dogs, cherry chose to start being distracted and spooky. kathy had chill's gpa blake out and cherry knows and loves this dog - but she was acting all afraid. kathy told me to tell her to leave it, and come here. JESUS FRIGGIN CHRIST. cherry turned and left it and stared at me. and that was apparently the key - letting her know exactly what was inappropriate and what she was supposed to be doing.   lo and behold, cherry worked an hour and 20 minutes.

we broke down heeling and used a special toy - we took it slow and wouldnt let her take a step without attention on me. if she lapsed she got pops for not following, or a reminder to look up. 20 minutes in, she was doing loose leash walking with attention on her own volition. she couldnt take her eyes off of me.

 kathys assessment? i had a lazy bitch. cherry found out when she was confused, didnt want to, or plain had something else she wanted to do, if she did all her behaviors she got out of work and i gave her a break. she worked through every one of her previous "stress" moments without any problems and had happy ears, an up wagging tail (no way to hide her feelings when she has a big flag!) and bright eyes. in short, she was playing me. we formulated a plan for classes and how i would approach training - i found out a lot about her and how much she actually does love this (another dog that gets TURNED ON by left turns!)

i left the lesson feeling triumphant but hesitant about wednesday class - the true test.

but it went perfectly. cherry was a different dog (because i was a different handler). i warmed her up barely at all - she did 35 seconds exactly of PERFECT moving watch with her chicken, and then started flying into heel position - i couldnt keep her out. when they started to heel, i stood off to the side and worked her slow heeling attention work, both with food and toys. after 5-7 minutes, i joined the class for a few runs. then while they kept heeling, i went and worked on fronts and running to a target. she was flying through the air, barking, spinning, jumping all over me. we did stands and kathy had me hold her chicken out - she never even FLICKED AN EYE at anyone who approached (as opposed to her normal whole head turn). she was positively quivering. recalls were great and at one point she fronted and actually started BARKING at me to demand a reward - kathy asked if i had asked her to bark and i said no, and she said good for her. the entire night if she flicked a head away she came back immediately, understanding that this was what i wanted. she never once sniffed the floor. if she got too focused i used a leave it, come here and she did it.

this is a game changer for both of us, but im just glad to get my cb back!