We had our first training class with Maggie after barely working at all this summer. There have been many changes going on in my life this year, both good and bad. I started dating Matt right after Thanksgiving last year, we were engaged by the end of February, and married May 12th. To say that I was busy planning our wedding is an understatement, the wedding wasn’t so bad to plan for, it was a lot of fun, but adding in my health issues to top everything off. I was dealing with intestinal issues for about a month before being admitted to the hospital after being sick for a week and passing straight blood for a little longer than that. I was in the hospital for a week, diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and then began a regimen of different medicine trying to control the symptoms, mainly prednisone, which has caused a lot of side issues. The biggest issue being my energy level, so I am determined to get back to a regular training schedule for the good of my dogs and my health.

So, along the way a certain little puppy has grown up to be a sweet boy, but much in need of formal training as I have not done much other than basic manners and games at home. I knew we needed to get back to classes, but still did not have the energy to drive to my club’s classes every week, so I set back up with Maggie for privates. I find that if I am taking classes then I am much better about training at home and making sure we are doing our homework.

                                           Blueberry all clean and fluffy!

We started with Clancy, he is not sure where heel position is and his proper place, also he loves to play retrieve, but lacks tugging skills. I started Clancy wearing a Gentle Leader head collar since he was a teeny puppy and during puppy class. Because I didn’t work on a formal heel position and focused more on his self control, he wants to sit where he can look directly at my face. We started with setting up a chair to form a barrier, so that when I get him into heel position he isn’t able to swing out, Maggie wants him to get used to seeing my face from a side profile and not the front. After getting him into heel position, which at this moment he is not thrilled with, I am to ask him to do a pop up stand, reward, and then ask for a couple steps backward. With this exercise, we are adding a lot of beginning moves that will play into many more exercises later on. I also need to do this exercise in front of a full length mirror so I know that he is straight and and in the correct position. We then reviewed our retrieve, which Clancy loves to do, but he does not want to tug on the toy. I am to fill an old sock with hotdogs to encourage him to grab it and hang on. After tugging on it he will get a bite of hot dog as a reward. I need to watch while tugging so that he doesn’t get too high and rough, make sure the game ends on a controlled note.

Next, we are working on plate work from a chair with extra plates out for distractions. Maggie wants me to always have distractions around as she says that intact boys are easily distracted and Clancy needs to start learning now that he can work around them. The plate game we are starting on has me sitting forward in a chair, Clancy in heel position with my hand in his collar, I drop a couple treats on the plate, have him focus on the plate, then send him for the treats. I click and call “come”, using my hand to pull him in between my legs where he gets a treat by reaching into me. This is getting him used to working with a hand in his collar, that it is not a correction, just a tool to help him into the right position. It also is the beginning of plate work for go outs and glove work. Our last game/lesson is to have him in a sit at heel, rev him up with a couple “ready, ready” while pushing on his chest, then calling “Clancy come” and running forward about 10-15 feet, then ending with him playing tug with his toy  or giving several food rewards. If I use the toy then I have to remember to play for about 15-20 seconds so he has a chance to enjoy the reward of playing. Looking forward to working with my boy, he is such fun to train.

Blueberry had her turn next, she wasn’t too happy about the gentle leader, but only rubbed at it when she was sitting and not working. While Blueberry worked Clancy was tied with his leash to the light pole, Maggie wants him to learn by watching the other dogs train as well as learn that he can be do what he wants on the leash as long as he is quiet. We started with a basic “L” pattern, focusing on keeping the hand with the food at shoulder height and only bringing it down to nose level on turns and to treat on each turn. Boo was working very well, driving hard with her rear and keeping in position well. I do need to watch her on the sits as she wants to swing her rear out a little. We then did some recalls to a chair to keep her close on her fronts and straight. We didn’t work on it in class, but I am to get her back to work with the dumbbell so that can be moving ahead. A couple times Maggie held Blueberry while I got Clancy of his leash for some retrieve/tugging play for a reward on his good behaviour while watching us work. It definitely had him revved up for his retrieves and the last time he had a nice strong tug for about 30 seconds.

At this point I was about done, so we discussed our practice plans for the coming week and what I need to focus on. Now to get my practice routine going at home so I keep up with out lessons.