Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Good Work Continues

Sydney continues to improve. Now that she's got such structure in her life, it's more and more obvious that she's insecure. The improvement is that she now looks to me when she's nervous, rather than lashing out with ugly-face behavior. It's not 100%, and I expect it will always be a work in progress. The "I'm nervous, please don't let bad things happen" behavior seems to be Syd jumping up against my leg. Now we are working on that, so that she will sit, or put a paw on my foot, etc.

Yesterday we went to the agility center to work on some fundamentals. First up was the boom-board. A 5-6 foot plank with a pivot point of a 4 inch diameter PVC pipe. It's not designed to be used as a teeter, but more something to acclimate the dogs to the sounds of a teeter hitting the ground, and the feeling of a board moving under their paws. Object is nose-touch c/t (click & treat). Then we worked up to paw touch, c/t. Then paw on either side of the plank (either the downside that's already on the ground and won't move, or the up side that will then fall down with pressure from the paw). I'm using the boom-board to get Syd more confident about the noise, and the idea of just shaping yet another new behavior. She did some whining and trying to avoid yesterday, mostly by running around the sides of the boom-board, trying to get from point A to point B by circling around. Once she got it, though, she was a good sport. I could see the nervousness in her body language, but she got to where she'd use one paw and bang the boom board anyway. She wasn't slamming the board with great enthusiasm like Hawk does, but she knew that to get that treat, she had to make the board go "boom."

Saturday afternoon, Syd and I took a short walk, with leaves flying by, and scary garbage cans sitting curbside at many homes on our street. Lots of attention work, and Syd did pretty good. We had a perfect opportunity to work on reactivity and confidence when we passed a house with just a slight bit of fencing off to the side. A small dog in the backyard barked as we walked by. A neighbor one house down was kind enough to have left his car parked on the street, so it was the perfect set up for Syd. She saw the dog, started whimpering and trying to decide what she was going to do about it. We kept moving and stopped next to the car, which put the barking dog out of sight. I got Syd's attention, and we did c/t for eye contact several times. She even got to feeling comfortable enough to do a spin/twist combination for me. I've discovered that when Syd is way beyond her comfort zone, she is too nervous to do a sit, and no way she'll think about a down when she might need to flee the country in a flash! ;-P So, I'll take a good stand, get back, eye contact, or spin. We'll have to work up to the tougher stuff like sit and down.

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