Written by Marilyn Miller
Recently my trainer, Merrillynn Hill, suggested I take Blaze to as many different locations as possible before her March 2ed show in Portland, Maine. This is good advice but considering how this month is going (with one snow storm after another) it is next to impossible. I did manage to get Blaze to a local Petco last weekend where one customer pet her and one of the men who worked there got down on the floor and pet Blaze while giving her treats. She needs to have more people touch her, especially men, in preparation for an eventual Stand For Exam. We did have one workman in the house last week and before he left I asked him to please pet Blaze while giving her treats.
There are many exercises we work on inside while being house bound. Today we did some heeling and recalls in the hallway. While Glenn cooked Grilled Cheese sandwiches for lunch I put Blaze in both a sit - stay and a down - stay on leash where she could watch him and get the good smells from the stove. This was not only good practice for her but kept Blaze out from under his feet. In our breakfast nook we worked on fronts and finishes. Also "setting up" around a large cone, in preparation for setting up in the ring. A sit -stay with 3 pieces of food on the floor in front of Blaze is a good exercise which does not require much space. Also the Stand For Exam. Some mornings when Blaze is on the grooming table we do a little "take it" work with the dumbbell.
Some things M. Hill specifically asked me to work on are...
1) Desensitizing Blaze to having her collar touched. She comes into me at such a fast pace on the recalls, I need to grab the collar and slow her down to do the front, otherwise she will run by me. Blaze does not like her collar being grabbed, so we practice having cookies while I touch and hold her collar. This seems to be working.
2) The command "UP Here". I hold a treat in my left hand above Blaze's head and give the command "up here". This is to be used when her nose is to the ground and she is not paying attention to me while heeling.
I can also use this command guiding Blaze between exercises and entering the ring gate. It will be very useful when doing Rally as I have guided all my Lhasas with my left hand when doing Rally with them. I just never had a specific command to use before. Blaze already looks up when I say "Up Here." This is an easy command to teach while sitting on the couch with your dog watching tv. We also practice it going through different doorways in the house.
3) When I praise Blaze for doing a good job, I need to do it more quietly. The more excited I sound, the more excited she gets. A judge will not appreciate her barking her head off or jumping up and down in excitement.
Last week in class we worked on entering a ring gate. Heeling up one side (several gates set up in a row) and down the other. Then we did weaves in and out of the four gates. Then a "fast" up one side and a "slow" down the other. We also did this variation in heeling around large cones. Learning to "set up" around the first cone, heeling between two other cones at different paces, and circling another cone before finishing at the last one. We tried this off leash (successfully) a couple of times also. M. Hill had us do sit and down stays with a ring gate behind the dogs. The handlers would walk behind the dogs on the other side of the ring gate. It is an excellent idea to get the dogs used to ring gates. Some dogs have a disadvantage of never seeing a ring gate before their first show.
In our private lesson the next day with Merrillynn we worked on setting up a course for Rally Novice. Blaze knows all the exercises but she never saw a course laid out. She thought the signs were great for sniffing and tearing out of the holders. I would not want this to happen at her first show ! A couple of the exercises I am still not quite clear on, so I will have to watch a Rally Novice demonstration of all the exercises on the computer. The Spiral can be very confusing and I need to concentrate on that one. M. Hill also said I was making my 360 degree circles left and right much smaller than necessary. I ordered the most up to date Rally Rule Book which needs to be studied!
A friend of mine recently surprised me by saying she is through with showing. Her exact words were "There is not enough reward for training my dog and earning titles". I thought working with your dog, thereby creating a strong bond, was reward in itself. I know Blaze enjoys training with me and I love to see her learn more with each training session.
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