Written by Marilyn Miller
BLAZE and I had our first private lesson in two weeks on December 8th. Glenn and I had gone to Florida for five days over Thanksgiving to visit his family. We boarded Blaze with our vet. It was the first time we had boarded a dog in thirty years and fortunately she did fine. The staff there fusses over her and the Office Manager refers to herself as Blaze's "Auntie Shannon". She was in good hands. Of course there was no training going on at this time and when Blaze and I began our lessons at home she had noticeably regressed in her exercises.
The first exercise was Heeling. There was lots of sniffing going on. Lhasas are close to the ground so sniffing is a real temptation. Merrillynn suggested I pick up my pace while heeling which would give Blaze less time to sniff. Her attention needs to be on me not on the ground. This worked. By my picking up the pace of heeling Blaze had her attention on me and with a lot of eye contact. It was suggested we try working to music which would help build up a rhythm in heeling and make the exercise more fun and interesting. Not quite so boring. I have a radio set up in the basement and we play music when we work down there on frigid days.
We really lost ground on the Stand For Exam. On our lesson two weeks before Merrillynn said we were "really solid on that exercise". Now we were back to square one. Time to start at the beginning in teaching this exercise. I could not believe it ! Blaze moved her feet, turned around, sat, and did everything possible wrong. We went back to standing Blaze next to a large cone and keeping some tension on the leash. I walked around the cone when returning to heel position, paused for three seconds, then walked Blaze forward before praising her and giving her a treat. This is to teach her there is no "Sit" in the exercise.
Beginner Novice. We worked on the Sit-Stay while I walked around the ring. Blaze did not want me out of her sight and turned around and stood up looking for me when I walked behind her. It was suggested I start by walking around Blaze in three foot circles, then five foot, then seven, and to keep increasing the distance as long as she held the stay. Blaze needs to have the confidence that I will return to her. When this is evident I can keep increasing my distance from her. I do not want Blaze to be afraid she will not see me again if I disappear behind her.
Recalls. Hooray! Our recalls were solid. I had practiced leaving Blaze, going a distance straight out in front of her, turning sideways (instead of facing her) and saying "stay". Then walking a few feet forward and a few feet in the opposite direction and then say "stay". Now I stand and face Blaze for a few seconds before calling her to me. I do not want her to anticipate the recall.
I was discouraged and asked Merrillynn why things had disintegrated so in two weeks time. Her answer was that "puppy brains" do not retain lessons like adult dogs do. I need to be patient and remember that Blaze is still a puppy and to enjoy her. Very good advice !
In October, the Contest Chairwoman for the Dog Writers Association of America asked me to be one of the judges for the annual writing competition. I was very flattered as this is the fourth year in a row I have been asked and accepted. I enjoy getting a box of reading material to judge never knowing what categories I will be covering. This year my topics to judge were on National Club Publications (such as West Highland White Terriers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Pointers), Service Dogs, and training unconventional breeds such as certain Terriers. I also had one book on all the different breeds. I cannot get into the specifics about the reading material or the authors as the awards will not be given out until the Sunday night before the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in NYC in February. The DWAA Banquet is always a fun event. Unfortunately I will not attend this year, but I have in previous years. Any dog writer can enter this contest. You do not have to be a member of DWAA to do so. Last year over 600 pieces of writing material were entered. I try to request articles on Obedience, Rally and Therapy Dogs, but it does not always work out that way. This year I really enjoyed the Club Publications. They were done beautifully with many interesting articles to read and learn from. They did not just pertain to a certain breed. I also get to keep all the material I have read.
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