Written by Marilyn Miller
April 21st was the last class in our group Beginner Novice series in Hampton. The trainer was going to take three weeks off before the next set of classes would begin. I did not want to wait three weeks to continue training Blaze. A friend recommended a trainer in Kittery who is giving her private lessons with her year old Golden Retriever. I called Ms. Hill and made a date for a private lesson for Blaze and I. Our first lesson was on April 28th. The trainer wanted to see what Blaze could do. We began with heeling . No Heel command. just "Let's Go". With a treat held under Blaze nose I would walk a few steps (no more than 10 steps) at a time. Then I would stop. and when Blaze sat I would click and treat. The number of steps were to be increased in small increments every time we worked on this exercise. The command "Heel" would be added at a later date.
We practiced the sits. down and stands on a grooming table, which I also do at home. It saves on a lot of bending over and an achy back. Stays were practiced on the table also. The leash is held tight up close to the collar and the stay hand signal is used. Just a few seconds at first and slowly increase the length of the stay over time. With the down we practiced getting the dog's front end down before the rear end. This would be necessary for the drop - on - recall. For the recall I was instructed to call Blaze's name repeatedly. No "come" or "front" words were to be used yet. The thinking behind this is that it is too soon to introduce the command words to a young puppy. For the dog to come to front, I make a "V" with my feet. Hold the treat low, between my legs and have the dog come in. This was taught 30 years ago when I was training my first obedience Lhasa, Baby MING Squeezicks, CDX.
When we are out for a walk, or in a training building and Blaze is not paying attention to me (sniffing the floor or interested in other dogs) I get up close behind Blaze tug on the leash, back up a few steps and call the dog's name.
Ms. Hill discussed using eye contact with Blaze (for attention). We could do this while relaxed sitting on the couch. Say the name Blaze, click and treat when she looks at me. I can hold the treat off to the side of my face, but only click and treat when Blaze makes eye contact with me. Blaze thrives on praise so I must use lots of it. Also I vary the treats on different exercises and on different days. Ms. Hill suggested giving Blaze 2 - 3 ten to fifteen minute practice sessions per day. Generally puppies cannot retain much if pushed to a longer time. Ms. Hill was extremely surprised that Blaze kept working for almost the entire hour lesson. She noticed that Blaze enjoys the class and learns quickly. We had play breaks during the hour.
On May 5th we had our second private lesson. Again we worked on the sit, down, stand and stays on the table.This time I was to lure Blaze with a treat while holding the leash tight near the collar. I would gently pull the leash forward and hold Blaze back with a hand on her chest. I would keep saying the word "stay". When she kept the position I would click and treat. A slight tap on the chest along with the click would become a release command.
We worked on finishes next. Blaze had the basic idea on how to do both left and right finishes as we had been practicing at home. I did need some help with the Right finish. Ms. Hill suggested I have a treat in each hand (plus the leash and the clicker). This is a lot to handle and coordinate. With the dog in the front position, I lure Blaze as far to the right as I can turn and give her the treat. When she comes around behind me into the heel position and sits, click and give her the second treat. I repeat this several times. The Left finish is much easier as it involves one hand and one treat.
We even started some work on scent articles. I told Ms. Hill I have no interest in doing Utility work again. My goal for Blaze is to earn a CD title and her Canine Good Citizen title. Possibly a CDX. I think Blaze would make an excellent Therapy Dog. I did take Lilly's old wooden dumb bell with me. Blaze did retrieve it for me. She loves to retrieve balls and rope toys on our back deck. We worked on holding different dumb bells to the clicker. If Blaze showed any interest in the dumb bell (like sniffing it) then I would click and treat.
Apparently the idea of training today is to start with the hardest exercises (Utility) then work your way down to Novice exercises. This way when it is time to show in Utility the dog will not be too old to earn the title. Her joints and body will still be in good enough shape to do the jumps. Her mind will be sharp also. When I got home from this class I looked in the basement for Lilly's scent articles. All my training equipment for Utility work was there. If nothing else, working with the articles will be good mental stimulation for Blaze. She thinks it is all a game which is a good thing. As soon as I get home from any class I write down in detail what we learned that day. Before any training session I look over my notes. One day we practice two or three exercises and the next day we do others. We try to work on every exercise at least three days a week.
Blaze and I are having fun working together and that is what counts !
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