Private Lessons

Wednesday, June 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

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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