Written by Marilyn Miller
On November 20th Blaze passed her Canine Good Citizen test. She was the only dog out of seven who did all ten required exercises correctly on the first try. Blaze let the Evaluator who gave the test pet her with no hesitation. It really paid off that I took her all over town to have people meet and pet her. In the five weeks of the CGC class Blaze had almost 150 strangers touch her. I was concerned she might show shyness, but she came through for me. Taking her out often to meet so many people also helped tremendously with her car sickness. Instead of massive drooling on every ride, she now does very little. One exercise she surprised everyone on was the Recall. She came to me slowly doing some sniffing along the way. It was not her usual "turbo charged" recall. Blaze loves to run and usually flies across the floor when I call her. We are doing a lot of work on the recall in class and at home. My trainer, Merrillynn Hill, refers to Blaze as a "High Drive" dog with a Maserati engine. When I leave Blaze for the recall she gets into a position I refer to as the "racing dive" - ready to fly to me as soon (or before) the order to "call your dog" is given. Merrillynn refers to it as the Gargoyle stance. I am trying to correct this by rewarding a nice "wait" before I call her to come. I go back to her and reward her, remind her to "sit up", go 30 feet away and return and feed her again. When she gets into one of her crouching positions, I go back to her and feed before she takes off, thereby rewarding the wait. The dog is always rewarded when she comes to you, so why not balance the scales and reward for the wait. Let the dog know she will be rewarded for a good wait. I also sometimes go back and reward her for a nice, quiet straight sit up. I call Blaze to me sporadically so she never knows when she will have to come.
We are also working hard to improve her heeling. I won't show her again until I see a large improvement. Sniffing the floor has got to stop. Merrillynn suggested using a long wooden spoon, putting squirt cheese on it and sticking some turkey or roast beef to it. Then I hold the spoon near Blaze's nose when practicing heeling. If the head goes down I say "up here" and give a pop on the leash. After a few steps she can have a lick of the cheese. When she looks up at me I praise and give a treat. She seems to be improving some. Not quite so much sniffing the floor. Maybe she just needs to mature. She only just turned two years and still acts very much like a puppy. When Glenn and I have some wine before dinner with crackers, Blaze demands a treat also. I have little training treats for her. When I give her one I say "up here" and she has to bring her head up to get the treat. Or, I say "watch me" and she has to look directly at me for a few seconds.
Last night in class we worked on a fun exercise to improve heeling. Merrillynn placed several cones around the training room floor. We could devise our own heeling plan around the cones. We could do spirals, figure 8's, straight heeling around the cones, or completely circle the cones. We were to do both left and right turns around the cones. We were to lean to the right when turning right, lean to the left when turning left and looking straight ahead when in between. If the dog swings wide around a turn a pop on the leash is given. Lots of praise when the head is up. The dogs are supposed to pick up on these cues for the direction the next turn will take. I found that looking straight ahead was the hardest part of the exercise. Adding some music to our practice sessions at home is also helpful.
Another exercise we did in class was "Chair Sits". The 7 dogs and handlers formed a circle. The dogs were at the end of the leash facing their handlers. The Doberman next to Blaze kept standing up. I was really surprised as the week before this dog had earned her CD title with scores all around 198. My trainer said this is a good lesson to practice at home as the dog is tempted to go to the owner and would like to get on the couch (or chair) with them. I could not believe this dog would not do a sit - stay ! Really interesting. The Chair sit - stay can also be done at shows before the group long sits and downs. No one can accuse you of "practicing" if your dog is just sitting facing you.
Our class assignment from now until after New Year's is to practice at home and maintain what we have already learned. Merrillynn does not want any of us to "slide" over the holidays, but wants to be able to move forward in the New Year. It is not hard to find 20 or 30 minutes a day to have short practice sessions. It just takes commitment on the handler's part. The dogs will appreciate your extra attention during this busy Season.
We have some exciting news !!! Glenn and I are picking up a new puppy (male) on Dec. 17th. He is from the same breeder as Blaze and has the same parents so he will be a full brother to Blaze.
The breeder says the little guy is completely opposite to Blaze. He is laid back, very mellow, loves anyone to touch him and likes to be hugged. We told him we could not take another puppy with a Maserati engine. One is enough. I am sure Blaze's nose will be out of joint for awhile, but eventually she will have a playmate and Glenn and I can have a break.
Enjoy your Holiday Season!