We haven’t been all that successful at the K9-Kamp Challenges. This week, though, we rocked it. We took the suggestion on Koly or Kaly’s blog (I don’t remember which of you brought it up, but great idea!), and took to the playground for our activities.
It helped that it was cold and rainy for most of the week and weekend. We never once found the play set previously occupied by children. We (I) also had a good reason to keep moving – it was the only way to fight off the cold in the air!
The play set was in the field of an elementary school near my house, almost completely enclosed by fences and the school building itself. The spot is ideal for any kind of off-leash play, apart from having to keep an eye out for snack-items discarded by the school kids. Also, never-fear – I am a firm believer in poop-and-scoop, so there aren’t any messes for the kids left by us. The outdoor cats in the area, however, seem to regard the long-jump sandpit as a
super-sized kitty litter.
This is the routine we got into:
Fetch – I throw the ball, Gwynn chases it, and as soon as he gets it, I call him and run in the opposite direction, cheering him on like a crazy-person. Not only giving me a bit of a run, but also reducing the likelihood of Gwynn deciding to just lie down where the ball landed and have a good chew. Usually three to five throws before it’s pretty obvious he’s bored of this game. Seriously, shouldn’t his poodle-side have given him some retriever urges? Instead of just the urge to splash in any ‘body’ of water, from puddle to bowl to lake to pond to swamp?
Run over to the play set.
Frolic in play set – there are lots of little platforms at different levels on this play set. I do some step up (one foot, two feet), step down (one foot, two feet), at each level, all the while encouraging Gwynn to jump up when I step up, and jump down when I step down. We run up and down the staircase a few times, and I get him to jump through the perfectly dog-jump-height and size metal hoop a few times before we jog back away from the play set (and the trees which interfere with my already not-so-great throws), and start off at Fetch again.
We repeat that series a few times, then take a break to do a bit of obedience. Gwynn and I are working on an intro to dog sports class right now, so I’ve really been trying to get his Heel command down – with the addition of trying to make it work on both the left and right side, not just standard left-heel position. We learned it in the previous class, but never really… learned it. He’ll stay at left heel if I lure with a treat, but that’s not really useful.
The Kamp challenge got Gwynn completely pumped up. He was really focusing on me, at least in part (I think) because I’d been doing so many random and unpredictable things with him earlier. What this means is that he was really focused, and really getting what I was trying to train for heel.
I looped his leash around my waist, and walked around the baseball diamond with him. Any time he left my side, I pulled him back in, and rewarded the correct position. I also randomly rewarded him every few steps for being in the right position. We did that once at a walk and once at a light jog (much harder to treat, but he was even more focused on me at that point, anyways, so I just cheered him on), and then repeated, but with him on the other side.
The reason I’m sure he’s getting the whole heel idea is that, when I did this series yesterday, he continually tried to loop around to my left side. Not the greatest thing for when I was trying to get him to stay on my right-side, but I think it means that he’s figured out what I’m looking for in this – the position right next to me and focused on me – which should make teaching right-side come much easier in the long-run. I couldn’t stop giggling, as I treated for being on the right side, he accepted the treat, and then ducked around to the left, and looked up at me, as if to say, “See! Look where I am! Treat?”
Of course, at dog class, when it came time to do anything in a heel-like position, he looked at me not at all, tried to clear the entire floor of possible crumbs of treats and tried to visit all his new doggy friends, anything but follow at that perfect position. Which he then did perfectly for the instructor, even more perfectly than he did for me out in the field where no-one was watching. *Sigh* at least he’s improving a bit!