Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Day 174

When she is good, she is very, very good. This morning I had to do a new puppy consultation. The pup in question, a not very friendly, 4 month old Neapolitan Mastiff, wanted no parts of me or any thing else going on. When the time came, I called Sanity to join us in the office. She had been sleeping in a dog bed in the hallway just outside the office. For the first time ever, she jumped the baby gate, did a tight 4-point touchdown and hopped right up onto the loveseat just like she had been doing it all her life. She did every single thing I ask her to do and all I had to do was whisper my wishes.

I think she really sold the lessons for me, because as they were leaving the wife said to me, "You will be hearing from us again. We will be back. I want a dog just like that" and she pointed to Sanity.

During the next lesson I noticed the strangest thing. Sanity will willingly take the place command when the destination is a step stool, placeboard, the new training table, or even a folding chair, but she just doesn't seem to get it when the goal is the negative space. Strange. It is something I shall try to focus on over the next few days.

I needed to call on her to demo the "open on command" phase of the retrieve. The thing I needed the most was to be able to show how the dumbbell or other item is to be rested against the lips, the command given and then the keeping of the object touching the lips until the mouth is opened. Considering how she has been behaving towards the entire process the past several days, I said to my student, "this should be a great demonstration. You will get to see me actually making the response I want the only one. Watch how I maintain contact with her lips until she opens. Don't be surprised if it takes a moment or two before she finally opens her mouth. Also remember, she doesn't have to do anything other than open her mouth at this stage."

So okay, student is set up as far as what to expect. I have Sanity jump up on the training table, choose an empty .5L water bottle as the object, slip my hand in the collar, move the collar up to behind the ears, snug it up, then in one fluid move the bottle appears and touches her lips at the same time I say "fetch".

And she does!

What's this? For days she has been insisting there was no way she could do this thing. No way a plastic water bottle would fit in her mouth at my request. Now its...pop in and holding. Amazing.

Not to be deterred I switch to an empty Coke can. I get the same results. Good girl, you are a very good girl, even if I was totally expecting something else. In very rapid fire I try a folded up leather leash, a folded up cotton longe line, a plastic ring, a paper bag, a cotton glove. She calmly opens her mouth, takes the object and holds it. There is no hesitation, no arguing, just this pup with a very smug expression on her face. All I can do is laugh and hug her. Sure enough did mess up my planned demonstration, as if I care. Do I sense a break through on the horizon?

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