Sunday, January 22, 2006

Day 185

It's finally happened. Now I don't know whether to be happy or depressed. Sanity actually got enough exercise and work yesterday to tire her out. This is a first.

Since I suspect there will be very little to write about for today, I'm going to use the time to write some more about yesterday. Specifically the part I failed to get any pictures of and am now regretting. If only I had walked out the door with my camera instead of leaving it laying on the table. SIGH!

First there was the "play" part. Only for me I really wasn't seeing it as play, but as another chance for Sanity to practice her needed daily skills. It all started with a toy found on the ground. The first part ended with Sanity quite literally running everyone into the ground. Her ability to do rapid starts, sharp cuts and wild leaps coupled with her clever use of the terrain, parked cars and knots of people meant that the other dogs simply were unable to catch her. To me the best part was not actually watching this wild chase, but watching her using her brain to plan moves way beyond the immediate.

She would duck behind the parked cars and then slip around and suddenly pop up in a totally unexpected place and managed to keep the game going much longer than had it been just a straight chase game. After all the younger dogs had finally given up on catching her and winning the toy, she dropped it in favor of joining the older dogs in a fine game of fetch. The problem. Her need, drive, desire to be first, fastest, most, best, leader quickly meant that I had to step in and insist she start learning to honor another dog's work.

Shoot, the thing that made me really stand up and take notice and start clamping down with some rules was when she had the nerve to actually steal the bumper right out of an older dog's mouth. It was done so fast I'm not sure the other dog realized what had happened until it was over. She shot up from behind going full tilt, snagged the bumper as she shot passed and never even slowed down. In her rush to get to the bumper first she was making some pretty fancy long leaps off a small rise in the ground. Each time she made that leap she put more into it and it carried her further. Pretty impressive stuff for an 8 month old pup.

Finally, I decided I needed to go back to the house to get some stuff and it occurred to me that this was the perfect time to get in a very serious lesson on attention. I want my dogs to give me 10% of their attention 100% of the time. It is something I have never thought to be at all unreasonable, whereas I do find this business of demanding 100% attention from a dog even for 5% of the time to be unreasonable, unrealistic and not something that a person or dog can actually live with on a daily basis. Getting that 10% all the time takes some very creative training set-ups.

Yesterday offered me one of those perfect times. Sanity was totally engrossed in her activities with the other dogs and had not so much as checked in with me in more than 20 minutes. Now historically, 15 minutes is about the outer limit of what I am willing to allow. So what to do? It was easy. I left and went in the house. I could do so we were in a safe location, I could watch her through the picture window and I knew it wouldn't be long before the lack of my presence would begin to make itself felt.

Predictably enough, I wasn't inside more than about 3 minutes before I could see the energy begin to drain out of her, she slowed down and finally stopped all movement. There was a pause and then she begin to look around. Next she started going from person to person, stopping in front of each one and carefully studying their face. She continued to move around like that until she had check out every single person available to her. Once more she stood very still and just looked around.

There were several people either coming or going from the house and she fixated on one who was headed in. She fell in beside this person and followed her up to the house and the door. The door was almost shut in her face, but I managed to get in a position where I could whisper the instructions to let her in. I then fell silent and continued to watch. .The reason why I am not identifying the person is because I fixate just like my dog. I honestly don't know who walked in and held the door open for Sanity. That person, while receiving a thank you never really registered with me.)

Because of the way she came through the door it was just a natural move to continue on into the kitchen. The food all over the place meant nothing to her, she was on a mission. Next time I saw her she was exiting the kitchen at the far end of the great room. Again, or should I say still systematically inspecting each and every person she saw. Little by little she worked her way across the room until when she was about 15 feet away from me, she froze. Her head went up and that nose was working overtime. The head sort of did this "up periscope" number, swivel, turn, freeze, back up and bingo! She had me. You would have thought I had been "lost" for weeks and her search had taken her around the world from the way she behaved. I figure I will still need to repeat this little exercise at least four or five more times before I will no longer have to worry about her leaving me for any reason other than my sending her on a mission for me. One of these days I will have my camera ready and manage to get a shot of "dog on a mission". One of these days.

Now that is my idea of useful attention and I realize it is much more difficult to teach that the attention taught with a toy or bit of food. Well worth the effort, if you ask me. Which of course no one did. Ask me, that is.


  1. Anonymous4:41 PM

    "...I had to step in and insist she start learning to honor another dog's work."

    Further comment, pls. What did she do? You do?

    Got a feeling I could use this.

    SK, HH, NJ

  2. Anonymous4:43 PM

    "she had the nerve to actually steal the bumper right out of an older dog's mouth."

    Bingo! Now I know where Joisey got this.

    SK, HH, NJ

  3. First of all, I have always found the easiest way to get a handle on the honor business where the retrieve is concerned is to have a second person as well as two or more dogs with solid honoring skills. Then you physically and verbally restrain the keen young dog. Over time and with enough reps. the honor just becomes a way of life without loosing any of the keeness. First you can give up the physical restrains and then the verbal is no longer needed. And before you ask, no I don't use the ecollar for this sort of restraint.

    Second, while I would love to blame Joisey for Sanity's lack of manners in this area, I must confess it just ain't so. Sanity was already trying to rush other dogs and steal the bumper or toy before Joisey came on the scene.

  4. Anonymous8:00 PM

    Actually, I was trying to blame Sanity for Joisey's smash and grab act, but I guess I can't get away with that.

    In lieu of another person, perhaps a restrained 'down'?

    SK, HH, NJ

  5. That might work, if you put a light line on her and then stand on it.

  6. Hmm... my youngest dog usually steals the fetch toy, often right out of another dog's mouth. But I'm not sure I would say that any of them have "solid honoring skills", or even any honoring skills. They all steal from each other on a regular basis. So what to do? I'm not sure I understand the restraining part either; in the case of my fetch game, do I physically hold the young one back so he can't chase the toy at all?