Learning Curves

So I think I’ve mentioned here how smart Pierre, our foster dog is. This little sucker is sharp as a tack. Forest is bright but stubborn, and Diego, well, he’s just Diego. Pierre maybe isn’t necessarily smarter than Forest, but he is far more intense and less likely to get frustrated or flustered. He would work for an hour straight if I had the stamina and creativity to keep him going.

Its been such an interesting process for me personally training three dogs with such unique personalities.

When we got Diego, I was somewhat nervous. He was a rescue dog with issues and I was afraid I’d “break” him even more than he already was. I spent too much money on a package of lessons from a local trainer that my vet recommended. This guy and his helpers weren’t bad, but they weren’t great either. They were of the “traditional” school. Not really rough or overly aversive, but just traditional. Looking back I give myself a smack to my forehead—Diego is so easily trainable with food its a joke. But that never came up once with these trainers. With them it was more about forcing him into a sit, forcing him into a down, forcing him into being around a pack of dogs in a group lesson that made his skin crawl. I didn’t know any better—especially because I grew up in a household filled with dogs and horses and was brought up with very traditional/old school training methods—but I could tell Diego was uncomfortable. I never actually used all of my privates and stopped going to the group classes. Poor little man was, and still is, so pliable and wanting to please that he let us manipulate him into positions and situations he wasn’t comfortable with. We just didn’t know.

Then there was Forest. I tried getting him to down using the foot-on-the-leash method and was horrified as he started thrashing around like a fish on the end of the line. I knew that this was a horrible idea, imagining a dog with a snapped neck… Done. Full stop. I knew it wasn’t right. So, I started digging and looking and reading online and stumbled into the world of R+ and clickers. It took about one session for me to figure out that this is what I should have been doing all along. Forest was thrilled, as was Diego (Yaaay food!!!). With Forest, I could lure him into just about anything. Sit, down, bow, dance around, jump in my arms, get on the skateboard… it was so easy really. I had the best and fastest 2-on-2-off in my beginner agility classes because I taught my dog how to target. This was a piece of cake right? The seminars I took and read books I read talked about the different ways of getting a behavior—shaping, luring, and capturing. Forest was so good at the first two I didn’t worry about the last. That was waaay to slow and boring.

Then, there was Pierre. Ai. Just having food in the room sent him into a frenzy. I tried teaching him to sit, but he was so all over the place–clawing me, jumping on me, hunting for food in nooks and crannies that we first had to work on taking it down a notch. Plus, he is totally impervious to physical manipulation. Hold the treat over his head for a sit? Hah! “I’ll wrap my arms around your hand and gnaw!” Lure him into a down? “I’ll crouch down and shuffle backwards and dance around ’til we’re all blue in the face!” So, capturing it was, and still is. Patience is a virtue grasshoppers. And that little brat is so sharp, if I can wait him out to offer the behavior just once, then another few minutes for twice, man we are off and running to the races. He is so much fun and so brave and unflappable.

He now is building up to an excellent default sit, and we nailed down this weekend. We even got down on the mat this AM. He is quick quick quick and its all up to me to just give him my time training.

We spent about 4 hours at an adoption event yesterday, which I have to admit I loathe. They are long and trying and frustrating to me. However, I did meet many people who expressed interest in him, with two potentials I would love, love, love to take him home. One a youngish cool kid guy who has had dogs, had a large fenced yard and would take him to work every day. Yay. The other a family with a teen kid, a lab, and lots of dog experience. Both potentials had had Min Pins previously. HUGE Yay. I will not wish/allow this dog to go to anyone without dog experience, and much much prefer MinPin, terrier or other “intense” breed experience So, I am praying that one of the two of them submits an app online.

In the meantime I will continue to enjoy learning from him for as long as I can…

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