Of Sharks and Foxes

So, I think this is how its gonna be for a while. Unfortunately. Until my brain and body adjust to this whole actually “working” for forty hours a week, and commuting, and with leftover time going to planning and shopping for meals, embarrassingly meager attempts at house tidying-up-ness, and sleep, we may be on the one blog post a week program. But I will stick to it, becuase I need to keep up what I have built over this last year, and record my new life goings on.

Like right now I have a self-induced 15-minute blog writing limit. Ack. And today is even sleep in day because its Monday and I just work straight through until my class starts at 6. But anyway…

Last week was good. Better in the me-feeling-semi-useful department. I think the biggest thing I learned was to think on my feet with how to handle each dog differently, primarily regarding rewards. I worked with a boot camp dog—a pretty, girly golden—who is so freaking sharky that she’ll chomp your hand for kibble rewards. Kibble!!! And on the opposite end of the spectrum, a spoiled shih tzu who usually wont work for any food, regardless of the amount of begging and pleading and cajoling. He is not over-threshold, he just doesnt give a shit. We pull out the big guns for him—ham-flavored baby food and cheeze whiz, either of which may or may not work depending on the day.

But, my biggest victory was with one of our border collie rescues. She is a soft, soft dog, and just gorgeous. Red and white and looks exactly like a pretty little fox, down to the white puff on the end of her tail. She is another picky one. Sometimes she’ll happily work for kibble, sometimes she needs a little extra something to entice her, and at other times she doesnt want any of it. So after getting mildly frustrated with working on loose leash walking where she didnt want to have anything to do with me, I decided to use running to her favorite place—the kennel room kitchen—as a reward for her mat stays. That kinda worked.

Later that afternoon I worked her again, this time in the training center. That is easier by far as there are less distractions and she is comfortable there, but I got her really revved up and excited to work, mainly I think by keeping my tone really bright, and also rewarding her sporadically with lots of pets and cuddling, which she just eats up. She was the most fired up I have ever seen her while working, and I was even able to call her away from a playmate and send her to her mat while being bombarded with play attempts from her friend, so that was a big victory for me.

That is a big leap for me, as when the clicker and food treats are out, my dogs don’t want me to touch or baby talk or god forbid CUDDLE them, they just want FOOD. Especially so in environments where they are less-than-comfortable. I think one of the reasons I am so exhausted at the end of every day is that I am struggling at this point to keep ahead of every dog and quickly adjust strategy to keep things moving along. And I may also have to accept the occasional session where I am not making progress, and not kill myself over it.

This week will be wonky with 3 days on, one off, then one on, then weekend, but maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in some more writing time then. In between Thanksgiving and a weekend trial. Hopefully.

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