Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sonic at 6 months

Sonic turned 6 months old on Valentine's Day. It is sometimes hard to remember how young she is because of how big she has gotten. She is about Ty's size and she's got a reasonable amount of hair.

Since she lost her last puppy tooth on January 23, we've been hard at work on formalizing her hold of a dumbbell and a small bumper. A 3" big bumper is still pretty tough for her to hold. She will retrieve a big bumper, but often carries it by the rope. I haven't added a fetch command yet, though the time is fast approaching. I wait to add one until my dog will pick a dumbbell up from several feet away. As of last week, she was reaching down almost all the way to the floor and holding it reliably. She loves to use her feet to slide things around, so I'm taking my time getting it all the way to the floor. Over the weekend, I started doing hold work with a metal article. She's a bit reluctant to take it, so we need to do more. Last night, she made the big step of picking a dumbbell up from the floor without my hand nearby. I was especially proud of her given that the dumbbell we were working with has quite a chewed up end, thanks to Little gnawing on it last summer. This afternoon, we did some short retrieves of a metal article and a leather article as successfully as the dumbbell last night.

So, what else can Sonic do besides retrieving basics? All of her heel position maneuvers (heel starts, close, away, back, in, scoot sits) are roughed in and she'll respond to all of the cues without food in my hand, but for most still needs at least some help with a guiding hand to show her how to position her head. 

She can do a reasonable approximation of a finish in both direction, but needs hand motions to help her and does not end up in the right place without help. I'm very excited about her fronts, though. Except for the occasional nose poke ("Am I close enough, Mom?"), she seems to have a pretty good sense of where she should be. We've done chair fronts, platform fronts, steering fronts (side-passing in front of me), angled scoot fronts, cookie-toss recalls, recalls through a chute of broad jump boards, and a few motivational recalls from a sit stay.

I haven't formalized her sit stay much, but she can stay pretty reliably while I put the other dogs' food bowls down, and while I set out cookies for her to do various exercises. I've had a couple of people do some sit stay proofing a few weeks ago, which she handled very well. We've had some conformation exams, but not much since we showed in the Beginner Puppy (4-6 months) class at the January shows. I've done just about no down stay work. She's a Flat-Coat. She'll figure out the down stay all on her own :-).

She's had 3-4 sessions of distractions on Find Heel, but her demo at the seminar last Saturday - she visited the distractor eagerly many times - reminds me that she needs a lot more of that. We've worked a lot on Rhythm Heeling, which we started working on when she was about 12 weeks old. We usually start with clockwise heeling, but have also worked quite a bit on big counterclockwise circles. While I usually start with a treat in my left hand, we've done some work when we are by ourselves without food in my hand. I do keep the leash snug, either behind my legs held in my right hand or gathered up in my left hand, to help keep her close. At home, she can heel 15-20 steps with focus often. Saturday morning at the seminar, before we started, I had her out to get her familiar with the room. She couldn't do more than 2-3 steps without looking around. By mid-afternoon, when I got her out to demo starting Rhythm Heeling, she was great and able to heel like she can at home.

I've introduced her to the basics of about turns and left and right turns, and left and right circles, which lead to Figure 8s. I introduced her to Play Running - a predecessor to fasts - in mid-November and to slows in late December. We've done some Scoot Heels, my predecessor to halts, but I don't think she has quite enough body control to worry about them at this point.

She's done some agility tunnels and all the contacts low. I think she would love to try more, but I'm just not that interested in pursuing agility. 

She's done several sessions of angled jumping, the basis for Directed Jumping, and really loves jumping over low jumps and chasing cookies. We haven't done any of that in a while, but I don't think she'll forget. We started baby go-outs - cookies on a target - when she was 8 weeks old, and she was doing 50 foot go-outs to a cone and/or a target by late November. Her understanding of targets lead to several weeks worth of work on target wagon wheel, where I put out 4 targets in a half circle with cookies on them. I used this to work her retrieve mechanics of looking straight ahead on cue, staying until sent, getting used to my steadying hand above her head, and going to the target on a BACK command. We've worked this both from the left and the right.

We started having success with bumper retrieves somewhere around mid-December. I finally decided to use a Flexi-leash, after seeing the distance at which her brother was retrieving. The flexi prevented the choice of run away with the bumper and started building the habit of coming back to me. 

We started casting to and from platforms in mid-November a la Pat Nolan, and whistle sits to a platform in mid-December. We did quite a bit of puppy casting games for a while, and she was doing a nice job with them. She's also done some gunner-placed multiples to targets with cookies on several occasions, both doubles and triples. With our mild and nearly-snowless winter, we started some gunner thrown marks in January, and she's done some as long as 50 yds. I've also thrown bumpers into some taller grass for her to fetch. Just last week, she delivered a bumper to a platform in heel position several times in a row, something I hadn't tried in a while. I was thrilled to see that development. Her hold needs to be stronger before it is really reliable, but nevertheless, it's a start.

I started her on cookie-toss sits in late January, which will lead to sits on go-outs and whistle sits in the field. She's only reliable about sitting in place at 4-5 feet from me, but it's a start.

She graduated to using the Otto Step (google it if you've got a hitch on your SUV - it is great!) to jump in and out of the Suburban just last week, which meant I didn't have to take the borrowed ramp along to the seminar. 

She's been learning to swim in the therapy pool at the Animal Rehabilitation Facility. We have one more swim on Friday before our trip south, where I hope she gets several opportunities to swim in ponds. 

She can do a decent kick-back stand in heel position and in front of me. Her down is very much a work in progress. If I'm standing up without a barrier, she tends to want to come towards me a bit, and go into the down via a sit. If I'm sitting down, she's much more successful at lying down in one smooth motion. We haven't spent a lot of time on it lately, but enough to see some progress.

She is better at having her nails trimmed than any dog I've ever owned. I'm really hoping we can keep it that way! I still do her upside down on my lap, but I'd like her to graduate to the grooming table and from the clippers to the dremmel. She's had her feet and ears trimmed several times, had a bath or two, and had some exposure to the dog drier.

There is probably more, but mostly in the details. Sonic has benefitted greatly from me being far more available for training than when puppy Gryffin came into my life. I also have another 8 years of training under my belt, and I like to think I've learned a few things!

No comments: