Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sonic at 8 months

Sonic at 8 months

Sonic is a very active puppy, already 23.25" tall and at least 56 lbs. She is strong. Very strong. I shudder to think what it would be like to walk her on a leash if we hadn't been training consistently since she was 8 weeks old. We practice it just about every day because of our walk to and from the training building.

Our biggest achievement in the past month was completing the 7 "weeks" of Around the Clock Scent Discrimination. Weeks is in quotes because it isn't used as an exact time of 7 days, but rather it defines the stages that Janice recommends. The most I did any stage was 6 days for Week 6, which is the week you take away any cheese on the scented article. We worked articles every day for 33 days straight, something I've never managed before. We have only done them a few more times since, including using some fresh articles the last time we did them.

We have continued to work our field-related obedience, including walking with me vs. formal obedience heeling. The latter is stylized. The former can be on either side, and I  prefer that she is looking forward while remaining aware of where I am.  I continue to struggle with her not dragging ahead of me and pulling on the leash. To counteract the forging ahead, we do lots of sits. These have improved a lot this month. We also work on her finishing to either side, coming with a sit in front, sometimes close, sometimes a bit farther away. I'll also call her directly to heel from a short distance away. She seems equally responsive to my verbal sit cue and a whistle toot.

Cookie-toss sits are improving slowly. She is able to sit with little to no creeping toward me at about 4-6 feet. What I really like is that she is turning herself all the way around to face me before she sits, something Gryff has always been poor at. A straight sit should make accurate casting in the field much easier for her. I've learned that you can do cookie toss sits outside in grass. It just takes patience while they dig the treat out of the grass.

At each meal time for several weeks now, I've been having her hold a 3" bumper while I put the other dogs' food down and they start to eat. When we started this, she was very reluctant to even take the fat bumper, let alone hold one for any length of time. She has progressed to jumping up and grabbing it and sitting while I put the food bowls down for the other dogs. Just this week, I've started requiring her to reach down towards the floor, lift and hold it. This work  only adds about 15-30 seconds onto meal time, and though it is slow, she is making progress.

We have started force fetch, but haven't done much with it in the past couple of weeks for a variety of reasons.

I have started adding her to stay lines in my classes. If you've watched any of the scent article videos, you may have noticed that she flops over in a puppy sit frequently, a common occurrence with Flat-Coated Retrievers. I find that it helps some to put her rear end up on a 1" pad. This shifts her weight forward enough to reduce gravity's effect on her sit. When Treasure was a young dog, she had a lot of trouble holding still on sit stays. I finally realized at least part of the problem was that she was sitting with her hind feet so tightly under her that she was sitting on the outside of her hocks and with her front feet quite close to the back feet. This didn't give her a firm base of support, and thus she kept shifting.  Having remembered Treasure's problems, I've tried with Sonic what helped Treasure, which is have her do a small hop, lifting her front feet a small distance off the floor to try to spread her back feet apart some. We are only having modest success. I think the biggest issue  is that she is very cow-hocked right now, and I think she just can't physically hold a non-flopped over sit for too long. I just have to be patient with her and wait for more maturity.

Our work on field marking has been greatly inhibited by a couple of bouts of lameness. She was sore on both her left elbow and right hip the first time, and more recently, she has been limping on her right front. I had X-rays taken last Thursday but haven't heard from my rehab vet who recommended the X-rays, to see what she thinks. I have not been completely restricting her from running, but have mostly been letting her choose to run vs. encouraging it through our activities.

She was in her 1st real dog show on April 7. There was a Supported Entry by the regional Midwest Waterways FCR club, which means there were majors in both sexes. It was a bit touch and go whether she would be sound enough, but she was. She was the only puppy in her classes – 6-9 month puppy bitches – both in the Sweepstakes and the regular classes. This meant she got to go in the ring 4 times, which was very good practice. The half-limp tail that her litter all seemed to have now vanishes when someone approaches and she wags furiously. We managed credible stand for exams, and her gaiting was far better than in the puppy match in January. She mostly didn't look up at me, and mostly trotted. She had to let loose with some boings during the regular class,  but that's life with a puppy.

We have purposely worked my 20-Treat exercise a couple of times. Since I gave it as homework in my Fundamentals class last Thursday, I made a point of doing it the next day in the grocery store parking lot. It tooke her 20 seconds  to look at me voluntarily the first time, and a total of 3 minutes 40 seconds to look 24 times (yes, we are over achievers, doing 24 instead of 20 :-)). This was better than the 4-5 minutes to do 20 treats a couple of weeks ago. I will try to get her out another time next week (I'm traveling this weekend and next without the dogs), to set a good example for my students.

A few days ago, I had two of my launchers out to do marks with Gryffin. I decided to do a short mark from each one for Sonic, to give her an introduction to watching the extra big throws. She thought the idea was splendid and did both marks very nicely.

She got to do her first X marking drill the next day. The gunner stands in one place, throwing 4 different singles. There are many variations on the order of throws. We did right angle in, right angle back, left angle back, and left angle in. She did a very nice 'check down' on the final mark.

I am hopeful that the lameness issues will resolve soon so we can do more retrieving work in the next month. There are of course many less strenuous activities to work on, but we both want to be out field training. It is hard for both of us to be patient!

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