I went to a trial today to help a friend walk the course and be a cheerleader. I deceided to bring the Lizard. WOW, as hard as a few weeks ago were with her, that is about as easy as she has been the last week. It started Monday when Liz was such a good girl and was able to complete the full agility class and did not do any zoomies, a first for the little Liz. That was followed by a couple of evenings of really great practices and today she was a little angel at the trial. She sat quietly in her crate, walked very nicely around the trial area and was able to do all her tricks and was generally a model dog.
ON the way home we stopped by the Bass Pro Shop, not a place I usually go but they had a chair that I wanted. It was really hot and I did not realize they allow dogs, who knew??? So I thought I am just going to bring her in and try to be quiet and I will just leave if they call me on it. As we got out of the car Lizzie was pulling like a frieght train and generally looking like wild animal, so I was concerned....but I deceided to not panic...take a deep breath and we started doing our premack. I made her do a couple of tricks, released her to sniff the plants she was so interested in, got her to do a couple more tricks, again released her to sniff, then got a few more tricks and released her and she no longer even wanted to sniff. I used my "what would Leslie McDevitt do?" question to myself and stopped at two or three points on the way in the store and made sure we were a connected unit and working together. I had a bunch of treats and I was encouraging C A L M.
WELL, we went over a lot of surfaces, it is a huge store, there is a two story fish tank with HUGE fish, a stream going through the store with fish and a bunch of stuffed animals (like stuffed game animals, which always makes me sad...), a glass elevator and two flights of wooden stairs that are a little slick. Liz walked like a companion dog, did a down stay while I looked at the chair and was friendly to all the other customers but did not jump all over them. As we were going to the check-out three employees came over to look at her because they said they could not believe how well behaved she was and all her tricks. WOW, that does not happen often. I put her in a stay as I was paying and the clerk asked if he could pet her, I said SURE, released her and told her she could put her front feet on the counter, she jumped up, let him pet her and then offered her paw to shake hands with him. Wow, it is a new feeling to have people looking at me with my dog and thinking that I am a lucky duck and I have a great dog.
Usually they all look at us but it is with some dismay like how could a dog actually be that wild? LOL, but that was not the look I got today and I have to say I like the way they looked today much better.
Soooo, I have given up thinking that what I do is fully responsable for how Lizzie is all the time, sometimes she just is who she is. Sometimes I do all the right things and she is aweful and sometimes I do all the wrong things and she is wonderful. I have been doing some things with her that I have to think are helping.
1. One thing is that I am really trying to do a lot more of the premack training. When Liz really wants something and can not think and is super distracted, I am stopping myself and making her do a few things and her reward is doing what she wants. After we worked so hard with that plan with the gophers, she is really seeming to understand that and it works really quickly now. I am so impressed with that, see I impress myself, LOL.
2. I have really been trying to remember to use the Control Unleashed principle of not going into the "ring", (or store, or agility yard, or what ever...) without conecting and making sure I have a dog with me and not just a dog body, (a functioning dog with a mind), LOL. I have been using tricks which seem to calm her and she loves, and they are cute, it has been working great.
3. I have really been thinking about something I read from Leslie McDevitt, or maybe it was on her DVD.... anyway, she was talking about how it is not comfortable physically to stay in a state of high arousal and I think a lot of times dogs like Lizzie do not know there is another choice and they default to that high arousal state to any stimuli. Well, I have been trying to help her learn she can react otherwise. Soooo... like in the house she will go into HYPEREXCITEMENT, like way over the top if the door bell rings or one of the kids friends come over, so now I will tell her "go to your crate". Can you believe in that state if I get her down just a little she will totally on her own turn and find her way to the crate. I make her sit there for a minute until she is calmer then I give her the Break command to release her. Sometimes we go through this little ritual a few times and when she is able to sit and calmly look then she is allowed to sit and watch the excitement of the door being open-as long as she can stay calm. I do this when she wants to look out the window at the other dogs playing, or when she wants to stare at the cat, she is getting pretty good at that.
4. A training buddy-Denise-asked if I had read Shaping Success by Susan Garrett, and of course I have, it was what got me through Lizzies first year. When she asked me that I looked at it again and OMG, I found a sobering part of the book. Susan was talking about her Buzz and how once she was trialing him and he was dropping bars, she would take him out of the ring and took him out more then 21 times I think she said. She realized her reinforcement for him had dropped to a very low percentage and she thought he was fine because he still ran fast, he was still wild and he still barked and was willing to work with her. When she realized that Buzz really LOVED contacts and did great with those, which were still highly rewarded she stopped jump training and just did contacts to get his rate of reinforcement up. With no further jump work the next time she trialed him, wha laaa, it was all fixed. IT HIT ME, OMG, when I have been working with Liz I think I have gotten lax and figured she was handling working through things more and I was letting her struggle more. Not sure Liz is a dog that really handles that, because she does not show stress in the way I am used to but....thinking back think she has been having more trouble and I think that is why she is being so steller with her contacts, and things she knows how to do, like if I say find the tire, she does, but when it comes to running sequences she gets a lot more stressed/wild. Not totally sure that is the whole answer, but something I am becoming aware of again and I am setting up her sessions to insure her success a little more, she is not Breeze.
Anyway, just some things in my training plan that have been undergoing some tweaking and I am sure we will be having a back sliding soon....but gosh little Lizzie is doing very well the last week and I am enjoying our little step forward.