Saturday morning brought the first obedience session with some level of distraction. Our class supervisor tried to catch Padawan’s attention by bouncing a tennis ball all around us while we concentrated on our commands. She did look once or twice, but got refocused quickly. Everything this dog does is quick. She is like a jack-in-the-box when she sits up during obedience. She takes off like a rocket when she is working. She spins around and throws herself to the ground in seconds when I tell her “close” (which is the command to lay between my feet under a chair). She does everything enthusiastically and virtually nothing halfway (hahaha, other than when she doesn’t want to lay down, that is, and remains for a minute or more in the downward dog position in order to trick me into thinking she’s all the way down).
We had a route in White Plains in the morning. It started out as a relaxed Saturday morning route, with little traffic and fewer pedestrians, but we soon ran into several challenges. The first was the construction. A fence blocked off an entire section of the sidewalk, so Padawan had to stop and show me the fence before we could go around to the curb. She did so, but when we arrived at the curb there was a loud engine being used in the construction zone and I could not hear a thing in order to make the decision to cross the street. My trainer helped me so that we wouldn’t have to stand there all morning. Padawan didn’t seem bothered by the noise. A block or two down, Padawan approached the curb and veered a little to the right. I was not sure we had approached it correctly until my trainer informed me that there were two pigeons standing right where she would normally have stopped at the curb. She had treated them as an obstacle so as not to get in trouble for going after pigeons. She is too cute!!!
Evidently, she did not have the same reservations a block or two on from that when she glimpsed a pair of dogs ahead of us. Her pace increased to warp speed. Needless to say that when the next curb arrived, we both ended up with our feet in the street, rather than the sidewalk, by the time we managed to stop for the curb. We walked back several paces and approached the curb again with a steady command, and she fixed her mistake. Later though, Padawan was in a sit waiting for a fellow classmate to go on ahead of us (we tend to catch up with people) when a pigeon landed about a foot away. She thought it was great fun to watch him, but didn’t move a muscle to chase or lunge at him. Good girl! I was also very pleased with her reaction to a complicated traffic situation at one crossing. There was a bus at a bus stop, and a mail truck was pulled up behind it waiting to make a delivery. That placed it right to the left of us as we approached the far curb on the crosswalk. With that on our left and turning cars on our right, it got a bit narrow and Padawan ran for it. I did not treat her for it since she missed the curb, but honestly I was just glad she got us out of there. My trainer and I agreed that it was a fairly appropriate response given everything going on. I love working this dog.
In the afternoon, our mystery work was practice with the clicker/targeting as well as a supervised grooming session. A clicker is a small plastic box with a button that makes a loud popping sound when pressed. The dogs have learned to associate the sound with food. It is used as a marker during training to indicate to the dog that, at the moment of the click, they were demonstrating a desired behavior and will receive a food reward. Targeting is teaching a dog to recognize and target a certain thing according to it’s name. For example, Padawan has already learned generic targets like curbs, doors, and steps. If they are in the general vicinity, she can recognize a door and take me to it when I say, “too the door”. If taught, she can also target particular doors and other objects. Yesterday we worked on my dorm room door specifically. I placed my fist on the door and told Padawan “touch”, which prompts her to bop my fist with her nose. This helps her to understand that I want her to target the thing under my fist. When she response to the touch command, I click and feed. After a few repetitions, I added in the word “door”, and then took away the touch command all together and only said, “door”, still clicking and feeding when she bopped my fist. After a few times doing that, I backed up from the door, picked up the harness handle, and told her, “too the door”. We continued like that several times over,backing up further and further first in one direction and then in another, until it was pretty clear she knew exactly what I wanted from her. I have to remember to slow her down a bit with the “steady” command, because we get going so quickly it becomes difficult for her to turn and target with so much momentum. She LOVES targeting and I can’t wait to see her show me her awesome skills with other things as well.