Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tandem Walking

I would really like to eventually be able to walk all three dogs at the same time, in an orderly and calm manner. First I'm working on teaching them to walk in pairs, and today I worked with Bibb and Lily.

I don't have a split leash, so I experimented with different ways of holding two leashes. It seemed to work the best to have Lily on the outside, since Bibb wants to get closer to me when he's unsure about things. I had to play a bit with leash configuration, but I finally settled on running Bibb's leash through Lily's collar (they all wear martingales), so that I could control how close they were to each other with one hand, and control Lily with the other hand. We walked several ovals in the alley to try it out. It's definitely going to take some work to teach them to walk together, but there were some stretches where they did really well. It was also awesome to stop and have them both sit automatically and right next to each other. Hopefully, the Netta/Bibb pair will work out as well. I'm not even going to attempt the Netta/Lily pair until both of them are working well with Bibb.


Last week I decided to start working on targeting with Netta. Basically, the dog is taught to put its nose against a target on command. Once established, it can be used to train other behaviors, such as standing for grooming and going to a specific place. I use a plastic yard reflector, since it has a nice long handle, but you can use anything the dog can easily recognize.

This was a very easy behavior to teach Lily, but Netta is scared of anything unusual, especially if it is held by a person. I don't know if she was abused in her past or if she's just very timid about new things, but either way she wanted nothing to do with my target stick. So I had to lower my criteria for her. Normally, I would click any time the dog sniffed at the target, which most dogs will do as soon as you present it to them. With Netta, I started out clicking her any time she looked at the target. I spent the first session just getting her to look at it without backing away. Fortunately, she is very food-oriented, and will work for kibble even if she has just eaten a meal.

By the second session, Netta had decided that the target stick wouldn't hurt her, and was perfectly happy to sniff it for treats. I'll spend some time really cementing the idea in her mind before I start moving it around so that she has to follow.