Training sessions have continued in our house. I have to say that I am proud of myself for sticking to it. I don't know why, but in the past I would start off strong and eventually just stop. I know that consistency is the key to success and I've preached it many times to other dog owners, but I have not been very good at following my own advice. However, this time I'm doing much better.
I think part of it is because I've sat down and thought out what I really want to teach my dogs and why. I've done a lot of research too; watching videos, reading articles and talking with other people training their pet and working dogs. I've even joined a working dog forum to keep me motivated and to learn as much as I can about various working dogs.
Our first task was learning to nose target. Everyone except Hermione picked up on it really easily. I think Nala already knew it and Otis is already inclined to nose bump your hand anyway. So, those two were easy. They both have it down pat. Roscoe surprised me on how quickly he picked it up. I know a few years ago I had started teaching him to do it and so maybe he remembered it?
Hermione has been a bit harder to get to target with her nose. part of it is how quickly she likes to tap my palm. Sometimes I can't get the click off quick enough and so it's been harder to reinforce with her. I think she's starting to get it though. Since she seems a bit hesitant to target with her nose I tried a game this morning to see if she likes paw targeting better. Everything I had read said that for most dogs, nose targeting is easier so that is what I had started with. Hermione being Hermione though, she seems to take to the paw targeting better.
In training sit, down, stay and touch I was also teaching her a release cue. Once she had performed a stay of some sort I would bounce a kibble across the floor away from her and say "off you go." It was her favourite part. She would hunt that kibble down and pounce on it. Me not being able to see, it took me a while to figure out that she was using her paws so much. I finally realised what she was doing when she stopped a kibble with a whack of her paw and her claws clicked on the floor. Her claws are usually trimmed shorter and her furry paws make it hard to hear her claws. This also let me know she needs her claws trimmed, but it also provided me with some useful information. She was already paw targeting of a sorts when she stopped the kibble with her paws. Her little Spaniel hunting instincts kicked in and she was pouncing for the kibble kill.
Hermione likes using paws.
So, this morning during our breakfast training session I started hiding kibble under my hand and running it around on the floor. The instant her paw came anywhere near my hand I clicked. She got a few good whacks in and I clicked those too. I think we'll have to play the game a few more times for her to realise that I want her to hit my hand with her paw, but we had more progress in this game than we have had in nose targeting.
That said, she always does things that catch me off guard and makes me wonder how I could shape them to my benefit. Once we started the "attack Mama's hand" game, she got really excited. She began running super fast zoomies from me to the front door and back. Suddenly, she decided that small span of hallway wasn't long enough and she leapt over my bent knees and hurdled into the living room. Her zoomies continued with her running from the back patio door, hopping over the small step up of the bottom of the baby gate, a leap over my legs, to the front door and back again. I waited for her to run herself out, mostly because I was laughing so hard. This also told me that she had reached her thresh hold for training that day. So, I let her eat the rest of her breakfast from her bowl. What a crazy girl.
I'll keep working on her nose targeting, but I think the paw will progress much faster and come more naturally to her.
As for Otis, I've started using his solid nose targeting to improve his recall. His recall is okay, but it's not instantaneous. He usually takes his time coming back. He's pretty good coming back to the whistle, but I tried incorporating his "touch" into his recall and it's done wonders. I took him out to the little park by our place on an extenda leash and practised recall with a touch and it was almost perfect. His reliability decreased with the arrival of two dogs he knows and so I stopped asking him to do it. I didn't want him to think he could do it just whenever he wanted. To "proof" the cue with him, I started calling him out of play with my own dogs in the house and having him touch. He's pretty reliable now and so we'll try again in a more distracting environment.
All in all, I think we're all doing well. I'm being consistent, the dogs are learning and most importantly we're all having fun.