Our little graduate

Ok, ok, I fell a little behind with my posting. Life comes at you fast, as they say. I work in education, and summer disappeared and the Fall term arrived with a vengeance.  So now that we have a few minutes to catch our breath, I’ll try to catch you up: We passed our Obedience 2 test!

Ziva sits looking up at Sue, who is holding her certificateI cannot tell you how thrilled I was. She did great — I had a couple of flubs, but the trainer had faith in Ziva and let me redo when I messed things up a bit. He knew it was my nerves making me stumble on my words, I’m sure. Because on all the tests where it was totally on her, she did great! For example, when she had to sit and stay in place while I walked back about 6 feet, and the trainer came walking by, tossing a frisbee — she stayed in place! She had to do several commands, and I won’t list them all here unless you comment that you want to know more. But I will tell you about the elusive “Here!” command, because that was a great success.

You can see in the photo that she is wearing a harness. We did that because in learning the “Here” command, we realize that she has developed her boundary corruption correction so well, that any tug on her collar would make her stop. The boundary correction exercise helps her learn where the end of the leash is, so that she will not lunge and pull. To teach this, you let the dog roam around, and the second they get to the end of the leash you give it a quick pop, say a very excited “Yes!!! What a good girl!!” and reward with food. Ziva picked this up really quickly, which is great, but that meant some complication when learning “Here.” In this exercise, the trainer held her on a very long leash (30 ft), then I love on Ziva and get her a little excited, run about 20 feet away, turn, and call “Ziva! Here!” Once she reaches me, I give her high reward food (chicken) and put her short leash on.

The first time we tried this, Ziva started to run in my general direction but then felt the tug on her collar and stopped. She was really confused. So it was suggested that we try it with a harness. We have purchased a few different types of harnesses to get the right one for her. We have a Kurgo one that I really like, but it s a little complicated to put on her, and she gets so excited that it’s an ordeal. I have hopes she will get used to it. But meanwhile I found the one she’s wearing in the photo online, which is a “step in” model. Even getting her to “step in” is not a simple task, but it is easier than trying to get the other one over her head. But this one’s lightweight, mesh, and she seems very comfortable in it.

I enlisted my friend Amy one day during the week before the Saturday test. We went to a local park and used the tennis court to practice “Here.” The first couple of tries were less than stellar, but as I’ve seen before with Ziva, very soon something “clicked” and she started running right to me. It was a hot day, and there kids and dogs around, so it was really a test for her concentration. Ziva still reacts quite strongly to other dogs, and so when a man came walking along right by the tennis courts, we had to take a break. Once they were out of site though, Ziva was able to get back to work.

So! When it came test time, she was a star! I have such a wonderful memory of that moment when I turned and said “Ziva! Here!” and she came at me at full speed. Straight to me, despite there being other dogs and people in the room, with a look of pure joy on her face. It’s a good thing the trainer had her on a very long leash, because I don’t think he expected her to be quite as fast as she is. She is fast. I really hope that some day we can do agility, because she loves to run, and I think she would be great at it. But, we’ve got some more obedience to work on before we get to her listening to my commands for an entire course. But racing from one side of the room straight to me is an excellent start. And if you met her a year ago, you’d understand just how far we have come.

We have much to keep working on, so we’re taking a little break from the Obedience classes. But we’re still going to go to Pack to Basics and Behavior Modification classes for a while. The only really frustrating thing for me right now continues to be her reactiveness with other dogs. Until she understands that she does not need to bark at every new dog she encounters, we’ve got work to do. My goal is to get her to a point where we can go to public places and have her ignore other dogs. I don’t necessarily expect her to be friendly to every dog she sees, but just to ignore them, understanding that we’re a team, and we’re ok. She’s getting there.  And so am I.

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