Ziva Marie!

Sue and Ziva sit on a deckWe have a lot of nicknames for Ziva: Z, Queen Z, Zivie. But last night at the very end of our first Rally class, Ziva got the ultimate “you are in so much trouble” callout from the trainer. It was a fairly successfully class as far as Ziva behaving herself, but by the end the Queen was done. When it was our turn to exit, I said “with me!” to begin our walk out of the large multipurpose room. I took one step and Ziva lunged ahead. So I stopped and tugged the leash. What happened next was a bit of a glimpse from walks past: Ziva bucked like a bronco, bouncing up in the air. And that’s when I heard Tecla call out from across the room: “Ziva Marie!” And then, “You know you are in trouble when you get the first and middle names!”

After about 10 minutes of CR massage in a corner of the room, Ziva was calm enough to exit in a more dignified manner. So let me describe the class and you’ll understand why she was so ready to go.

As is often the case in the first class of anything, most of the time was spent listening. We stood in a circle with our dogs beside us and listened as Tecla told us about the sport of Rally, the basics of what we were going to learn in this 10 week class, and some housekeeping about the schedule over the holidays. Ziva started out fairly quietly, with a couple of barks, but that was not unexpected as there are 2 other pretty energetic dogs in the class and she definitely feeds off their energy. (The other dogs are familiar to us, having been in other classes with us. )

Then we finally got to do some actual work. But for Ziva, it must have seemed like really boring work — despite being an easy way to get treats. For the first 2 weeks we work on getting the dogs focus. And that is all. And we do that by feeding them bit by bit as they look at us. So in other words, if you can picture this, for 3 and half minutes, (repeated twice) Ziva sits to my left and I make a noise to get her to look at me, and then I give her treat, treat, treat, treat, as she keeps looking up, probably thinking “ok crazy lady, moar hot dogs please.”

But that was the extent of her activity. And for an energetic dog like Ziva, she must have thought this was all pretty disappointing. I mean, this is the building where she gets to walk around, and sit and lie down and run, and do all kinds of stuff. But last night was just sit here, eat a little bit, go home.

She must really wonder about me sometimes.

But now the work begins. It all seems to be really on the handler at this stage. You have to be fluid in giving that reward so that there is no confusion on the dog’s part: “if I look at her I get food.” I admit I fumbled last night. Because you want to give them treat, treat, treat, you have to have a handful of treats ready in your left hand. Which are stored in your right pocket. So you have to deftly pull treats from your pocket with your right hand, transfer them to your left hand, looking at the dog the whole time, and making sure there is not a m moment when the dog is looking at you and not getting a treat or praise. Whew!  And! Hot dogs get really slippery. Ziva was being very gentle taking the treat, but there was slobber. Much slobber. Fortunately — or unfortunately, we shall see — training begins tomorrow with her meals. Much like we did in Obedience 1, she will only get her food from hand when she is focused on me (or Laura). If she doesn’t focus, she doesn’t eat. It really sounds cruel, but I have no doubt she will pick this up real quick. Ms Smarty Pants (ooh, another nick name!) has learned so many things so quickly. She’ll get this down, as long as I am consistent.

It’s harder than it sounds — last night I got dinged for my posture! Without realizing it I was leaning down and around when I gave treats, and Tecla said that the dog will eventually learn to be in front of me, and that’s not what we want. She’s a stickler but it makes sense: Train the basics correctly and you don’t have to go back and fix bad habits. Oy.

We have 2 weeks before the next class. I hope I can get some video of us trying to do this.Or at least of me trying to do this. This is gonna be really interesting ….

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