Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 1 & 2 -- Meet the crew

Atticus is having a grand time...he's not even sure this is actually work! We've been working a lot on name recognition which I know he's worked on a lot at home so I imagine it is a little harder for him here as is a bit more of a distracting environment. So frequently saying his name and rewarding him with a small treat when he looks at me in increasingly more distracting environments. I like to spend a lot of time on attention work (getting him to pay attention to me no matter what is going on around him) so that other things like sit, down, come and stay start to fall into place. It's hard to get a dog to respond to a request if they aren't paying attention to you.

And Atticus has had plenty of distractions here. He's getting along great with all the dogs. I can use play with other dogs as both a reward and a distraction in our training. It's helpful if a dog can respond to you no matter what is going on around him. Play is also an essential part of being a happy healthy puppy. He's getting an opportunity to interact with several safe dogs of various sizes and breeds. It's important to his socialization to have these types of interactions to help prevent the development of fear or aggression issues with other dogs.

And I can use the opportunities to make sure he will still be attentive to me and come when called. I'm also going to reinforce him if he comes and checks in with me during a play session. And he is very good at that! How nice to have a dog who wants to check in and interact with you even when there are fun dogs around to play with. What a good boy!

Home is a great place to practice all this attention because, even though it's pretty distracting here, it's not nearly as distracting as the outside world. I want to make sure I'm not putting him into a situation where it is too hard for him and all this practice will help when we go out on outings.

We ended our training session with an outing to a pet supply store. We worked on some nice loose leash walking. This is harder with new distractions and he was pretty unsure about the traffic. So stopping and encouraging him to return to me and then rewarding him while he was walking nicely beside me did the trick. Anytime he got ahead of me, I stopped. I don't want him to be rewarded for pulling on the leash and, if he is allowed to walk ahead, it's like giving him a cookie for pulling on the leash.

He was very excited to meet all the people in the store. They are all very nice and come bearing tasty, healthy treats. Perfect for socialization! The other dogs in the store were pretty distracting to him so there were times when I had to get distance between us and the other dogs in order to get his attention. So I used distance and I increased the rate of reinforcement when he was paying attention to me. I made sure I had good, smelly treats and I would reward him more frequently for eye contact. It didn't take long before he was being really attentive in the store. The photo was taken at the end of our visit. He started panting a bit which indicated to me he was starting to get a little stressed. It's a good time to end the session at that point. A little stress is ok but you don't want to go much further than that.

It is definitely time for a nap after all that work! Maybe tomorrow we can conquer the stairs...

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