October 18, 2008

Horse Park- LONG

Dazzle rode in a doggie seatbelt on the 2 hour trip to the horse park and did fantastic! He tried to get to my lap a few times and I kept putting him back in his seat. After that, he laid down, chewed on his toys for a bit, then snuggled up to his snuggle puppy and went to sleep. Hopefully he will be that good for the 12 hours in the van on the trip to NY, by way of a stop in Cleveland. I'll have his crate set-up just in case :-)

I went down a day early to get him accustomed to everything before I needed to concentrate on work. When we got to the Horse Park, I parked at the dressage fields. He saw his first horses standing in a group about 15' from where he got out of the van. He was a bit unsure at first, but relaxed quickly and focused on me. I reached into the van to get my jacket when the group of riders decided to walk right by us. It really spooked him to have such huge, strange things come right at him and he started barking. Thankfully the horses ignored him. I moved us away from them as best I could around the van and once the van blocked his view of them, I was able to click him for eye contact. Not the start I had planned on!

Once I had all my stuff (and his) from the van we walked to the nearest bathroom. The stall was dark and he was still on edge from the horses and he refused to walk into the stall with me. I found out clicker training with a very full bladder is HARD! But I managed to get him to come in and be relaxed and he busied himself eating paper off the floor - EEWWW!

After the pit stop, we went away from the many horses at the dressage fields toward the more formal horse park area. There were horses, dogs and people on foot cutting through from the main barns to the dressage area. At first, Dazzle was barking at passing horses and dogs, but by the time we got to the big barns he was much more focused on me and ignoring the creatures passing us. There were nearly as many dogs at the show as horses! So thankfully the horses were not at all bothered by his barking and I kept our distance as much as space allowed between the path and fence.

We walked along "vendor row", did a little browsing while he schmoozed and wiggled his way onto a few laps and we stopped at the booth I'd be working at to say hi. Then we went out to the barns, past several horses and dogs, which he watched but didn't bark at. We went to the big indoor ring, past more vendors in there and met a young playful sheltie he wrestled with for a bit. He ran toward the applause from the crowd, but didn't bark.

I think he tends to rush at and bark at anything that makes him unsure- even though he looks fully confident and shows no signs of fear. So I have been treating his barking as a fear response and training accordingly. So far, it has been working really well and he has learned to accept many things he first barked at.

We went past the farrier and got a piece of hoof for him to chew on. He carried it back to the dressage rings and we sat on the grass while he chewed. I worked on being able to touch him, his mouth, the hoof and remove it to trade for cheese. At first, he wasn't having any part of it and actually growled a few times. I ignored it and tossed some cheese. He had to really work at convincing himself the hoof wouldn't magically dissapear if he let go of it, even though my hand wasn't near him at that point. I pet his head- click-cheese tossed. I pet his cheeks- click- cheese toss. I touched the hoof - click- cheese toss. By this time, I was able to offer cheese in my hand and he would drop the hoof to get it. In just a very short while, he was perfectly happy to let me hold the hoof while he chewed and even let me take it briefly, give him cheese and then give him the chew back. I knew he was content when he moved closer to me and my hand as he chewed instead of trying to move away with it.

After the break, we drove to the other end of the park to visit a big German Shepherd club event/show near the campground. A short distance into the event, we met a young man from GA and his imported Dutch Shepherd pup that was just two weeks older than Dazzle. After a careful introduction, they started playing and wrestling and became best buds. After they played for awhile, and I kept commenting on how I wished I had my camera, I forced a break and went to get it (when will I learn to just carry the darn thing!) While I did that, the dutchie's owner went to use the facilities.

While we were waiting for him to return, Dazzle met and played with several kids. He gave kisses, crawled in their laps, moved from one to the next sharing the love with his tail going the whole time. I did get some photos and video of that, but the cameras are already packed for our next trip tomorrow so I'll upload them when I get back. When Bam, the Dutch pup, came back, they played for awhile more and I got both photos and video.

During the play and greeting the kids, the GSD folks were running around the outside of the conformation rings making all kinds of wierd and crazy noises to try to get the attention of the dogs being judged (to get their ears up and get them to move with more motivation.) They were whistling, honking horns, clapping, yelling, and making other unidentifiable noises as they ran full speed about 15' away from us. Dazzle never even seemed to notice them!

While the pups were playing, one of the vendors gave each of them a new tug toy! They were lovin' them! I spoke with Bam's owner for quite awhile about dog training and it turns out he is a clicker trainer too! I did some practice of Dazzle's heel and stay and we discussed the heel training at length. While we were talking, Dazzle finally fell asleep. It only took 5 1/2 hours!! When we were done talking, I carried him back to the van because he wouldn't move. He went to sleep in my arms almost as soon as I picked him up. I was stopped by a few people on my way out that said "They DO sleep!" and "Wow! I need a photo, I've never seen a Malinois sleep" and one person jokingly accused me of drugging him.

We drove back to the booth where I'd be working (& where I would sleep in my van that night) and I parked in the shade. I got my bedroom set-up in the van, updated his training log book and read a book for awhile while he slept.

After his 3 hour nap I let him chase the fleece on a whip and we went for a short walk on the cross country course with him off leash (no horses allowed on course at that time.) A loose labrador, with owners walking the course, came charging up and Dazzle barked while I did my best to protect his body from any attack since I didn't know how friendly the lab was (he looked rather assertive.) Turns out he was a typical friendly, goofy lab and after a quick investigation of the barking puppy, he took off at the same run as he had approached. Dazzle kept barking and managed to squirm out of my hold. He took off after the lab, barking the whole way. That lasted till he got about 200' away and the lab turned around and came back toward him (still at a run.) Dazzle decided he wasn't really that tough, shut up, tucked his tail and came running back toward me. Unfortunately the lab was much faster than he was and reached him before I could. Thank GOD he only sniffed him when Dazzle realized the lab was going to get to him, rolled on his back (from a full out run) and yelped. After the quick sniff the lab listened when his owners called him- off he went at a run and Dazzle came to me. We continued our walk without incident while I was thanking God that it hadn't turned out badly.

Back at the van, we practiced his wearing of a muzzle (a good thing for all dogs to know.) He did GREAT! He first got treats for sticking his nose into the muzzle. He was doing that so well I clipped it onto him. He sat and ate treats like he wasn't even wearing it. Then I asked him to walk (lured with a treat) and it took a few seconds before he realized that yes, his feet do still work. He took the steps across my lap, got his treat and then pawed at it a bit and rolled a bit in the bed covers, but not frantically and only very briefly. I ignored that and when he stood up I gave him treats again. After that, he was able to walk, sit, get on and off the bed and move all around with no issues or pawing at it. I took it off and stopped feeding treats and put the muzzle on top of the crate. He sat there for a bit, then looked at the muzzle and looked at me. I picked it up and he tried to stuff his nose in it before I could even get it open!

Overnight he slept soundly, dispite my tossing and turning and the van coming on with the heater blowing full blast (cold air at first though) thanks to the remote start. I had a quiet electric heater I usually use for overnight, but it decided that night was a good one to die. I got a new one the next day! I used the remote start several times during the night, but after the first 2 times, he didn't even stir when it came on or went off.

In the morning, which came too early (6:30), we pottied and he got breakfast, then went back in his crate to nap (which he did) till about 8 when I woke him up to walk him and then put him back in the crate with a chew. I found out it takes him 15 minutes to eat a lamb's ear. I'm sure it will take much less time in the future! I did more practice with him letting me touch him and hold the chew and remove it, etc. and he did great.

I moved his crate to the booth area when it had warmed up a bit and he barked at one horse and one dog, but was easily distracted away from them and back to me. After that, he was quiet and played or napped as the world went by. We were right next to a major access road, so there were LOTS of horses, people, dogs, cars, golf carts, mopeds, and diesel trucks going by. There was also music from the show jumping ring, announcers in the various rings and the speakers announcing messages to the folks in the barns, horses vocalizing and kicking their stalls nearby and the sounds of all the stuff going by.

That was pretty much how the rest of the days went too. I got home a bit ago, unloaded the van, then re-loaded it with all the stuff I'll need for the trip to NY. Not sure if I'll have computer access or not, so I might not have updates till I get back.

Stay tuned! I'll try to take some photos and video of him in Manhatten. :-)