November 02, 2008

A day of firsts

His nose is getting longer (along with his legs!)
Dazzle went to his first Agility trial today. Not to compete of course, but to get accustomed to the environment. He did exceptionally well! It was more quiet than I expected, very little barking. But some dogs did bark when they ran and others barked a few times during other dog's runs. Dazzle did really well with that, though he was a bit unsure at first if the dogs might be barking at him. Once he realized the barking had no bad consequences, he relaxed and ignored it. It was an indoor NADAC show, but relatively small. A great group of people and dogs!

He met several really nice dogs, including his first Terv and even a Laekenois - the rare (in the U.S.) curly coated version of a Belgian Shepherd. Their were LOTS of different breeds at the show and several were very polite in greeting him and putting him at ease. People were bringing their friendly dogs over to him so he could meet them, and others he met as we walked around. By the end of the show, when he got snapped at by a sheltie who didn't want him close, he just blew it off.

He was able to focus on me and was responsive to the cues he knows, though he did a lot of guessing when we started to work on sit, down and stand. He did watch a few dogs run the course with great facination. But more often than not was giving me eye contact or just casually looking around watching other spectators and waiting dogs. He acted like an ol' pro, just hanging out on the side lines. He perked up at the applause and barked a few times when I also applauded, but when I paired the applause with treats, he realized that applause was happening often and it wasn't a big deal and the treats were no longer needed.

I got some video of him working on heel and eye contact amid the spectators and dogs on the side lines, but my replacement video camera now has a corrupted program- same thingthat happend to the first one! Grrrr! I'll try one more exchange. If the program on that one gets corrupted, I'm going to a different brand! Why does this always happen a day or two before a big trip when I need it?
Oh yeah, Murphy's Law.

I had a helpful spectator (who had fallen in love with him) help me with a new concept for him. She held his leash while I walk a few feet away. At first, he was pulling on the leash to get to me, but as soon as he settled, I moved in and gave him a treat. Over just a few repetitions, I was able to get about 15' away (all the distance that space allowed) and even went behind some spectators when he wasn't looking and he was fine. He played with a kid or would just sit and watch me (or watch for me) when I wasn't near him. I'm very pleased with that. I like that he is very attached to me and focused on me, but I don't want it to turn into separation anxiety. Seeing him settle today, knowing he was good alone with Mike yesterday and good when left at the hotel is a good thing.

One person said he already had the aloofness Mals are known for, but I know it was just that he wanted the food I had more than he wanted to greet. Once the food wasn't as prominant (and his belly was a bit more full), he was more social. I had not fed him breakfast that morning when the other dogs got theirs, so he was pretty hungry by the time we got to the trial about an hour and a half later.

Another first for today was that he got his first bath! I ran the garden hose from the utility tub to the bathroom and used a hose nozzle meant for watering delicate plants so it would be a gentle stream of water. I turned the water on and let it run while I got the shampoo, towel, clicker, treats, etc and made several trips in and out of the bathroom, my shadow following me. I thought I was ready, but then realized I would have to close the rest of the dogs in another part of the house because they wanted to get treats too and I couldn't close the door to the bathroom because of the hose. OK, NOW we're ready.

I held a treat over the edge of the tub and Dazzle scrambled into the tub to get it. No problem there! He stood in a dry area of the tub and got a few more treats as the water continued to run and gurgle down the drain. I got a handful of treats in one hand and held the clicker and hose nozzle in the other hand. I clicked when he was willing to walk through the water running to the drain (getting the bottom of his feet wet.) He wasn't sure about that at first, but then relaxed and was willing to walk around in the water. Then I raised the nozzle just a bit and clicked/treated when the water washed over his toes. He didn't seem to notice as he was eating the treat. I continued to feed him treats as I got more and more of his legs wet. He danced around a bit, but wasn't overly stressed. I was then able to get his whole body wet as he ate treats from my hand. He got a bit rough in taking the treats, so I know he was a little stressed, but he stayed in place and let me get him completely wet from the back of his ears to his tail.

I then put the nozzle down and got him soaped up. No treats for this (since I needed both hands) but he was fine with the massage. When I was ready to rinse him, I first washed off my hands, got more treats and repeated the above process. He was less stressed by this time and more gentle about taking treats. When he was done, I turned off the water, reached for the towl and he jumped out of the tub soaking wet. :-) I dried him where he stood and he seemed to like being toweled off and ended up playing tug with the towel. A quick combing to flatten the roughed up hair and he was released from the bathroom. He wiggled, then shook once and licked his feet a few times. But then it was like he didn't even notice he was wet! I had let the other dogs loose, so Dazzle picked up a toy and started to play with Bear. I think his first bath went REALLY well, and his hair is much softer now (& he smells better!)

I gave him a nail trim before we went to the agility trial this morning, but that wasn't a first since I had done that once before, shortly after I got him. I put him on a raised table so it was easier on my back, laid him on his side with his back closest to me (which he is comfortable with) and with my arms across his body, was able to trim his nails. He squirmed a bit at first, but then relaxed as he realized it wasn't going to hurt him. I had practiced having him in this position and playing with his feet prior to trying a nail trim. I was even able to file them a bit.
His dinner was used to practice stay. I think the practice at the trial (me leaving and him staying in place with someone else) helped him understand that if he stayed in place, I would come back and give him a treat. He was doing really well in the basement, so I moved to the garage and he did great there too. I am not going to use a stay cue, but instead the cues for sit, down and stand will have an implied stay. What I will expect from him is that he remains in the cued position until he gets another cue or a release cue. I think this will be more clear to him than using the same cue (stay) for three different positions, which might encourage him to switch positions while on a stay. We practiced both sit and down as I walked away. Of course I started by just rocking my weight away as though I was about to take a step and worked up slowly till I was able to get about 10' away. A great start!