December 6th 2005 7:03 am
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I'm really excited. Today we're going back to see my trainer for a private lesson, and mom says that if I'm really good, we can start going to classes! I can't wait. I try to be really good but I'm having a hard time understanding these words: "watch me." I really want to make her happy but I can tell she is disappointed when I don't figure this stuff out. She says today that I'll be able to work with Kaylee, an Irish setter that my trainer raised who is a star at agility and can show me some pointers. I hope she's nice, and that I don't make a fool of myself in front of her. I saw her picture online and she's a beauty!
Wish us luck, I'll write later if I'm not too tired after class!
Sam the man (not really, because I'm a dog, but you know, it's one of those things mom calls me)
November 19th 2005 6:58 am
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After loading a bag packed with treats, medical records, and a new leather lead for training into the car, I snapped the seat belt through Sammy's car harness and got behind the wheel. For almost half an hour we drove down the highway before turning onto a sunny, winding country road. After a few miles we were greeted by the sign for Ohkom Farms Training Center and turned down the gravel drive to the building. After a quick pee on an oak tree Sammy was ready to meet Linda, his new trainer. He was shaking with nerves and excitement as she petted him all over and asked about his history. We went into the building to fill out paperwork and then the evaluation began. Almost immediately Linda noted his lack of confidence, his avoidance with eye contact and the way he kept his head down. She tried walking him around in the building and he pulled a lot on the leash. This was AFTER she'd asked "does he pull?" and I said "only a little, when he gets excited, but he knows 'heel'." He made me look like a liar! But after she came back to me, she handed me the leash and told me to follow an L pattern around the mat, like she had done. Sammy started to pull but then went right into a heel and stuck beside me the whole time. When we stopped, I asked him to sit and he did. We did the L pattern several more times and she complimented us on his heeling, and told me to praise him every time he looked up at me. This is translating into our "homework" and we're supposed to mark with praise every time he looks at us in the house. I knew how important this was for agility but she explained that it will help him build confidence and trust as well. By the end of five or six trips back and forth on the L, he was turning his head up to me around each about face turn, and was walking with his head up. I was excited, to be sure! He got big praise from Linda at the end, too.
Next, she brought out a jump, She set up the support poles and we talked about what Sammy was afraid of (very little, not even the vacuum cleaner! I told her his only fear was thunderstorms and gunshots). She asked if he was ok with moderate noise levels and startling sounds, etc, and in the middle of a sentence she took the jump bar and tossed it to the mat, making a loud snap. Sammy picked his ears up and looked at it, but didn't jump or start at all. She was pleased and then used her foot to roll the bar at him. He tried sniffing it, wasn't afraid of it at all. She asked us to do a figure 8 around the poles and then told us to halt. Sammy did a perfect heel and stuck right by me and sat when I asked him to. She then put the jump bar between the poles, on the ground, and told us to do a figure 8 while stepping over the pole to see if he was ok stepping over objects. He passed with flying colors. We went to the tire jump, which was close to the ground, and she held his leash. I went to the other side and called him through. At first he was a little nervous and sniffed the whole thing, and when I called again he tried to go around it (smart puppy!) The next time I called him, though, he came right through the tire. She pulled him back through and then had me call him again. This time, he walked right through it, no hesitation at all. Pass! She put the Pause table on the ground (the top was about 4" from the floor) and asked me to walk him onto it. After sniffing it for a few seconds, he stepped right up onto it and then we were able to walk right back over it with no hesitation again.
After noting that Sammy was not intimidated by doing things that I asked him, she let him off leash and distracted him in one corner of the room while I went to another. She told me to call him and he came to me immediately, running. No matter what he was distracted with, he came right to me, running, and not afraid of any of the obstacles (in fact he almost tripped on the A frame because he was trying to make a straight line to me!) We did that several times, Sammy performing perfectly with recall, and she told me to do exercises like this at home, essentially playing hide and seek and BIG PRAISE when he comes to us (we do this at the field!) At the end, she said he just needs to clean up a little with his obedience but needs to really work on focus and confidence. We scheduled a private lesson for Tuesday, Dec. 6th and she gave us some homework exercises to do every day to help strengthen his weak points. When he goes that day, she'll bring one of her setters down to see him and to judge how well he does with distractions and with other dogs. If he shows improvement and more confidence, he's on the roster for classes starting Jan 16th. If not, we'll schedule another private session before Christmas.
We really had fun, the trainer uses only very positive training methods and really knows what she's doing. She has a great understanding of setters and she judged Sammy very well right off the bat. I'm positive that with her help, Sammy will someday be an incredible agility competitor! She agreed that he was very athletic and that the obstacles will be no problem for him. She is only worried that he needs more confidence.
I read and re-read her whole 20 page booklet of training tips and homework last night, and we're making a chart to hang up that will keep track of training to make sure we're working with him enough every day (and the other dogs, for that matter.) Here's hoping that by December 6th, Sammy is improving just like he did yesterday and he will be ready to participate in classes. I'm SO excited about this and we're going to build some basic equipment which was suggested by the trainer so that we can continue to acclimate him to it at home. :)
April 30th 2005 8:32 pm
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Tonight mommy took me to work with her. I was so excited but then she had me jump up into this big metal thing. Then she turned on some water hoses and massaged my whole body with them. It felt really good but I don't like baths so I was scared. I was the most scared, though, when she started drying me off with these other hoses. They blew air on me so hard the water flew off! She kept telling me I was being a good boy but I was just pretending. I was really scared! Then she put me in this big cage with warm air going all around me. It was really soothing. She left for a while to "work" and then came back for me and we left. I was really scared but loved all the attention I got from her and daddy. They keep telling me how soft I am. I got treats and everything! Then mommy gave me the juice from their dinner (roast and veggies, by my guess) with my supper! I ate every bite, it was so good. :)
By the way, if you head over to Sowen's journal you can read about and see a picture of the newest "addition" to the household. Mommy says he isn't staying but I can tell she's not sure about it. I don't know about him, personally. He's a little wierd. Then again, most cats are!
This is Sammy signing off.