Sunday, February 21, 2010

Training update

For a little bit Serena was in the "teenager stage" which consisted of her going "why should I do that. Make me."  So we just worked on fine tuning the stuff she already knew and waited it out.  Now it looks like she is back to wanting to learn!  This morning I had her pull my socks off for me then started training her to pull the blankets over me in bed.  She loved them both so I think training to do them is going to be easy.  She is also more body aware which helps because if she was stepping on the blanket while pulling she would stop and reposition herself off of the blanket.  When she is a little better at it I will post videos!

We also had a breakthrough with pulling while walking!  I had tried all the normal stuff to get her to stop pulling:

Yanking her back hard: This worked when she was 30lbs but now that she is almost 50lbs I can't pull her as hard and she would heel for a little bit and then go right back to pulling

Halti: Basically a horse halter for dogs that puts pressure on her nose when she pulls which is harder to lean into than her collar.  It would keep her from pulling but she would revert right back to pulling when I took it off.  It was great for when we were in public and it is harder to correct her so is put a 'band-aide' on the problem.  I also didn't like it because a lot of people thought she had a muzzle on and that she was dangerous.  Trying to explain to people that no it was just a halter and didn't close on her mouth when she wasn't pulling was annoying because some people just wouldn't listen.

Pinch Collar: I was walking a dog who owned a pinch collar that he really didn't need to use while walking since he is older now and doesn't feel the need to pull as much.  So I adjusted it to Serena and figured I would use it for one walk to see if it was worth going out and buying one.  It kept her from pulling while walking but it didn't make her pay attention to me.  She would just try to pull until is pinched her.  Then when we were walking back from the dog's house without the collar she tried to pull even harder almost like "mwhahaha it isn't pinching me anymore."  So I decided to not go buy one.

The Solution: I couldn't figure out any other way to stop the pulling and was getting frustrated because as a service dog Serena CANNOT pull at all.  So the next day we were at the barn and I was playing around with a dressage whip (a really long skinny whip that can be used for slight tapping and corrections while riding).  I by accident still had it in my hand when Serena and I accompanied a friend putting their horse back across the property.  She started pulling and I decided to start tapping her on the bottom until it annoyed her enough to pay attention to me.  The minute she came back into heel I stopped tapping her and praised her.  And what do you know; she was not pulling within 2 minutes!  It was kind of like "I can still reach you when you are all the way up there Serena."  There was no yanking, beating or yelling.  Just simple it is more annoying to pull than it is to just stay in heel.  I wanted Serena to think "Heeling is awesome and comfortable, pulling is annoying and she won't stop tapping me."  It worked so well on the barn property I took the whip home and started walking her with it.  It is great!  When she stops paying attention "tap tap tap tap" until she goes into heel.

I also used the whip to tap certain body parts.  Like if she comes back into heel but is way too far to the side, I tap her on her left side so she moves away from it towards me.  The only problem with this is that it is a whip and I don't want people thinking that I am beating my dog into submission so I use it when we are going for walks around town (she used to pull the most on walks) and then when in public I leave the whip at home (less likely to pull because she checks to see where I am more in public).

We have been doing this tapping training for a week now and there already is a HUGE improvement.  She used to completely forget herself if other dogs were around but now she will sit next to me and try to control her excitement.  If she forgets and leaps forward "tap tap tap" and she goes "oh yeah I am attached to you!"  I think we might now be ready to get our Canine Good Citizen Award with the other older Service Dogs in Training!

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