No matter how many I work with I feel I will always be impressed with the learning capabilities of Cattle Dogs. I recall working with a 9 year old Heeler who had never had any training and had spent months at the Lawrence Humane Society. She picked up basic commands in just a few short lessons and went from being overly agitated in the presence of other dogs to tolerating their presence amicably.
I am equally as impressed with our friend Cowboy. He had his first few lessons today with his electronic collar. For a few minutes he was, understandably, confused about the sensation but very quickly was able to put two and two together that the sensation happened whenever he heard me use the word "NO" in a specific tone of voice. He also figured out that when he did certain actions, like sitting down when I stopped, he got some petting and a soft voice saying "good boy." By the end of the day he did not have a training leash on and was able to Heel/Autosit, he has Down almost 100%, his recall (the Come command) pretty good but lacks enthusiasm.
But this is not entirely new to him. He has had some previous obedience training. Though not to the extent, I think, that I am taking him. But he has also started to show some slight signs of self restraint and deference to me, the handler.
For instance, on our long walk today he decided he was done listening to me and began trotting up the driveway back to the house. I called to him "Cowboy, No!" and he stopped and gave me an appraising look. Then, convinced that I could not get him, turned and walked up the drive way. I gave him a buzz with the vibration setting on his collar and repeated "Cowboy, No!" and told him to come back. Again, he stopped turned and stared at me. I gave him 3 seconds to stare at me and decide to obey the command and when he did it I gave him a Tap (a low level electronic stimulation) with the collar and when he felt it he sighed and dragged his feet as he walked back to me and sat down nicely.
He also worked around Angela the garage kitty today. He was very interested in her yesterday and he invaded her personal space, nipped at her and muzzle punched her. Today, with a few taps from the collar, he tolerated her nicely even allowed her to rub her shoulder on him while he was in a Down Stay.
I doubt he will ever be like the stereotypical fawning Labradors. He will likely offer a challenge here and there to the person who is handling him but he is willing to work with people and has been very affectionate and even cuddly with me. We will challenge him even more tomorrow by tossing a toy around while he works and also, if all goes well, by having a "cocktail party" which is when we have a small group of people mill around him chatting to each other and making strange movements while I ask him to work.
Today we welcomed Cowboy the Cattle Dog to the Farm. A striking bob-tailed, Blue Heeler who is already getting along famously with the Akita and the Shepherd mix. He has spent the afternoon quietly getting to know the place. We set his crate up in the basement kitchen (it is too chilly in the training room) and he chose to nap there for much of the evening, door left open.
So far he seems to be a classic working dog. Extremely focused and not always focused on what he should be. He should be fun to work with and a challenge as we teach him self restraint.
Tomorrow we start the basics with Heel/Autosit, Implied Stay, and Down.
Today was a day of hard workouts for little Macy. I worked her longer and asked more of her than I have yet. She did very well except for still wanting to lay down instead of sit when I stop a Heel.
She goes home tomorrow and I feel confident that she is ready. Tomorrow she gets her glamor shots and video taken and she should be ready to go impress her owners!
Last night she greatly distressed the 90 lb Akita by stealing the great big dog bed.
Today Macy got a bit too overconfident about things and I had to correct her for the first time in days. This often happens with boarders (usually earlier than day 6) and we had a day of arguing about whether or not it is a good idea to sit or lay down when I say so. As usual, I won the argument but not without Macy's significant use of manipulative tactics such as pouting, feigning deafness and or parylization, and trying to tease me into playing with her.
Her biggest issue today was her wanting to lay down instead of sit when I stopped walking. Not a catistrophic issue in the grand scheme of things, in fact, I have found that most herding type breeds default to a down position more readily than other breeds. But the point was that, this early in the training she needed to follow direction. When she gets older and obedience has become a way of life for her her owners can revisit the topic of Auto-Downing rather than Auto-Sitting. For today I tabled the idea.
She is sleeping inside tonight. It is just too cold in the training room for her to get restful sleep.
We are getting closer to the end of Macy's stay with us and now we are mostly just trying to clean up her new skills. Her biggest issue is her tendency to fidget before laying down. Instead of laying down nicely she turns in a circle and tries to lay on my feet. Funny enough, she does not do this if she is wearing a physical leash. Today we got up early and took a walk in the fog (we both got pretty muddy) and worked on radius training. This means she was not in her formal Heel but she was allowed to romp and play within an appropriate radius around me. Without any direction from me she chose to stay within 30 feet of me. At around 30 feet away from me she would sprint back to me and make sure I was okay before going back to her project or adventure she was having. The only time I had to admonish her for straying too far was when she wandered into the horses area, which is off limits. She didn't need a collar correction, just a verbal call to come back and she came back to me just fine and sat on my foot.
We learned Placemat today and will be practicing it tomorrow. So far she seems to really like her mat. But she hasn't been asked to stay on it yet while fun things are happening around her.
Grr, Saturdays can be very frustrating. Always the busiest day of the week for lessons and so the boarding dogs get walked and taken care of but they're lucky if they get all their workouts.
Macy got 2 workouts today as opposed to her usual 3 or 4. She was, understandably a bit high strung and tended towards pouting if she made a mistake. We did not get to do Placemat today but I promised her we would do that tomorrow. She is determined to be on the couches in the house and so I think Placemat is in order here very soon.
Right now I am letting Kylie try to tire her out with some supervised play time. Tomorrow will give us a better look at her progress and so a more detailed report on her learning will be given then.
BOING BOING BOING! We have an energizer bunny on our hands. We took a nice long walk up to the big pasture today and worked for about 15 minutes on the way back. When we got back and the two older dogs were tuckered out she was ready to PLAY! So she amused herself with pestering the cat (don't worry, the cat is a very good sport and indulged her for a few minutes while I straightened her crate out a little).
I am comfortable saying that Macy knows and is reliable with Heel/Autosit. She had a hard time with Down earlier today but now she just has to sit and think for about 4 seconds before she lays down and looks a little bored. Her Implied Stay is getting better but she still has a hard time if she thinks I am going to go have an adventure without her. Tomorrow we are going to keep on fine tuning everything and working a long distance Recall. If she does well we may learn Placemat in the afternoon. I am afraid a good chunk of the middle of the day may be a bit boring for her as I need to go into town for a few weekly lessons with some other clients. Saturday is always demanding for my schedule.
She and I enjoyed some cuddle time on the floor today in the living room. She curled up in my lap and after wiggling around for a few minutes (and booping me in the face a few times with her little foot). This little girl has a lot of energy but she is extremely people oriented and if she thinks she has displeased someone she acts very downtrodden indeed. In fact- during her last workout I didn't even bother turning on the remote to her electronic collar. She is very sensitive to the word "No."
This girl learns fast. In 2 days she has a good grasp on Heel/Autosit and Down. She also understands "Okay!" as her release to relax and play around. We have introduced the Implied Stay but she isn't getting it yet. I can get 2 steps away from her but then she tries to follow. This will be a project for tomorrow. She has been getting along fine with the big dogs and has already figured out that she can run circles around them. She also has developed an interesting relationship with Angela the cat. Whenever I let her out of her crate she runs to Angie and play bows then "boops" her on the head with her paw. This afternoon Angela finally understood this as play and they had a fun time playing a strange version of Tag.
Tomorrow we are going to continue to work on those skills she has developed over the last 2 days, including the Implied Stay. We are also going to introduce Recall (of which she already has a decent foundation) and Down from the front. If she is still getting Heel/Autosit as well as she got it today I will introduce Placemat but that might wait until the next day. While she seems to be a sponge for knowledge, she is still a puppy, and tires somewhat quickly.
Today was day one for little Macy. Macy is a Miniature Australian Shepherd who I actually had in a Puppy Preschool class a few months ago. She is a very sweet and snuggly girl who has a spitfire side when she wants to. She is being trained on an electronic collar so the training itself should go relatively quickly.
Today for our first few workouts we only worked on Heel/Autosit. She got heel in about 5 minutes and she sat down completely without help or correction during our last lesson. One hiccup we had that was kind of funny is that she keep trying to heel Claven, my husband, even though I was the one talking to her and giving her the command. She seems to really be a guy's dog.
I am looking forward to pushing her even harder tomorrow as we start work on the implied stay and the down. She has already learned that she is the fastest dog out here and LOVES teasing the Akita into trying to chase and catch her.
We said goodbye to our friend Goober tonight. She is on her way home to Waverly Kansas and to Glen Camelot Kennels where she was bred. Her owners seemed pleased with everything she learned. I thought this picture summed up this girl's delightful attitude pretty well. I can't wait to see her again for the follow up lessons. There is just something about a Golden, they stick with you and get into your heart.