Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We came back from our trip to a friend last Sunday, and we had a blast!

Firstly, Luna’s knee behaved beautifully all four days, never once did she limp or make any other move indicating a protesting knee. That’s SO nice I could scream! YAY!

She played with my friend’s dog, a three year old, male black Lab every day. Biting each others necks, legs, tackling each other, playing ‘who has the biggest mouth’ and basically just having a grand old time. Whenever they began playing in such a way that Luna started spinning on her hind end, we redirected them to different kinds of play. This included not letting Luna have toys in her mouth, because she would immediately instigate a game of ‘catch me if you can’ which put a lot of stress on her hind legs.

When going for walks, I mostly kept Luna on leash. Sunday she was reliable (in such a way that she wouldn’t play tight turn games) enough to allow her off leash playtime and she handled that very well.

On Friday morning, Luna and I joined my friend’s gundog class, where it became apparent that Luna and I have a) not done any retrieving for a while and b) have mostly been doing easily visible marked retrieves and c) she’d last been in this location March of last year. All in all, she did well! There were some things we didn’t do, such as stopping her on a whistle cue to direct her toward a dummy and some other things I don’t remember. We did a marked retrieve across water, which she did really well considering the circumstances. She was basically as good as the other dogs; they all stopped at the bank, wondering how on earth to get to the dummy on the other side, then figuring it out and going through the little stream to fetch the dummy.

We did a couple of straightforward marked retrieves on land where the helper tossed the dummy and stood near where it fell. Luna went out to get these nice and fast, dropped the dummy once as she almost got back to me, then, on my ‘hey, you forgot something’, went back and delivered the dummy to hand. This is something she does right 90% of the time we do retrieves ‘at home’, so this didn’t bother me at all. I knew this was just because of the new circumstances, and the most important thing for me, was that Luna enjoyed herself. Which she did!

Then, we had to ‘park’ our dogs, walk back about 40’ and call our dogs to us while the helper tossed a dummy toward the dog as it ran towards the handler. Luna looked at the dummy being thrown and kept on going, coming in nicely and at good speed. Yay!

Another thing we did, I think it was the first exercise; the helper placed dummies to the left and right of a central point, about 60’ away. The dogs saw this. Then, we had to put our dog in the middle and send her to get first one dummy, and then the other. Whilst the dog returned with the second dummy, the helper tossed a third dummy to the right side of the handler, which the dog had to ignore until being asked to go get it. Luna made a mess of this one. She had NO clue, but she DID remember the landing spot of the last dummy, so she went to check that out first. With a little guidance from the helper ‘look, here it is!’ she managed to retrieve all three of them. Not pretty, but she did it happily and confidently once she remembered the dummies.

Lastly, the helper had hidden a bunch of dummies in a wooded area. All dogs had to retrieve one. As they had not seen the dummies being placed, this was a blind retrieve, which means that the handler knows there’s a dummy, but the dog doesn’t. Luna went out into the wooded area nice and quick, searched for a little bit and then said ‘mommy, I can’t go without you!’ and so the helper walked with her into the wooded area, and from there on she took off and found a dummy. Yay! Good girl!

Obviously all this was too much to ask of Luna, I’m aware of that. I am really glad I’ve discovered clickertraining and really understand it now, because whenever Luna doesn’t do something, I just laugh and give her some hints. OK, laughing is a reinforcer, but I’d rather do that and have a happy dog than not laugh at all and have a dog that feels wrong. Also, this helper -a traditional trainer- was really nice about helping Luna when she didn’t know what to do. He just walked along with her, made some funny noises, tossed the dummy a second time if she didn’t remember it, and I think that’s really nice of him! I have seen him with his own dog and he’ll use coercion when his dog doesn’t do what he wants. Also, he uses intimidation with the other dogs in class, and says things like ‘keep the dog closer so you can put more pressure on her’. Hence my being pleased with how he helped my dog! The most important thing is that Luna had fun and learned that yes, she CAN do it even in a strange place with strange people and strange dogs.

Saturday we went to a gundog competition, and on Sunday we took a long walk before my friend brought us home. A nice weekend with much better weather than expected!

Our train trip on Thursday was less smooth than I hoped, but nonetheless Luna handled it nicely. Normally, we find a spot in the row of seats with the other travelers, but this time the train was so full that I decided we'd be better off just staying in the hall where the doors are. This meant Luna had to settle in a corner of the train, right next to the doors and with people passing us by at each station. I was a bit worried this would be too busy for her to relax, but no. I'd made a little corridor for her with me and my bags on one side of her, and the wall on the other side of her. This way she could lie down comfortably without worrying about other people stepping on her. And she did, all by herself, lie down about 5 minutes into the trip. At each station she sat up to check things out, but otherwise she remained calm. And I am proud of how well she managed to curl up in the small space she had, as this is not something we've ever trained! I had to stand for most of the trip, another thing that is different from our normal train-travel mode, but this too did not bother her. How I LOVE that dog!

The picture shows Luna at 7 months in a natural stand. Nice puppy!

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