Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mid-Week Updates: Florence Gets Adopted!

Last Sunday morning I woke up at 4 am to drive Pongu to a Rally trial at Kellar's Canine Academy, just outside NYC. The drive out there was actually a lot of fun: we did most of it at 80 mph up the Jersey Turnpike in near-total darkness, blasting a mismatched playlist that I threw together at the last minute and then accidentally put on shuffle because I'm an idiot who apparently cannot hit "Play" without screwing things up.

It was cool though, at least the playlist opened with the right song at the beginning ("In the Air Tonight," because I know you care).

Pongu did well overall. He NQ'ed one of the Level 3 runs on a jump runout (Recall Over Jump, which suggests to me that perhaps I should go ahead and enter a second CDSP trial so I can try to finish his Novice title this year, given that we're still having problems with that exercise and will probably need the extra attempts), but almost everything else was beautiful. He did the bonus retrieve exercise perfectly both times, marking the first time that Pongu has ever done a formal retrieve successfully outside the house and earning a final score of 208 (and first place) in his second Level 3 run. And he even did it with his dumbbell!

Most of our point deductions were on my end. I re-cued a Sit (costing 3 points) instead of taking the 1-point hit on the original crooked Sit; I set Pongu up stupidly a couple of times so that we had to re-do exercises (and take more 3-point hits) because otherwise he would have had signs directly in his path on recalls; I took a couple of hits on wide turns and lagging in heeling, which is my fault for not practicing enough.

But generally it was really good, particularly considering that was a venue we don't trial in often. Pongu's only been there once before, when he earned his ARCH and RL1X. So I was happy. He is getting so much better!

Final score tally (because, again, I know you care): 206, 207 (fifth place in Level 1), 203, 207 (second place in Level 2), NQ, 208 (first place in Level 3!).

Then I came home (return drive suuuucked, on-and-off traffic jams the whole way back) and made Florence wear the Homeless Dog Vest of Shame in an attempt to hock her to prospective adopters on the street.

It worked! Shining the Homeless Dog Bat Signal all across the land got her noticed by a really nice young couple out on the street. They asked about her and, later that evening, emailed saying that they were interested in adopting her.


As of this afternoon it's official: Florence has a wonderful home in Fishtown with a professor, which OF COURSE makes me irrationally proud because what is better than a professor. Nothing. That is the answer. Nothing. Ask any Asian mom. "Professor" is on par with "neurosurgeon": it just wins the game instantly. Even when we're talking about homeless dogs.

However, Florence is still going to be with us for another ten days while her actual people start getting their home ready for her. She won't be going home for real until next Friday.

The effort to civilize Florence proceeds at a better-than-decent rate. She is almost perfect on leash: she hardly ever pulls and is quite happy to trot blissfully next to her person, ready to be attentive at the first hint that you might reward her with a smile.

The only exception is that, predictably, as she gets more comfortable with the city, she's getting more interested in trying to greet other dogs, so now she whines and pulls toward them. However, Florence is small and easy to manage, and she is also very easy to recapture with a simple "hi!" or other verbal request for attention, so this is not a real problem. It might become a problem if it's not managed or if she's allowed to self-reward (or, at the other extreme, get too frustrated about not being able to self-reward) by greeting the other dog, but right now it's minor and easily prevented.

Housebreaking is going pretty well. No accidents in the house yet. Florence has a fairly elaborate circling-and-sniffing ritual before she goes potty, which makes it easy to tell (and prevent) when she's about to make a mess inside, but also makes it slightly more difficult to get her to potty outside, because if she hears or sees something while she's doing the ritual circling, she goes all "I CAN'T PEE WHILE PEOPLE ARE WATCHING ME" and refuses to go.

This isn't an issue when she poops (she also doesn't circle or sniff nearly as long before pooping), but it means she only goes pee about once a day right now, when she finally can't hold it anymore and is forced to pee in front of OMG PEOPLE.

If past experience holds true, she'll get over her reluctance when she stops being scared of passing cars and bus noises, but in the meantime it takes some patience to stand around for 10 or 20 minutes waiting for her to calm down enough to go pee.

On the training front, I didn't really get started working with her in any focused way until yesterday, because she only got here Saturday, and then on Sunday I had Pongu's Rally thing and on Monday and Tuesday I was scrambling to beat a book deadline (did it!), so until yesterday afternoon we were just doing the bare necessities: leash walking, housebreaking, not eating my house, etc.

Yesterday we got started on Sit. Here's where we are today, some four sessions later:

I taught it as a tuck Sit (i.e., the competition version) via clicker capturing for no particular reason beyond that she was offering that behavior all the time anyway, which made capturing very easy, and I wanted to try a different method of getting a tuck Sit.

Clicker capturing is SO MUCH EASIER than doing it with physical manipulation or foot targets, sweet holy jeebus. It is way WAY faster and easier than any other method. Alas, you have to realize from the get-go that you're going to want a competition Sit to get it that way, so those of us who trained it wrong the first time will have to continue to rely on the other methods to fix it.

Anyway, Florence now has a semi-functional Sit (I say "semi-functional" because (a) it's not fully proofed; and (b) I don't think she actually understands that Sit means Sit, i.e., if I said "Banana!" she would probably give me a Sit too, since at this point she's just thinking any verbal cue = Sit), so good enough, that's all the pet training I feel like doing with her.

I started her on nose touches too, and those are coming along nicely (she's a very clever little dog and quick to learn things, once she figured out she could learn things, and thereby cause cookies to rain from the sky), but I think I'm probably going to spend the next ten days trying to teach her the Shell game, just because.

I have no idea if we'll finish it. The Shell Game is fairly complicated and Florence has no foundations whatsoever. She was just introduced to clickers three days ago. And we only have about ten days to do anything before she goes home. But for exactly that reason, it's much more interesting to me to see how a totally green dog approaches that task than it is to teach her Down and Stay (besides which, she already has a beginner Stay just from me making her pose for so many pictures).

So yeah, I think that's kinda where I'm headed.

No comments:

Post a Comment