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Dedicated to Bart, who had the Most Beautiful Tail

"It's very simple. Dogs and cats and other talented animals have tails; their tails, with their thousands of flourishes, provide them with a wonderfully complex language of arabesques, not only for what they think and feel and suffer, but for every mood and vibration in their feeling tone. We have no tails, and since the more lively among us need some form of expression, we make ourselves paintbrushes and pianos and violins..."

Hermann Hesse

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Puppy II Class Complete

This evening Sage completed his Puppy II Training Class and earned his official Certificate of Graduation! 

As he has matured it's become clear that he definitely responds to the mental challenge of  training. He grasps new concepts in a heartbeat. At this age his "puppy focus" doesn't always allow him to perform as reliably as an adult dog might, but he appears to have potential to be a really good obedience dog! He just soaks up everything. He will perform and loves to play training-related games.

The Sirius Puppy Training program was really dense, in terms of the amount of information provided to the trainers, and the vast number of things our dogs learned. I was amazed that puppies could master so much! This has been a great introduction for Sage and now we're in the habit of daily training sessions as a part of the ritual. That worked really well for Bart and Kenai when we were first starting out with dogs years ago. They got a bit of training with each meal. Bart needed it as part of NILIF, as he'd been in a home without any rules for the first five years, and he was a naturally dominant, alpha dog when we rescued him.

So... next stop for Sage will be the training classes associated with the dog training club where Denali trains.

Interestingly,  witnessing Sage's training sessions each morning has sparked Denali's interest. It appears she's a bit competitive and isn't happy about the puppy one-upping her! She was really getting flat in our training classes and not really performing as I'd hoped she would in Show Novice. I simply couldn't get her to focus on me and heel well for anything. I was actually planning to quit taking her to the classes after this session ended. She does reasonably well on everything else, but we really weren't progressing, or having any fun with it. Both of us were bored.

But, during the past couple weeks whenever I'm working with Sage, Denali has started "asking" to show what she can do. For two weeks I completely ignored her and didn't work with her at all, other than during our classes.  Then I started working with her for just a few minutes at a time whenever we'd go outside for breaks during the day. I'd ask her to execute one or two commands, and then cut it off.  I made sure I quit while she was ready and excited to do more - before she got bored.

And I realized that I'd been working in a way that made it fun for the puppy, but I hadn't been doing as well at making it fun for Denali! So, we focused less on the result and more on having fun during the process.  And what a transformation...!  Suddenly I have a dog who can't wait to show off.  A few days ago she did the best off-leash heeling segment she's ever done during one of our short sessions! I was astonished!  

Last night in our class she repeated her new-found beautiful heeling! The instructor, Judy, exclaimed "Kathy, she's working SO nicely!" And she was!  Judy couldn't believe it was the same dog. Neither can I!  All of a sudden I have a dog that is alert, interested, excited and focused while heeling? Go figure? 

And I've started working a bit with Elbee to get a decent recall on her. She's a very mild dog and while she knows the basic commands, she has absolutely NO incentive to perform them - and moves in slow motion. The recall is the worst.  So...using some techniques from Sage's puppy class, it's back to basics for Elbee too!  This class was a real benefit for all three dogs...and their parents/trainers! 

Congratulations Sage! You had a big night!

I can't wait to see what the future holds for my happy, bouncy boy!


penni said...

Go, Sage (and Danali and Elbee). It's so much fun to train when the dogs think it's fun. One of the things I tried (successfully) when Kip seemed to hit the blahs in Novice Competition Class was to add Rally. With Rally there is an exercise every few steps. The effect on Kip was that he REALLY had to pay attention to me or I might make a circle or ask for a front. It improved his heeling immensely.

Alden said...

Hi Kathy,

I'm so happy to see that Sage is doing so well. Can I bring Fig over for a tutorial? I seem to have "The Problem Child." Fig is very exuberant about EVERYTHING. Taking him to puppy class reminds me of the time I took my first-born to Toys r Us. Her eyeballs popped out of her head on springs.

Naturally, he's fine at home, but the minute we hit class he's like a bag of marbles dropped on a hardwood floor.

One of the trainers is venerable English woman. She probably moved to the US to escape the confines of a Dowager House. She has a very British uppercrust accent, so naturally I can't fathom a word she says. However, last night I did understand, "raaawther nawty for such a "fawncy" puppy!"

Need I say more...Fig may be naughty, but at least he's fawncy!

It's a testament to C-Myste breeding to have "fancy" and "fawncy" offspring.

We have to get the brothers together, hopefully some of Sage's manners might rub off on Fig!

Best to you and Moe,


Elbeepem said...


Something tells me that if Fig and Sage got together, there would be nothing but a free-for-all! Sage is pretty exhuberant himself! Sounds like they both got a good dose of Wally's spirited personality!

Yes, Sage has learned a lot, but there is still a fair amount of Crazy Puppy in the mix. No question, behaving in the Big World is a different story from his abilities on his home turf!

One of the exercises in our final class was having each owner attempt to heel their puppy through the Maze of Temptation. The instructor placed a number of tempting toys and a bowl with a few kibbles, as well as another one of the puppies in the class, all in a line. We each had to weave in and out of all these items with our puppy "heeling." The goal was to do anything possible to keep your dog's attention. Two of Sage's favorite toys were on display. Most people used food, but Sage is more toy-driven. As soon as he'd gotten around the first item, a stuffie pumpkin, I grabbed it and it held his attention - until we got to the other end of the line where his FAVORITE toy sat waiting. When he saw the tennis ball he couldn't decide what to do. He really wanted the pumpkin...but.... Finally he stayed with the pumpkin for the return trip, but he definitely left all his brains behind the moment he saw those toys!

Yup...they're puppies...what can you say! But Sage has a lot of motivation, loves the attention and is quick to form associations. That spells potential.

For now, he may not be as "fawncy," as Fig, but he sure does love the attention that goes with the training, so on we go! I can hear the marbles dropping! Good thing they both weren't together in the Dowager's class...she'd never recover! :-)

Alden said...

Hi Kathy,

Oh! I wish Sage and Fig could be in the same puppy class, although Fig is way behind Sage in the obedience department (I'm happy when he sits on command). Fig's class is filled with teeny, tiny toy dogs; they seem to be the "in" thing in Napa. There is one cool mini-aussie, and two labs, but the rest are microscopic. I think he's considered "fawncy" only because he looks like a DOG! ;0)

I can only imagine the fun they'd have together. They'd probably shock Lady Snodgrass (my name for our trainer)right out of her woolen socks and Wellies.

I'm taking Fig and my children to visit my aunt and uncle in OR this weekend. Will stop by Carolyn's on the way home. Can't wait to hear what she has to say about my "naaaawty puppy."

We have to get together!!