Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 2: Houston, we have a retrieve!

What a lovely combination of things went into the success we had yesterday, Day 2 of Dancer's retrieve training.  First, she's smart AND clicker-savvy, extremely well socialized, and still has a good amount of puppy toy drive (for a Kees).  Second, she really likes the treat ball that I made for her, so it's no trouble keeping her interested in it.  Third, I was able to capitalize on the serendipitous retrieve she gave me at the end of Day 1, and given her clicker-savvy-ness she was apparently able to figure out pretty quickly why I suddenly threw her that champagne party, and she was happy to make it happen again!
This was the only video I could get's hard to throw a ball and run a camera at the same time! Not her best effort, but if you look closely, you can see she carries the ball for maybe 10 feet.

We went out to play fetch, and again I restrained her while I threw for the other dogs, then I threw her ball and she brought it back about 2/3 of the way.  Whoot!  Another champagne party.  With each successive throw, she brought it back a little further.  Because she's still so young, occasionally she would just forget the whole thing:  run out after the ball, hear the neighbor's dog bark, lose her train of thought, and run back to me empty-handed.  Empty-mouthed.  We'd come far enough along that I did not reward those puppy moments.  Just ignored them and set up for another throw.  By the end of our morning session, she was bringing the ball about 3/4 of the way to me and even threw in a couple of recoveries from puppy moments:  get distracted, lose track of the ball, but before running back to me, stand completely still for a few seconds (smoke pouring from her ears), find her ball, and come trotting back with it in her mouth as if to say, "Yeah, I got this!"

At that point, she was getting 5 little bites of cheese for bringing it 3/4 way back to me, nothing for nothing, and one or two bites of cheese for stuff in between.  I was also noticing that she did far better if I stayed very quiet and almost completely ignored her while she was getting the ball and heading back to me.  If I called or cheered her on, it seemed to break her concentration and she'd drop the ball completely.  And once she dropped it, there was no recovering, no was over for that round.

I didn't bother with any bathroom sessions because we were coming along so nicely, and because I'm LAZY.  Instead, we sprinkled a few play sessions throughout the day, like this one with Neena...and may I just say hooray for another way to wear out Neena!!!
These chase games actually go on for 3 minutes or so at a time, and usually occur in clusters of two or three, so they really do wear themselves out.  So awesome.  She and Raffy have been playing, too, but I haven't been able to get that on video yet.  I'm going to keep trying--two Keeshonden playing together is very fun to watch.  Lots of butt-fighting, much more vertical play, and all very muffled by their fluff.

In our afternoon fetch session, things only got better.  I still had to be "vewy vewy qwiet" while she was doing the work, but in no time she was BRINGING THE BALL ALL THE WAY BACK TO ME.  Plus, I was able to stop rewarding anything less than 1/3 of the way back.  And she was recovering faster from her puppy moments, so I knew that the retrieve was actually deliberate, albeit a little slow and tentative. 

The plan for the rest of the weekend is to solidify this retrieve, and see if I can make it strong enough so that I can make a little noise and/or make other efforts to speed up her run back.  I'm fairly sure a better reward would help a lot, so I might need to pull out the big guns:

Raffy's Chicken Parmesan Re-Treats
(when you need to get Mr. Bubblehead back to you in a hurry!)*1 chicken breast, boiled, then pureed in a food processor w/enough broth to make it the
consistency of canned dog food
*2 eggs
*1 t garlic powder
*2 T parmesan cheese
*1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (more, if needed, to make the dough stiff)
Mix together well. Press into greased 9" x 13" pan. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes. Cut into desired size pieces and refrigerate or freeze.

But all in good time.  I'm also, on the side, going to see if I can get her tugging and do some rear-end awareness games.  Can't hurt, right?  I'm really trying to take what I learned with Raffy and build on it.  Raff would only run for cheese, and never really knew how to use his back legs.  Wouldn't it be a kick in the head if I could train up a Flyball Kees who ran for a tug and who had a solid 4 paw swimmer's turn, driving off the box with her strong back legs?  A girl can dream.

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