Monday, April 2, 2012

Training Challenge Updates

No, the interwebs did not swallow me whole, nor did I get run over by a bus.  Sorry I've been M.I.A.!  We just finished the wettest March on record here in Portland and I had me some lack of sunshine blues.  But even though I've been a bit lax on taking the dogs on walks or to the park, we did make progress on our March training challenge to learn to twirl.  Luckily for the dogs, I am an expert twirler so I was really able to lead the pack on this one.  :) 

March roared in like a lion with Hurley having the hand gesture for twirl down before March 1st.  Rockin' & Rollin', my friends!  Unlike Roll Over, he had no problems learning to twirl in each direction.  As with everything, he's much more reliable with the hand gesture than the verbal so right now we are continuing to work on cementing our verbal communication.  And I have the best verbal command for twirling in each direction (think figure eight) - HIPPIE DANCE.  Hippie is twirl counter-clockwise and Dance is twirl clockwise.  While we have the foundation down pat, it's going to take us a little bit longer to get the two fully strung together into one solid Hippie Dance command. makes me smile every time we practice as I imagine our progress getting us to the point where I say "Hurley do your hippie dance" and he meanders around in a large figure eight in typical "Hurley don't hurry" fashion. 

The girls did great this month with twirl too.  I figured out that Maggie learns much better without a lure.  A treat in my hand gets her so pumped up that she can't concentrate.  So we spent most of the month just working on her targeting my treat-less hand around in a twirl.  Such a better training experience for both of us!  I'm still working on fading the hand targeting to a hand gesture but that too will take more time.  And once I wasn't worried about always having that treat in my hand, I started practicing our twirl randomly throughout the evenings.  Hurley's doing his "Hurley don't hurry" thing when I call him to come inside?  No sweat.  The girls and I will just practice twirl while we wait for his meandering self.  Waiting for water to boil?  Perfect time for an impromptu training session! We got a lot more practice in this month than in previous months but overall, probably had less formal training sessions (one dog, 15+ minutes, treats, clicker, the whole shebang).  I feel like we've figured out a good groove for how and when we practice - one that doesn't stress me out trying to find the time to work with each of them and allows us more practice time in smaller increments throughout the week. 

I am considering March's training challenge a rousing success!  Are we where I want all 4 of us to be in our hippie dances?  Not entirely but we've got a good start and that's all I can ask.

So now it's on to April and what do we have in store?  Well, I need to lay the foundation for Hurley to learn a few things that the girls already know.  And I need to practice January's Back up and March's Twirl with the girls more.  So this April, Hurley will be working on Fetch & Drop.  He's not a natural born fetcher but I'd like to train him to fetch specific items by name and to put his toys away in the toy basket, both of which require a solid understanding of Fetch and Drop.  Since Maggie already has these down and Sadie really has never given a rat's arse about Fetch, I will spend the month making further progress with them on past training challenges.  Giving both them and myself this time to work on these challenges is as important as the accomplishments we make during each individual month.  Because it means we haven't given up even if we weren't able to reach the finish line at month's end.  Except for roll over.  I completely give up on teaching the girls that one and I don't feel one iota of guilt about that! 

It's Monday, I have the day off, and for once, the sun is shining.  So pardon me while I sign off and take the dogs on that super, duper long walk that they deserve. 


  1. Hippie Dance...I love it! That will be a hit in Portland :)

    I remember when I lived there, I think that March was the wettest on record at the time too. I enjoyed it but I was ready for some sun by the end too. Glad you got some sun and a nice walk!

  2. I like Hippie Dance too and can't wait to see a video!! Great job in the training, I like the idea of finding the time in between chores, maybe that is something I could squeeze in...enjoy your walk.

  3. Very cool! Isn't it amazing what just little bits of practice here and there will do?

    How interesting that Maggie works better without a treat lure. I've found the same for Brut because he becomes so insane when food is around. He is so much more calmer, which makes the other dogs around him calmer. It's been working great for me and sounds like you found it works for both of you. That's awesome!

    I love when I figure out what works for each dog and I am able to really use it to their strengths. Thanks for reminding me to use that. :)

    Hope you had a great walk!!

  4. This is so funny--i just taught Desmond "spin", which is your clockwise "twirl"! He, too, is relying pretty heavily on the gesture and sometimes spins excruciatingly slow. :-) I haven't attempted to get him to spin the other way yet, and now I feel the pressure to come up with a cool name for it. LOL