Monday, April 19, 2010

Adventures in Leave it + watch Me

I realized this is the perfect game for Fozzie. Tonight, we worked on it in the back yard with his second favorite thing, a stick. He has already learned that he needs to sit before I do anything he enjoys, so he sat as I lifted a stick above his head, said Leave It, then seductively, slowly, waved it in front of his face. He stared at the stick, then the eyes flicked toward mine and I said Yes! and immediately threw the stick. He got it, came right back and we played again, and this time his eyes went toward mine almost immediately.

I am amazed at how quickly he learned that the eye flick was what I was rewarding! I have always had difficulty with Watch Me, but I was practicing with Lamar--a far less biddable dog, and one who has fear of trying things to boot.

On our walk this evening, Fozzie demonstrated that he'll need more work before he'll listen to Leave It when he's doing his first favorite thing--playing leash tug of war when he gets stimulated. There was no Leaving It once he got into that leash tug, while we were on a busier street and I was stopping to talk to everyone who admired him and asked about adopting him. After those episodes though, we did get to a quiet street where he started to go for his leash, then responded to Leave It! Victory!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I am really getting an appreciation for the subtleties of dog training. After reading Control Unleashed (Leslie McDevitt's absolute gem of a training book) and in class with Michelle Mange, my brilliant mentor with Right Start Maryland and Your Dog's Friend, I realized that to get Fozzie to mellow out, I need to give him a reward that's worth more to him than just these cheesy bits! What's the most rewarding thing to him? Going wild! So what should be his reward for not going wild? Legalized going wild!

There is a great handout on impulse control at, so I won't belabor it here; the basic idea is that for dogs who really want to play, they get to play only after they relax and take a break. So with Fozzie, throw a ball, do some push ups, pet him like crazy, rile him up a bit (I'm not doing tug of war with him because it's too stimulating; tug of war would be a good choice for dogs who enjoy it but don't get too into it), then disengage. Look away, take the ball away, stop playing until Fozzie sits and looks at me calmly. May take a while, but ignore him til it happens. Then--start again! Go wild, take a break, go wild, take a break. The Premack Principle--using something pup really wants to do as a reward for doing something he's less psyched to do.

Necessity breeds creativity, and Fozzie is the best teacher ever.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Love bugs

If possible, Florian is even more in love with Fozzie than I am.

This is them after a night of romance, sleeping on the living room daybed so the other dogs and I could have our space in the other room.