Sunday, June 23, 2013

Patience to speed learning

Reyna and I went to vets office today to work on calm and focus in the face of distractions. Let me tell you it's easy to see why Reyna loves Nosework...all she wants to do is sniff stuff.

Initially when she hopped out of the car she gave me the standard sit and eye contact, good start. But moving any distance from the car and her nose was glued to the ground, or the bush, or whatever. I thought about telling her leave it, or putting her back in the car, but I needed to look at me goal for the day. Was I planning on working obedience? No. Heeling? No. Eye contact? Not specifically. What I wanted was calm behavior and paying attention to me. Ultimately I wanted her to feel comfortable and have a good experience too.

So instead of putting her away which would have been a punishment for not giving me focus that I hadn't asked for in the first place, I decided to go a more Leslie McDevitt route. I sat on the bed of the pickup and just waited patiently while she smelled everything within the radius of her 4' leash. When she looked at me I clicked and treated and told her to "go sniff". She quickly started giving me more focus with less sniffing until she wouldn't go sniff. So we walked a few feet closer to the entrance rewarding every step where she had her nose off the ground.

We actually got all the way to the front sidewalk before her nose hit the ground. I just sat and waited while she took everything in. It took much less time this time. Then we walked back to the truck and started over. We made it all the way to the front door almost.

By the time we got inside she was clear headed and calm. We worked on walking past people in the waiting room, sitting on the scale, sitting quietly in the waiting room, all with short bursts of running out the door to play tug and then coming back in to work. We got all the way up to starting to walk down the hall and then it looked like it was going to get busy so we headed out.

You want to know the coolest part...the front yard area was filled with dog mess and pee spots, but not only did Reyna tug enthusiastically in the face of the smells and the distraction of people coming and going....she was so focused we did a couple short heel bursts during the play breaks.

So in the end I did get full focus and obedience work in the face of distractions, all by giving Reyna the time she needed to process the environment without pressure or punishment.

P.s. I was only there 17 minutes!

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