So my friend A has just moved interstate for college with her dog Katie staying behind at the family home. In six months the family may be reunited again in a house in the new location. In the meantime, the family are feeding her and so on, of course, but they don’t have the time to walk her. So I’m doing it.
Yup, that’s right, me, Melon. (There was a suggestion originally for me to consider ‘fostering’ her for those six months at my house to save me the trip over to my friend’s house to walk her, and boy would I love to, but we decided against it because we don’t know what her prey drive would be like with Mister Cocoa.)
You may have heard of Katie as my demonstration animal when I learnt How To Bathe A Large Dog. She’s a 10 year old Labrador.
So how was my first walk yesterday? Well. I arrived at my friend’s place and Katie was so excited, jumping around and running in circles, that I didn’t think I’d ever get the harness on. I had been warned of this, but as I struggled I really thought for a moment I would have to turn right around and go back home again! Luckily, I managed it. In fact, I ended up so focused on trying to get the harness on the right way that I only belatedly realised that she had calmed down.
The other thing you need to know is that I had discovered, on a trial walk when my friend was still in town, that Katie hasn’t really been trained to follow commands. She’s asked to wait for her dinner and before leaving the gate, and she does the former well but not so much the latter. But my point is, she won’t do even a basic Sit. Now, I’m not so comfortable walking a dog that I can’t control with at least a Sit, Wait and Come.
Which is why I came to my first walk armed with a clicker I’d downloaded onto my phone and an oh-so-attractive bright orange bumbag full of bacon bits. First lesson would be simply to charge the clicker: click, treat, click, treat until she associates the sound with the reward. Sounds simple, right? WRONG. At a random place on the street I'd stop, get out my phone, press the clicker on the screen, then I'd fumble around for the bacon bits, dropping some in the process which Katie could happily lick up, and then in using both hands to try and pull out the bag of bits to get to them I'd accidentally press the clicker again... I think you get the picture! I did get Katie's attention with treats, but I doubt she even noticed the clicking noise. She even sat once or twice, all by herself, when she realised I had treats, but instead of rewarding that like I should have, I thought, wait! We're not up to that yet! I'm supposed to be charging the clicker! And proceed to initiate another click-treat-failure. Oops. And after the whole walk and a bagful of bacon bits I know for a fact that charging the clicker didn't work because after we got home I clicked it and she paid exactly zero attention to me.
So why am I bothering with the training? Well, I basically just want a way to communicate to her, when we’re out walking, when she’s doing something I like as opposed to when she’s doing something I don’t like. I think I need that to be comfortable with her on the street, knowing she’ll get off the road when I tell her to, knowing I can get her attention when there’s another dog around, and so on. I’m starting to realise, however, that she probably has 10 years of ignoring commands ingrained in her. Is there another way I can achieve this peace of mind, or should I keep trying with the clicker (in a quiet place this time)?
Thoughts and advice, as always, much appreciated.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
MMA: Our First Walk