Thor had his first play date! We went to Sugar Bush Farm for some puppy training and play. Most of my work with Thor has been without a leash in a fenced yard so I was curious how he would be on a leash. Because he is so tuned in to me, I thought he'd be pretty good. Wrong! He wanted to pull and, for a 5 month old puppy, boy is he strong! I used food to walk him into the building; it wasn't pretty.
Thor's initial reaction to seeing a strange dog and person was to crouch down and tuck his tail. He was clearly worried. I sat down with him and, while Kathy and I chatted, I fed him treats. When he seemed to feel more relaxed, we introduced the two dogs. Kathy was working an 11 month old border collie who had come into rescue about a week ago. Both dogs were interested in each other but tentative and polite.
Next we played some mat games. Kathy had just introduced Jack to the clicker. I've been using a clicker with Thor but I don't think he understands that "click" means treat. That's undoubtedly my fault because I didn't spend much time charging it. I should have spent longer with click/treat, click/treat, click/treat, etc. in our initial session and continued that until he was looking expectantly for the treat. He's also not all that excited by food. In my backyard, he will play for his regular kibble but I was glad that I had taken plenty of cut-up cheese for our play date.
Thor didn't seem to be aware of the mat. He moved around a lot, trying to alternatively jump on me or offering a sit as I have taught him. I moved around (which incited jumping) just enough to get Thor off the mat so he could get back on. I clicked and treated for any incidental contact with the mat. But Thor never seemed to associate the mat with the click/treat. So I started clicking for Looking at the Mat, thinking that that might bring more awareness. Well, no, it didn't seem to but Thor did seem to finally understand that click=treat! Baby steps...
We then let both dogs off leash to play. They sniffed each other briefly, then ran around briefly, but both dogs seemed more interested in the people than each other. Kathy was great at treating Thor when he approached and before he had a chance to jump. Kathy had expressed some worry that Jack might have food guarding tendencies, but we saw no evidence of that. Kathy was able to feed both dogs simultaneously or sequentially with no difficulty.
After a short play period, I took Thor outside and he peed. Yay!! Then we went back to the mats. Thor still didn't seem to realize that foot on mat means cheese but he was happy to play with me. Both Kathy and I were able to drop the leashes and both pups stayed engaged in their game. Finally, I got one look-at-the-mat-then-step-on-it that looked deliberate to me. So I jackpotted, and we called it a day.
Kathy had some great hand-outs (thanks Amy!) and also let me borrow a puppy training book. I have little experience with puppies. I have almost always gotten a young adult dog from the shelter. Puppies are too much work! People who hire me generally don't call until adolescence hits and they find their dog has become big and hard to control. I have LOTS of experience with adolescents (usually one hour at a time). When I first started working with Thor, he was the wildest, most out-of-control dog I had ever met. Now that he is getting more exercise, he has settled a bit.
I am concerned about socialization with Thor. I don't have many visitors to the house and haven't been able to locate a puppy class that meets at a suitable time. Being winter, we can't just go for walks and bump into people. So I will have to make big efforts. Today was a great start. It's hard to remember that he has been in my house for only 2 days.