Baby Thor

Baby Thor

Training Thor

In January 2010, Thor, a 5-month-old weimaraner, came crashing into my life.

Here, I will outline the steps taken to train him to be a well-mannered dog,

to do agility, and to perform some service dog tasks.

At five months, he is pretty wild.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jumping Up

I first met Thor when he was about 9 weeks old.  At that time, his owners were already complaining that he was jumping up.  I was glad they wanted to address this behavior while Thor was still a tiny puppy.  We went out into the backyard where I showed them how to ignore all jumping behavior and wait for Thor to sit.  As soon as he sat, I said "yes" and fed him a treat.  Within just a few reps, Thor had it!

It was a couple of months before I saw Thor again.  I was amazed at how much he had grown and by his complete out-of-control behavior.  He greeted me by jumping up.  I turned my back.  Luckily, I was near the wall.  Thor pinned me to the wall keeping his front feet on my back.  I had instructed his owners to do nothing.  I already realized how people focused Thor is and felt that saying anything to him or pushing him off would be reinforcing to him (as it is to most dogs).  I waited.  And waited.  This was the most persistent (and attention-seeking) puppy I had ever met.  It was probably a full minute (and it felt a lot longer!) before I felt Thor's feet leave my back.  I whipped around and started treating him, lots of little treats one right after another while verbally praising.  

Thor never did that to me again.  He would still jump on me but it was a gentler jump, less desperate.  I reintroduced the Treat for Sit game which, as before, he picked up very quickly.  I also introduced him to the Look Away game (aka Doggie Zen) in which the person holds a treat out to the side at arm's length and shoulder height.  The dog will naturally look at the treat; you wait for the dog to look away from the treat and toward you.  The ultimate goal is for the dog to make and maintain eye contact.  Thor got this game right away!  He only glanced at the treat and then looked right into my eyes.  "Yes,"  treat!  Another confirmation of how much people matter to this dog.  Connecting with me was more important than focusing on the treat.

After that day, I started working with Thor once a week, then twice a week, then daily.  One of my early frustrations was Thor's resistance to being at my side.  I could lure him into position but as soon as I asked for a sit, he'd flip back to being in front.  I rewarded that anyway because I felt it was more important to develop our relationship, to establish myself as a provider of treats, and to help him understand this whole training game. 

The other frustration I experienced early on was that Thor could not be lured into a lying down position.  By the time I introduced the concept of "down," I had introduced Thor to the clicker.  So I worked on the position by clicking and treating head bobs and any front foot movement.  It took several days of this before he would go all the way down.  The first time he did, he got a jackpot of treats!  A month later, he still does not like to lie down, and I have to start each session rewarding approximations.  As soon as I get a full down, the lesson ends.  He gets treats and playtime but no repetition of this behavior that is so hard for him.  Baby steps, baby steps...

1 comment:

  1. Thank goodness Thor has you, Melinda! Keep up the excellent work!!