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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Activities of Fall

   During the fall, Thor and I took Beginner and Beyond Beginner Agility.  By the time we got into Beyond Beginner, the class had grown to 8-9 dogs!  Because a lot of the new teams had not taken Beginner Agility at the farm, they were lacking in basic skills.  We spent a lot of time going back over the Beginner lessons.  While I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing (review can be helpful), I felt that Thor was bored.  As a result, he was more distracted, more likely to leave me, more disruptive in general. 

At the same time, we started going to the park almost daily.  It's not a busy park; sometimes we were the only ones there, other times there were 1-4 other dogs.  When we were there by ourselves, I set up jumps in close configuration (straight line bounces, curving bounces--a bounce is when the dog lands and takes off immediately without taking a stride between jumps).  By doing this, I hoped to teach Thor collection, a shortening of stride for turns and weave pole entries, and a rounding of back over jumps.  We also worked on sends to jumps from as far away as 30 feet; Thor took these in extension (running fast with long strides and jumping flat).  My friend Lisa loaned me her set of training 2x2 weave poles, and Thor started learning the fundamentals of weaving--going between closely spaced poles at speed.  With the 2x2 method, the poles are not in a straight line to start so it's very easy for the dog to race through.  Over time, the poles are rotated and more poles are added until the finished performance is achieved.  At this early stage, no weaving/bending action is required reducing stress on the body of a still-developing young dog.

On days when other dogs were present we did one of two things.  If the other dog(s) were in the main field where we were, I let Thor play.  He played very well, checking in with me regularly and coming back to me when called.  If the dogs were at a distance (in the next field over with a post-and-rail fence between or walking on the road), then I would let Thor wander until he got as far as I wanted him to and then called him back.  He always came.  Not always as fast as I wanted; often he would loop around in a big circle as he came to me.  But even if he was heading directly toward another dog, he would come when called.  One day, a dog came through the fence and was running directly towards us.  Thor took off in that direction.  I called.  He came! 

Although I always give him a treat when he comes, I have not taught a recall from the beginning baby steps that I would use with most dogs.  Thor didn't seem to need that.  It is inborn in him to stay close, to want to be near me.  That's really the only way I can explain why he learned to come so easily even with distance and distractions.

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