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.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Thorry for Keeps

After working with Weimaraner Rescue for several weeks last springs, I became disgusted with their ability to screen for a good home.  The best the sent me were...
1) a woman who works 8-10 hours 5 days a week; she has another weimaraner who stays in the basement during her work hours.  Her dogs have access to a fenced area in her yard via a doggie door when she is not home.  She lives on many acres where she walks her dogs on weekends.  She has never done agility but is thinking of taking an agility class if she gets Thorry.  She has taken obedience classes with previous dogs.
2) a man who has owned weimaraners in the past; he has put field titles on previous dogs.  He is no longer interested in hunting; Thorry would become a pet for his 10-year-old.  They live on a city cul-de-sac and plan to install electronic fencing to keep Thorry in. 
Nope, I'm not sending Thorry to live in either of those situations. 

Summer came and went with an increasing level of disability for me.  I purchased a wheelchair when it became impossible for me to leave my house without one.  Even with a WC, I left the house for little more than medical appointments.  I did have a few "field trips" with family; lessons in frustration as I learned just how limiting WC travel can be.  I did take Thorry to one day of summer agility camp where he ran well with a substitute handler.  He also did a full height seesaw beautifully, something he had only been doing for a week at home.  I then took him to AgileDogs run-throughs on a Friday evening before a trial.  There, Thorry was out-of-control.  Even with a front-clip harness, he pulled away from me to posture with a German Shepherd Dog.  My friend Trisha came over and helped me get Thorry measured; then she took him in the ring and attempted to run him on the course.  He paid Trisha no mind.  He kept running to the ring gates and barking at the three shepherds now standing nearby.  I was annoyed that the shepherd handlers didn't move away; clearly they could see what was going on.  Finally, Thorry found a way to escape from the ring.  Luckily, he came to me when I called him; I gave him treats while Trisha harnessed him.  Then back to the car.  I was ready to cry thinking that Thorry would never be able to compete.  Nor would he ever be able to work as a service dog.  And clearly, I needed something more than a harness if we were ever going to go out of my backyard.  The next day, I ordered a head halter.

Meanwhile, I finally found a good physical therapist.  After many weeks of PT, I began to notice some improvements.  The biggest one was when the swelling in my feet went down enough to put on a pair of sneakers!  In late fall, I took both Glitter and Thorry to the AgileDogs/Sugar Bush Farm Holiday Party.  I let Thorry have two play sessions in the outdoor agility rings.  Then, I attempted to run Glitter on the little Game course that Kathy had set up.  Glitter has always stressed at any changes in me.  I wasn't thinking.  It was the first time I had attemped to play with her using my walker.  She would do one obstacle, then go off sniffing and exploring.  Very embarrasing!  Finally, she jumped the high barrier between courses to provide the comedy of the day.

When most everyone had left, I brought Thorry out.  Put him over one jump, treat; 2 jumps, treat; jump, tunnel, treat; jump, tunnel, jump treat.  He paid attention and worked well.  I was very proud of him!  Because he did so well, I signed him up for a Jumping Skills and Drills workshop the next day.

The workshop was designed for dogs at the Intermediate Level and above.  Thorry really is a beginner but I got special permission to attend.  The abilities and experience of the participating dogs was all over the place.  We started with some bounce drills (4 jumps with no strides between).  Some dogs had no trouble with this, others had a lot of difficulty.  Thorry knocked a bar or ran out at jump 4 initially; but the spacing was too tight for him.  Once the spacing was corrected, Thorry ran the drills like a champ.  We then did bounces on a tight pinwheel; again, once the spacing was corrected for Thorry's height, he was able to negotiate the jumps as if he'd been doing this for years.  Then we worked a box of 4 jumps, sending the dog from the center over a jump, threadling back into the center, send, threadle, send, threadle.   At first, Thorry just took a few jumps on his own initiate, not leaving me but not listening either.  But once he realized what was expected of him (after I did send, threadle, treat, send, thread, treat, etc) he was able to do it perfectly!  The spacing stayed the same for all sizes of dogs, and Thorry was the only one do get it exactly right! 

Last exercise was two jumps to a tunnel, slice two jumps, threadle around half the box, send to tunnel.  Thorry did it perfectly, with no treats, on our first (and only) attempt!  Everyone cheered!  The instructor said, "You don't want to do that again, do you?  You wouldn't be able to do it any better!"  Thorry was the only dog in the group who could send to the tunnels.  Needless to say, I was thrilled.  Thorry stole the show outperforming dogs with years of competitive experience.  Yippee!

In late November, I decided I was going to teach Thorry to weave in two weeks.  I've always bragged to students that I can teach any dog to weave in two weeks.  But I'd never taught a dog as large as Thor.  Two After a week and a half, we got rain and snow that prevented completion in two weeks.  But after two and a half weeks, I took Thorry outside again and asked him to weave 6 poles.  And he did!!  The power of latent learning. 

I can wear sneakers.  And I can do drills using a walker or two forearm crutches.  And Thorry is used to seeing me with mobility aids so he isn't bothered by those.  And with a head halter, I can walk him in tight spaces with people and dogs.  There is hope.  But I still would not be able to run him on a full course.  I'll need a power chair to do that.

No comments:

Post a Comment