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Tuesday, February 1, 2011


In puppy class at Leader Dogs for the Blind we learned that one problem for dogs-in-for-training is dog distractions.  As a puppy-raiser, I must help FLD Gus learn to ignore dog distractions while he's working.  Having two high-energy dogs visit for this past weekend gave me a perfect opportunity to practice.

Andy's daughter Jen and her husband Jeff came to visit us and they brought their two German Shorthaired Pointers, Gauge and Odo.  FLD Gus was in doggie-heaven---FINALLY, fellow-canines to play with!  (Gypsy thinks her role is "Drill Instructor.")

Odo tolerated (barely) Gus's insistent come-on-let's-play tongue-slapping, but eight-year-old Gauge would have none of it.  I knew I had to do something to calm the crazy energy in the house so we could enjoy our morning meal in peace.

So, I took advantage of the potentially frustrating situation by turning it into an impromptu training session.  And ended up with two dogs and a six-month-old puppy settled and relaxed while we ate breakfast.

I decided to work on FLD Gus's self-control by making him hold his position "on mat" (a command he knows well) while the other two dogs (and Gypsy) walked by.

Watch how I did it:


FLD Gus on his MAT.

FLD Gus knows his "mat" is a fun place just for him.  He frequently goes to his mat on his own, and when I tell him.  Often I practice moving his mat around the house; it is fun to watch him search for it, first at its usual place between the kitchen and living room, and then to the last spot I placed it.  When Gus "finds" his mat he leaps onto it and spins around to a DOWN.  (For more information about the MAT command, see my post from August 10, 2010.)


FLD Gus on mat with dog distractions.

Once FLD Gus was on his mat I ask Jen to get her dogs to mingle by him.  In this picture you can see that Gus is looking at ME, and not the other dogs.


FLD Gus getting up from his mat.

As the two dogs get closer, FLD Gus cannot contain himself any longer and gets up to join the fun.  (If you look close, you can see the level of excitement in this approaching-adolescence male!)  I say nothing to Gus, but immediately go to him and physically put him back on his mat.  This happens several times.


FLD Gus trying hard to ignore the distractions.

You can see in this picture (after I put FLD Gus back on his mat) that when the dogs come close, Gus averts his eyes in an effort to maintain his self-control.  ("What I can't see won't bother me!")

FLD Gus lying on his mat.

FLD Gus slides into a DOWN when he realizes that I will put him back on the mat every time he leaves it.  Here you can see that while Gus is lying on his mat, his attention is not on me, but on the activity around him.

FLD Gus still on his mat, watching Jen and Gypsy.

Actually, FLD Gus seems to have lost interest in the two big dogs and is concentrating on Jen and Gypsy.


FLD Gus sits up on his mat.

FLD Gus sits up when the two big dogs join Jen and Gypsy.  I anticipate.

FLD Gus attempts to leave his mat.

As Gypsy walks by, FLD Gus cannot contain himself and starts to follow her.  Now I use NAME RECOGNITION and LEAVE IT (in a calm and assertive, but quiet voice):  Gus.  Leave it.  He sits back down, and now he is looking at me again.


FLD Gus lying down on his mat again, with dog distractions.

FLD Gus is lying on his mat with his attention on me, but he has started to pant.  Can you see his tongue and slightly open jaw?  This is evidence of stress.  Gus is "getting it," but I've been pushing him.  We've only been at it for about five minutes!

FLD Gus asking the big dogs to play.

FLD Gus holds his position on MAT when Jen's dogs walk by once more.  I release Gus with an exuberant GUS, OKAY! and let him play a bit.  You can see how he asks the boys to play by using his tongue; Odo ignores, but Gauge still insists NO!

FLD Gus and the Pointers at ease.

After a few minutes of play, I send FLD Gus back to his mat.  Jen commands her dogs to lie down and stay.  Here they calmly remain while we enjoy a wonderful breakfast together!  Thanks Gauge, Odo, and Jen!


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