Things have been crazy busy with one thing after another going on here the past two months, so I haven't had a lot of time to sit and write much of anything in detail. Just to make notes here or there of things I wanted to write about.
Training is going real well. This post will include a recap on how Journey did during 6 months of age and during 7 months of age.
Journey is too smart for his own good, and he's in the age range of testing boundaries. I imagine it is something like what the "terrible twos and threes" must be like for toddlers combined with independence of teenagers, where in both cases a sort of "selective hearing" develops.
When responding to commands he knows ( sit, down, etc. ) there is a brief delay. It's probably less than 10sec worth, like his brain skipped a beat on processing as he's deciding if he wants to do it or not. It's amusing to me because I have seen it in client's dogs, but with Ember she is so biddable and eager to please, plus she oftentimes tries to anticipate what I want next, she's already doing something before I have the word fully out of mouth, or with my hand signals.
Journey is an intelligent little Alsatian, so I have to mix up training to keep it interesting for him so he doesn't get bored with it. He's highly food motivated, but not as strongly toy motivated at the moment. That could be because I don't tend to keep a lot of toys with squeakers because Ember used to destroy them too fast and the squeaking can drive you nuts. When Journey joined the family, I did purchase various toys that have squeakers to help with training.
At first I wanted to use them for proofing distractions, figuring he'd be enticed by the squeaking. My worry was while working with him in public until he is more solid on everything, I didn't want people thinking it was "funny" to try and purposefully distract him with squeak toys or things making similar noise...... which yes, I have had happen with Ember when she was in working service dog gear, both at pet stores, and at Walmart. People are thoughtless sometimes.
Much to my delight, he isn't too interested simply by hearing the sound, though he will acknowledge it. He isn't overly eager to interact with it unless you get right up to him with it and encourage him to play. We'll see how well that continues as I use various toys with squeakers while trying to encourage certain prey drive qualities.
Another amusement is his lack of traction on most slick surfaces. We have all tile at my aunt's house with only a handful of rugs. Since Journey first started to grow larger, its a challenge for him to keep his legs under him. It turned into a joke with training because getting him into the "down" position was the easiest thing ever, and he tends to prefer it. Which made it easier with some training because he was less likely to break position from a down than he would have from a sit.
He's been so lanky and growing so fast, I think that is partly why his traction is off. So we practice sitting a lot more than he probably likes, trying to get him to that point of not slipping on smooth floors, since most stores have... smooth floors! It's a work in progress.
We have been working with shaping behaviors he'll use for service work since we first started training with the basics. Learning the foundations for fetching objects, holding them, giving them when asked, or taking them from me when I offer, to help build when we move on to objects that are not dog toys or chew things. He's already gotten used to lots of different textures from the beginning, so I don't think it will be too difficult. With his puppy teeth gone I just need to teach him to handle these things with a soft mouth. We have also been working on balance and bracing positions, teaching him how to stand and hold a certain position when I ask and point or make a hand signal.
The final highlight is that he finally lifted his leg! At the end of 5 months he had started to develop his marking bladder and his testicles were dropping, and soon after when he went to do his business instead of the typical full squat, one leg lifted a few inches. He doesn't do it all the time, but he's started doing it more and more frequently.
= = =
So many exciting things happened. The first time Journey took the intermittent class in it was a really small class, and both the dogs were small dogs and were over a year old, so he didn't get as much in the sense of socialization as I was hoping for. They let us retake the class, and we did so with a different trainer. By waiting a little longer we got lucky with a much larger class full of various sized dogs with various temperaments, including one that ended up being fear-reactive. It made things very interesting! And it was an amazing learning experience for Journey.
In the previous class the weeks prior, he'd been more inclined to be a puppy and would get excited and playful on leash, and if a strange dog barked and pulled toward him, he'd attempt to do the same, which is normal. Thankfully I could get him to refocus on me and with a lot of "leave it" work, he grew out of that phase.
We got more practice in with the new class, him learning to ignore the distractions of the other dogs pulling at leash, sniffing at him while I asked him to focus on me and ignore them, and ignoring the barking of one and some reactive outbursts from the other. I was so proud of how well he took to it. After the initial group meetup for the first class being so exciting with strange new people and dogs, by the end of the second class he was doing remarkably well with keeping his attention on me when I asked him to ignore whatever was happening at any given time with the other dogs.
The class trainer tried to demo with him because he was more advanced than the other dogs in class, since he had already taken it, and for the fact I have been training with him since he was a tiny pup, and he wanted to keep his focus on me and at first tried to ignore her. Which is brilliant, because I don't want him to listen to just anyone trying to come up and give him a command unless I give him permission or turn him over to someone else to handle.
My reason for this goes back to the whole problem I have had at points while out working with Ember and Journey both for public access stuff, and people trying to distract them by calling to them, making barking noises at them, and even trying to tell them to "come here" or "sit" and other stuff. Most of the time it is kids or teens who have done it, but I have caught adults in the act as well. What makes it worse is when they try, and the dog ignores them... so they try harder! Really people?
I normally turn and address them and give them a polite but stern talking to about why they shouldn't do that ever again if a dog is working. They could risk getting the dog or handler injured by distracting them, and be liable for it. When they are old enough to know better, most of them are embarrassed and apologize. I'd rather educate them than yell at them, but some people really try ever last ounce of patience I have on a given day.
We practiced more with distance and duration. He's pretty solid with it at home, and is getting better about it in public. We have been working on heel work from the base form you learn when you first take the class. He still gets ahead of himself at points but does well on loose leash for the most part without pulling. It's like with most dogs, they move faster than we do and he gets impatient and walks a little faster. So I simply stop or turn about and reposition him before continuing. I am hoping to start building on skills for much more advanced heeling techniques.