Monday, 20 January 2020

Parkour Variety Pack Challenge

Just for a wee bit of fun, this week I’m inviting you to post your pictures of multi-dog Parkour poses.

You can see Laird demonstrating a 2-up, Freya sitting on the same object, and Bronte sitting on a different manhole cover to the side.

I was trying to get Freya to stand rather than sit for a real variety pic, but it took all my time to keep Bronte from wimbling off!

While Parkour is great for building self-control, proprioception and more, it’s also perfect for those of us struggling to get more than one dog in the same photo.

Don’t worry if you only have one canine in your family, why not take the challenge with a friend or meet up with another Well Connected Canine and their person (feel free to use our FB group to make contact).

The best picture will become the group cover pic for February, so get snapping and submit your entries to the FB group.

A joyful update on the GWP who loves to hold onto things

Laird’s love of holding, chewing and sometimes eating things has been a wee bit of a challenge not least because of the sheer size of his jaws. Clare has been very patient with Laird (and me) in the Gundog Games workshops, and we’ve both had to think in new and interesting ways.

Key challenges
  • Laird can and will eat things rather than give them up, and will often eat things just for fun so even ignoring him isn’t always a safe option 
  • Laird loves food and toys about equally, and he loves them both A LOT, which makes for lots of conflicted feelings if we try to use one to swop for the other 
  • Laird has previous experience of being made to give things up, and is definitely too big for that to work now, and he knows it 
  • Laird has previous experience of being bribed or distracted to give something up, so is extra suspicious of being offered something when he has an item in his mouth 
  • Laird’s mouth is so big (really!) that if we play games where we reward him for dropping the toy, or throw food near the toy, he often just ends up loosing the cheese or sausage in his jowls. 
  • And then when he drops his head to pick up the toy, the food falls out onto it – cue panicked eating and holding of toy at the same time…
It’s fair to say we’ve worked through most of the normal solutions, without really feeling like we were making consistent progress.  Until Clare had a moment of genius. She will tell you it’s nothing of the sort, but I’m convinced! 

Dog training is all about figuring out what our dog really wants, deciding if we can safely give them access to it, and using it as a reward.

There’s no point offering me Xmas cake as a reward for anything, because I don’t like fruitcake and despise marzipan…..

Laird *loves* to play tug games.

But for all the reasons listed earlier, using food rewards as part of tug games hasn’t worked that well for us.

What we have worked on is Laird realising I will let go if he tugs too hard (ouch!), and that he needs to push the toy into my hands to restart the game (no grabbing by me).

So Clare’s brilliant idea was
  • Play tuggy as normal, and then pause the game. 
  • I stopped interacting and tugging. 
  • As soon as Laird responded by easing off his pressure, I said his marker word and then played. 
  • Repeat ad infinitum. 

We’re looking for moments where Laird chooses to loosen his grip on the toy, marking it, and rewarding with another round of tug – because that’s usually what Laird wants more than anything.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, and we had no idea if it would work.

Pretty quickly it was obvious that we were getting longer pauses, and then Laird started to release the toy (no cues are being given!).

I’ve played around with the ideas, but truthfully not as much as I planned to.

And then this afternoon Laird snuck into the kitchen and stole one of Bronte’s old training toys.

Sheepskin on a bungee with a tennis ball – that really is the holy grail.

My current meditation practice is all about turning difficult situations into opportunities to practice, so I took some deep breaths and in a cheery voice asked Laird if he wanted to play….

Ten minutes later the toy was still intact.

Laird had played beautifully, and chose to give the toy up several times.

When we finished and put it away, there was no jumping or snatching or grumpiness.

I am so proud of my big lad, and so grateful for Clare’s suggestions.

What have I learned today?
  • Go back to basics, and listen to the dog in front of you 
  • An outside perspective can and will help you make progress 
  • Be grateful for the training opportunities as they arise, no matter how annoying the timing! 

Don’t forget to send in your Parkour Variety Pack pictures before the end of January,

All good wishes


What’s going on in WCC Land? 

Weekly classes next start date is 19 Feb 2020
  • APDT Good Companion class at 18:30 FULLY BOOKED

Workshops & Activities

Gundog Games workshops with Clare run monthly AND you can buy three workshops at a discounted rate, so long as you use them within 6 months

First session for 2020 is Sat 25th Jan at 13:30

Social Skills for Dogs That Struggle are running in smaller groups, more often! See all your options to the end of Feb, there's at least four sessions per month now: Book Here

Parkour really is the activity for all occasions and we have an introductory session in January plus a brand new Parkour Challenge in the Wild workshop in February

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