Tonight I felt like I had a big breakthrough. I've been struggling for the past few months to walk three dogs, two of whom are young and full of themselves. Talladega has been the toughest of the three, because when I got her at the end of May, she was almost like a little savage with absolutely no self-control whatsoever. On the leash she was awful, especially when we crossed paths with other dogs. She absolutely loves other dogs and thinks it's her god-given right to meet them all. She would ignore food, even if it was right under her face, preferring to whimper, bark and pull toward the other dog. It was mighty frustrating. But I tried to remain steadfast and patient, and tonight, for the first time ever, whenever we passed other dogs (three times), she fell into line at my side with the other two, looking up at me and not the other dogs. It was beautiful! One guy said "It looks like they're synchronized!" Of course, Tally's learned by now that not only is she never, ever going to get to go say hi to that other dog, but that Charlee Bears are pretty good and there's probably going to be one for her when we get past the other dogs. It also helped that I spent a lot of time hand-feeding her meals in exchange for attention, tricks etc., so she's learned that food has value.
She's also a whiz to train in general. After working her with the wobble board and skateboard, I decided to try some other cool stuff with her. A friend lent me a little wooden spool so I could try to teach Tally to roll it with her front feet while walking with her back (it's a first step in teaching a dog to do something like pushing a baby carriage). All I did was get a bag of treats and set the spool in front of me, and the first thing Tally did was put her front feet on it and start rolling it! I think after the skate board she just assumed that's what I wanted. I was completely amazed. I also wanted to teach her to push a playground ball with her nose, but when I put the ball in front of her she put her front feet on it and started rolling it with them while she walked on her hind legs! We still have some coordination issues to work out before she can sustain the spool and ball tricks for more than five or six steps, so I have some practicing to do. By that point maybe I'll have picked up a tripod so I can video it all properly. She's a truly amazing little dog.
I have a lot of focus work to do to move forward with her agility training. It's hard for her to keep her mind off the people, other dogs and great smells in class. She's improving, however, and next session we're signed up for a Focus and Motivation class taught by Melanie Miller (I took the class last summer with Pinky). I'm hoping it helps.
As for Pinky, moving her down to the "baby" level class was the best thing, I think. Making things very simple and progressing very slowly turned out to be exactly what she needs. She's really blossoming doesn't seem nearly as nervous as she used to be. She seems to enjoy the class much more than when I was trying to have her on a more accelerated track. I was just asking too much to quickly.
And Lucy is still good little Lucy. We took another distance class because gambles are still tough for us, and I learned that I'm relying too much on body cues for "right" and "left" and not enough for verbals. When your dog is heading directly away from you to a distant gamble obstacle, they're not necessarily going to see the body cue for a change of direction. They have to hear it (something I should have remembered and worked on after Stuart Mah, but I didn't).
My dogs are filling me with optimism ...