Debby on…Edie’s graduationPosted: March 14, 2009
For eight weeks Edie and I have trekked down the hill early each Thursday evening for a Basic Obedience course. It’s required for enrollment in our current objective, the Beginning Rally Course which starts March 27th.
Edie was one of 3 little dogs in the class. The other two, a Corgi and a Lakeland Terrier. The other ten or so were large dogs. Labs. Aussies. Lab mixes. A Norwegian Elkhound. I don’t think a single dog dropped out of class. The instructors repeatedly told us this was the best class they’ve taught in years. The dogs really were remarkable. To my delight, graduation was a Rally Course! There a number of stations, each with instructions of what should be done at that particular stop. Circle 360 degrees right. 270 degrees left. Sit, stay. Sit, down. Weave through cones. And more. For extra points, each dog did a trick at the end of the course.
As Wally started the class off, I sat ringside pondering what kind of trick Edie could do. Each night when I put the dogs to bed, I require a ‘trick’ to earn a bedtime snack. Some nights I require a ‘touch’ – click and treat. Some nights Zen instead. Not Zen the dog, Zen the cue. That means don’t touch my hand – click and treat. Some nights I let each dog do its own thing – click and treat. Those nights Edie will stand up on her hind legs, but it’s not something I lure. And I certainly haven’t put it on cue. Oh well. It was the best I could come up with. And very likely, amid the awesome hand shaking and rolling over her classmates were doing, we’d probably not earn extra points.
Edie really liked being out on the training floor alone, going through the Rally course. It was as though she was reliving her brief career in the show ring! Not far into the course, one of the instructors commented on her ‘prancing’. The other mentioned Edie was a conformation Champion. Ah ha! I knew what we’d do at the end. As we passed the Finish cone, I gave Edie the Go – a cue I use in the conformation ring to let the dog know it’s okay to move out in front of me, leading me around the ring. In several steps, I simply said, “Edie, show pretty.” Like we’d rehearsed this particular bit, she spun around, looked at me and posed like the Champion she is. The class loved it! Not sure it was a trick, but hey! It worked. When the scores were tallied, Edie graduated in 1st place. How cool is that?!
See the two stuffed toys? One was for winning 1st. The other was for…well…most improved dog. The class votes for this award, not the instructors. As I told Rick that night, what the heck was that about? Edie has performed great from the beginning. He suggested ‘small dog prejudice’. Perhaps. I suggest no knowledge of Lhasa Apsos, expecting her to behave like a Lab.
The first thing we taught the dogs was ‘settle’. Settle is different than down, stay. It’s not a formal cue. It simply means lay down and hang out. However, unlike most other cues we learned, it’s not lured. To teach it, you step on the dog’s leash, drawing it ever tighter, the dog’s head lowers to the ground. Most of the dogs settled quickly; no need to be drawn clear to the ground. Not so with Edie! She’s a Lhasa Apso! And she was in a situation most Apsos hate. Do this! Lhasa Apsos prefer to come up with the idea first. I outlasted her. I had to. She finally plunked her rear end down. It took only that lesson for her to understand settle. We didn’t have to repeat that shenanigan again. She may have resisted far longer than the other dogs, but she didn’t need a repeat demonstration on the meaning of settle.
There was only one other thing I could come up. We had moved past the beginning baby steps of teaching the come, uping the ante by requiring the dogs to sit directly in front of the handler. Edie didn’t understand that I wanted her closer and in a sit. I could see her frustration. She was trying, but didn’t understand my communication. One the instructors wanted to show me a slightly different technique, and asked if she could take Edie’s leash. I gave her the leash. Edie wanted nothing to do with the instructor, which she was wise enough to recognize immediately. Rather than press the issue, I backed up a couple of baby steps, letting her succeed. And then we stopped working on that exercise that night. The following morning, at home, she immediately understood what I wanted. Once again, she remembered the lesson.
I remain at a loss of why fellow students voted her most improved. Perhaps Rick is right. Oh well. She brought home two – count ’em – two – toys!