Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eight Months

It's official - Ellie is eight months old today. In one respect, it seems like she's been with us for an age, and yet, in another respect, the time seems to have flown by.

Since the last monthly update, and as Ellie has still not chewed a single thing that doesn't belong to her, we have been leaving the bedroom door open through the night, so that Ellie can have the run of the house if she wants to. The fact is that she just doesn't want to leave the comfort of our bed anyway. Although, saying that, last night, she was determined that she would sleep under the bed. Suffice is to say that she hasn't abused the trust we've placed her in, yet. I just don't believe that she ever will, but we'll see.

She is now eating two meals a day, as opposed to earning her dinners as she had been previously. The reasons are simple enough: for starters, as we demand more and more complex behaviours from her, kibble becomes less and less of a valuable currency in return for those demands, secondly, because she's a naturally very lean dog, it won't harm her at all to earn extra food in addition to her regular meals, and thirdly, she will do many behaviours now for play, as opposed to food.

We've been experimenting with treats a little lately. Liver is cheap, but she's not prepared to work that hard for it. Chicken is a happy-medium. She's eager enough, but it's obviously not at cheap as liver. Now, lamb..... She'll work all day for a bit of lamb, though that is obviously too expensive to use as a regular treat meat.

In terms of training, my main focus at the moment is building her focus and enthusiasm during training sessions. I think she's naturally improving in this area anyway, through daily training sessions, but I'm also doing more to keep her attention as we train too. As yesterday's video shows, she's more than happy to work and focus, as long as you keep it interesting and keep it varied.

The three main new behaviours that she has learned this month are:

Retrieve and present the remote control on command.
Figure-eight around legs.
Jump over raised legs.

We've also just started to introduce her to walking on her back two legs, now that she seems to be more aware of her rear-end, and has improved balance. She can currently hold the position for about five seconds, though her legs obviously tire quite quickly, so she can't do it many times at the moment.

She's still attending formal training classes, pursuing the KCGC Gold award. (See previous posts for reasons as to why she's in the "Gold" class at such an early age, and without passing Bronze or Silver.)

There are still absolutely no problems to report. She doesn't chew, she doesn't pee where she shouldn't, she doesn't run off, she doesn't nuisance bark, she's always ready to work and play, doesn't run around the house like an idiot, and doesn't bite us. People keep telling us that she'll turn and our time will come. I keep looking at them doubtfully.

She is still an extremely loving dog who thrives on being close to us, and yes, she's still a bit of a wuss, though, I must say that I think even that is improving, albeit ever so slightly. I think it fair to say that she's never going to be the most courageous dog around.

I want to test her for Sue Ailsby's Level Three routine in a couple of weeks, to see where we need to focus. I think she will fail on the stand, and I'm really struggling to teach this reliably. I don't find the Sue Ailsby method of teaching it very easy to follow. Most other methods I see aren't concerned about whether the dog walks forward slightly or not as they stand. For the Sue Ailsby levels, it is important that they don't walk forward. It's not a walk, it's a stand. Maybe I need to make more of a concerted effort in this area. I'm 99% sure that once we crack the stand, she will be able to pass level three without any problem.

Both Jan and I are regularly stopped by observers who just want to tell us how impressed they are with Ellie, and with how we work her each and every day, rain or shine. I can't speak for Jan of course, but I think it's a nice thing to have happen from time to time. Though, it's equally important to remember that these people are not competitive judges, and so, just because they are impressed, it should not mean that we can get lazy.

Overall, a really good month, and one where Ellie seems to be a little more comfortable with herself, has increased energy, and a little more balance and rear-end awareness.

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