By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on Lucy. In fact, I still have to go back and fill you in on all of the juicy details from last summer. In the meantime, I have her this week to work on a few issues that have been cropping up. Like training her that even though her owners (my dad) reward her for climbing in their lap, it’s really more fun for her to greet people by remaining seated or lying down. And that instead of barking at the random person walking by the car, if she’s quiet she may get a reward. For me those are the number one and two issues, especially since her barking could blossom into an issue of aggression related to fear. Even though 99.99% of the time she’s happy, relaxed, and extremely well-behaved (when her owners give her the appropriate cues), she has already barked on full alert and simultaneously circled one person at the dog park—a behavior that screams trouble brewing down the road if it isn’t addressed.
Of course, to my dad, these issues don’t even exist. When I mention them, in his mind, he’s got it handled. “I’m already training her,” he exclaims. “I yell at her when she does that.”
Hmm. Could that be why she’s getting worse? Of course if a problem does develop down the road “out of the blue,” he’ll just give her to me to “fix.”
Back to the main point of this. I have her this week and my dad wants me to work with her but not on these most pressing issues. He wants me to train her to jump through a human hoop, meaning one formed from human arms. That was his last cattle dog’s trick. Since he’ll only be happy if I return her with this trick, I grudgingly take a couple of sessions out of her regular training to work on this. Oh yeah, did I mention that if I weren’t training Lucy, I would instead be working on the two psychopharmacology lectures that I will be presenting in a little over a week?
Today, we worked on jumping through a hoop. Months ago I had spent two short sessions training her to jump through a low hoop. But for my dad, Lucy sometimes acts afraid of the hoop. With this in mind I started over.
Starting with a large hoop close to the ground, Lucy quickly learned she doesn’t have to be afraid. Jumping through the hoop is fun. It means she gets to chase her ball or to eat a yummy treat. Lucky for me I have a cute, portable agility hoop jump from Petsafe so I don’t have to hold the hoop while I train her at this stage. I could have enlisted someone else to hold the hoop though if needed.
Then I release her collar and she makes a beeline straight through the hoop to get to the Treat and Train.
Once on the other side she claims her yummy prize. Right now it’s just kibble which she’s used to working for. Sometimes I put treats in the Treat and Train too.
By session two, which occurs 10 minutes after the first session, she’s jumping through the hoop without prompting every time I head towards the hoop because she thinks it’s fun. Next I start transitioning her to jumping through my arms.
She’s doing so well, now I test her with a hoop of just my arms. Oops! It doesn’t look enough like the hoop plus foam noodle. I may need to use something narrower than a foam noodle as an extension of my arms.
I’ll find out tomorrow when we have our next session. All in all, Lucy’s really easy to train. She’s happy to do anything that involves play, food, and attention from people as long as she knows what we want.