For some reason, the weather got warm over the weekend. Well, Saturday. I spent most of the day re-organizing and cleaning out a storage area, and part of cleaning that area out meant putting some scrap wood to use. King Man loves it back there because he sees squirrels every day running around there. They’re usually at least at the fence line or higher, so he has yet to actually taste one of them, but that doesn’t diminish his love of keeping look-out. Since I figured the weather would eventually stay warmer (it was back in the 40s by Sunday) it would be nice to have something that he could sit on off of the ground and even get a little shade at the same time. Hence, this hut/shack/lean-to. It’s a still work in progress- I don’t know whether I will enclose any of it, how I want to treat the roof, etc., and he’s not sitting out there much when the weather is bad anyway, so this project was just as much a way to get rid of some wood that was taking up valuable inner-city storage space.
Sunday was another training day. While it was back to sweatshirt weather, I think I got a combination of wind/sunburn (it doesn’t take much on the latter). Anyway, we did a full mock obedience routine much as you would see for the Protection Dog Certificate (PDC) level of PSA, and we added a decoy onto the field as there would be in the next level of competition (PSA 1). In total, there were 3 other people on the field as we worked our heeling pattern, plus a vocal distraction, plus a physical distraction of some car keys thrown on the ground near him. Somehow, King Man nailed it, and really the biggest issue was done by me when I didn’t put my leash away for our off-leash heeling pattern. With that in mind, our competition schedule may be accelerated some for this year. Here’s a quick clip (this took place further away from the camera than planned since all our snow is melting and parts of our training field are now mud pits):
For bitework, we practiced what’s called “defense of handler,” where the decoy came around from the side of the vehicle instead of being visible the entire time. One of the times we practiced it, the decoy also did more motion toward the dog instead of away from the dog. What this does is start to engage the dog’s civil drive as opposed to its prey drive. Prey drive is pretty straightforward- animals chase their prey (see: dog + squirrel). Dogs with high prey drives can sometimes get more satisfaction out of the chase itself than actually catching the item, be it a tennis ball, a squirrel, etc. Not every dog has a suitable civil drive to engage something coming toward them, and it is something that must be carefully and properly developed; hence, the value of working with a good decoy. The first time around, King Man was barking and wasn’t backing away, but I don’t think he realized I’d dropped the leash and he was free to go. Either way, he got it the next time around, and we did a couple more similar repetitions and then he was done.
All in all, a productive, sunny afternoon that now has me looking at when our first competition trial may actually take place…