Rear end work

Today we had dog training class. We are in rally/obedience II. The best thing Felix did today was rear end work, but I’ll get to that eventually…

I decided to work Felix in his new (to him) galaxy service dog harness to get him more used to it. So part of the beginning of class involved him doing a lot of shaking off and settling in to wearing a different style of gear.

We started out class working on turning. We worked on left and right turns, and on about turns (where you turn around 180 degrees to the right). Felix did OK with these, but not great. He’s still a bit shy about working next to the wheelchair when I’m turning. Then we worked on bigger turns—270 and 360 degrees. He didn’t do so hot at these because he wasn’t doing so hot with turning. I noticed he was weaker with his left turns (when the wheelchair turns into him) than his right turns. So during the break we had, I worked a lot on left turns with him. He got much better with just a little work. I knew when to stop drilling left turns with him when he started taking treats more roughly. So we went back and sat at our place.

While we were waiting our turns for things, I incorporated some of the advice Katie gave me about training Felix to do a relaxed down stay on his mat. She suggested two things—one was dropping the treat instead of handing it to Felix, and the second was doing it on a fairly regular basis. In other words, not forgetting about him until he gets bored and gets up, then doing a lot of treats, then forgetting about him again etc. So I worked hard to drop a treat on the mat about every 20–30 seconds when we were just hanging out. This worked really well and I got a lot more of a relaxed down from him than I have before. He was also staying on his mat in a down about 95% of the time that we were sitting in our spot and not doing anything, which is a big improvement from about 60–70% before. Thanks, Katie!

After our break, we got out our bowls to work on pivoting or rear end work. What is rear end work? It is basically your dog being able to keep their front feet in the same place on the ground while they move their back end around. It works great for things like getting your dog into heel position, it helps a lot with turning, and it’s great for positioning in tight spaces.

When we were introducing pivots a couple weeks ago, I could not get Felix to put his feet on the bowl I had. The bowl was just too small. So I ordered a bigger bowl, but that bowl was too big. I finally was able to find the right size bowl, but it didn’t arrive until this past weekend when I was at a retreat and couldn’t train. So the first time I was actually able to work with him and the bowl was yesterday! Yesterday I was able to get him to put his feet up on the bowl and that was about it.

So today I got the bowl out and he put his feet on it right away. The next step for rear end work is to take a step sideways to the right so that in order for him to stay in front of you, he has to move his back feet to the left. I started clicking for any slight movement of his back feet, and he picked up on it very quickly! Pretty soon he was happily swinging his butt around to the left! I asked the assistant instructor to take a video of him doing it so you can see how pretty it looks. I also got a picture of him with his front feet on the bowl.

After pivots, we worked on stand. This was a command I was never able to get Hestia to do because she was just so excited about the prospect of a treat that she’d immediately start spinning and jumping and all kinds of things. But Felix did it super easily! I had him in a sit and then held a treat out in front of him so he’d have to stand up to get it. He did it perfectly! So that will be an easy command to train.

We ran over class by 15 minutes, but Felix was ready to go for longer! I, however, was not because I ran out of treats entirely!!! It is really rare for me to run out of treats altogether, but I think I went through more treats than usual because I was really working on his down stay on the mat. It was worth the investment.

Next week is our last class, and I’ll really miss it when it’s over! The next rally class is taught by a different instructor, so I will miss Liz 🙁 But I might take nose work or agility next instead of more rally. We will see!

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