Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Irwin: Sitting Tall

SSD Irwin has been working on his “sit.” His down-stay had become so automatic that he stopped sitting on cue every time. To fix this, Donna started cuing him to sit every chance she got. He caught on quickly, and loves to turn it into a game whenever they’re training! Donna would put Irwin into a down-stay on the deck and then hide. Then she’d call Irwin to “come,” and he comes bounding over with enthusiasm to find her. If he sits on cue, he gets a jackpot of treats. Look at how tall he sits, like he’s trying to stretch up as high as possible.

In addition to working on the hand signal and verbal cue for sit, Donna has added some additional challenges for Irwin. When giving the verbal cue, sometimes she’ll say it in a normal voice, sometimes in a whisper, and sometimes she’ll just mouth the word “sit.” This is great practice because you never know how you’re going to be able to deliver a cue in a real world situation.

Irwin loves chewing on sticks, and since his puppy raisers have an orchard, he’s in stick-chewing heaven! However, he isn’t always allowed to play with sticks, so Donna has been using them for “leave it” practice. After they pruned some of the trees, she brought some branches back to the house, and she and Irwin walked around and through the sticks and branches, using the “leave it” cue. He’s gotten really good at it! He can now walk through the orchard without dragging branches and sticks to chew and play with. He can also walk through Donna’s flower beds without biting at the plants and flowers or picking up sticks, pine cones, or pebbles.

Irwin has been supervising Donna when she works in her flower beds and vegetable garden. He goes with her and Donna asks him to sit-stay for a good five minutes before she cues a down-stay. She started having him sit for an extended time so that “down” doesn’t become his default position, regardless of the cue he actually received. Sometimes Irwin gets to play with a toy or a bone and other times he just hangs out in an extended down-stay. Donna keeps him fairly close to her in case she needs to cue him to “leave it.” As a power treat reward, Irwin has been getting sweet potato skins and banana chips, which he loves to crunch. 

In May, Irwin started swimming! Donna and Jim have a pond, and Irwin used to be very hesitant about swimming, even though he saw Judge paddling around. Then one day at the end of May, he went it, and before he knew it, he was doing a high stepping doggie paddle! He stretches his head up as high as he can and his legs look like he’s marching. Now that he enjoys swimming, it has become his reward at the end of the day when they get back from the orchard. With practice, he learned how to doggie paddle more efficiently, and he no longer high steps in the water. 

However, now that the pond is a big reward for him, Donna has also been using it for “leave it” practice. They’ve been working on Irwin’s behaviors while he’s off leash. She and Irwin have been walking the perimeter of the pond with Irwin off leash. He’ll stay right next to her and ignore the pond, as long as she clicks and treats. He also knows where there’s a dead toad in the driveway that had gotten run over, and he can walk by it without going toward it to sniff or pick it up. He also discovered a dead dove by the fence one day while they were playing ball. When he spotted it, he jumped back and then sniffed at it. When Donna said “leave it,” he chose to pick up the ball and return rather than go after the bird.

When he’s off leash, he has also learned that he doesn’t always get to go in the ATV. Irwin watches Jim leave in the morning, and then looks at Donna, who cues him to stay. Irwin looks back at Jim driving up the road to the orchard, but he chooses to stay rather than run after the ATV.

Although Irwin is growing up and learning lots of new skills and behaviors, he can still get into mischief. He chewed the stuffing out of a second pillow bed! After cleaning up the mess, Donna put him in his crate. After a little while, she let him out, but told him to stay in the mudroom rather than joining her and Jim while they had coffee. Irwin stayed in the mudroom, even though his usual routine is to join them. By their second cup of coffee, however, they invited him to join them, and Irwin got his usual belly rub.

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