Okay, seriously now? Who stole my little demon puppy and replaced her with a decently behaved canine citizen?
Simi had another class of Grade 2 Obedience last night. Since Grade 1 (a 6 week course) we've been struggling with her stress in this specific training facility. It's an indoor building and the echoes in there are what I've always assumed was her problem. She really hates the place, honestly. Most days, we'd get there and she'd cower in the car, not wanting to come out and then go indoors. I hoped that time would get her over it, but it seemed to get worse and worse.
Last week we had an okay class. She did pretty well and was less stressed than normal. I took that as a huge win. At the end of class, I fed her her whole meal for the night in little 5-10 piece piles all throughout the room. I dropped her leash (when everyone but a few dogs, who were standing with their owners by the door, was gone) and let her follow me around as I placed her food on the floor. The first two or three piles you could see her slinking. She was more scared without me, but I kept going, figuring that since she's still eating, she can't be that stressed. We pushed through and by the last 10 or so piles, Simi was running to keep up to me, while I ran to try to keep ahead of her to drop food. She was visibly more comfortable.
This week when we got there, she was a little leery coming out of the car, but she made the choice to come out on her own and so that was a big step. She'd been coming out on her own before, as well, but it was a much slower process. When we walked around a bit for her pee there was no pulling back towards the car and she seemed slightly more at ease. So we go inside. Instead of pulling to get right back out the door, which she will sometimes do, she walked forward with me across the room to the far end, no hesitations. We started immediately with ... I can't even think of that they're called, but basically when you go from a front position step back on your left food, dog goes back, turns, comes forward into a heel... anyway! We started with those and I kept them very "fast" as fast as I could do them and she did really well. She was really into it. I'd discovered at Agility the night before that the faster we're moving the more focus she had, so I tried to use that at class last night.
She did have some moments where she started to get a little stressy, but she recovered quickly, which I really like a lot. She was crazy when it came to the loose lead walking; we were just very "off", both of us, for that exercise, and she was struggling a little bit with sits along the wall, and was going in front of me a lot, but we've been doing that since a really young age, so I think it was just an off night.
Sim really rocked the eye contact. We've kind of fallen behind in that, not sure why, but we had. A few well timed clicks and lots of patience and I had her caught up to where everyone else was in class, if not slightly ahead. She had some serious progress with her stay, which had been iffy at agility the night before, and she had some huge moments of success with her perch work. I think it was a combination of my finally understanding how I need to teach it and how all of the steps come together, plus my finally letting her start by coming to my right side instead of left. We'll teach left after when she knows what it is she has to do.
I am just starting to feel like things are clicking with Simi. Maybe it's that I was gone Friday-Monday, or maybe it's that she turned 7 months on Sunday, or maybe it's just me noticing her potential for the first time... what ever it is, I like it. :)