November and Planning December

November review

TEAM 1 course at Fenzi academy. This lasted until mid-month, and I am very pleased with both the individualised feedback, and our progress. Fenris finally seemed to ‘get’ the scent discrimination, and now we need to generalise the exercise, smooth out the kinks, etc, etc. Like putting it in the middle of other stuff. We got some great feedback on the run-through as well, and Fenris did perfectly several of the exercises. Some we need to work on his waiting and anticipating (like the cue to go around the cone is me saying “Wrap!”, and not Fenris thinking ‘I see a cone over there, let me offer my hoomin a wrap-around!’), some we need to work on my posture and clean cues (hands by my side between cues, for example, instead of in front of his snoot to hold him in wait-position…)

Cooperative Care. Fenris has started medication, but I feel we need to dig deeper into this. We have already worked a fair bit on things like chin rests and start-buttons to increase a sense of agency and control (and thus a more positive mindset about the whole thing), but …

December plan

… I have put us down for a new course at Fenzi 6 weeks starting December 1. that addresses all sorts of grooming and veterinary procedures. He tends to have what I call ‘gerbils’ on his butt – tufts of matted trouser fur, that just get bigger and that he finds really unpleasant to have brushed or trimmed. (And so they just grow even bigger…) The course also covers things like stethoscopes, ear- and eye-care, prepping for eye-drops, blood draws, etc, etc. I picked Gold level again – bronze just doesn’t get me going the same way, and silver is (for the most part) a beefed up bronze. In the TEAM course, I didn’t see any silvers post videos at all! So we go for gold – a solid sum, but the private teacher is right up my alley.

Our first homework, to be done before even the course starts, is to do a full body scan – muzzle to paws to tail – to evaluate his feelings on being touched in various places.

On a scale of 1 (yes!) to 5 (no!), most of his front quarters and back are 2-3, and the hind end is a 4.

I have ordered kennel space for Fenris over Christmas – but time (and pandemic restrictions) will show if we end up needing it at all. Maybe his third Christmas will be spent at home! Tree! Tinsel! Gifts! Food! Or maybe he’ll have some quiet time with doggy friends at the kennel instead.

And speaking of medication

We were told he’d get braver before he got better. In some ways, I think the bravery is the better part – although that carries its own issues. At least that’s easier to work with. Such as tractors and eagles being ‘NEW ADVENTURE!!!’ rather than ‘growl – scary!’. He still wants to go get’em, but with a more happy mindset, he’s more likely to respond to training better behaviours. There are other things that are still growl-scary though; he hasn’t lost everything. Such as light/shadow at night, including the moon(!!), or the neighbour being out in her yard cleaning up.

In the group training I experience much the same thing. He’d love to go meet the other dogs, but since some of them are suspiscious, they can end up staring uncomfortably at each other instead. So we are working on reorienting back to me. He IS more relaxed though – the last session we finalised with all five teams in a (corona-appropriately sized) circle, and Fenris was perfectly fine with lying down on his hip, and nose on the ground. I would not have asked it of him if he was scared – being prone doesn’t make a dog less worried! – but when I suggested ‘rest-time?’, he calmly obliged. And got immense amounts of kibble-and-sausage.

I didn’t lure, coax or demand it; he made a choice, and got rewarded for it. He jumped up when the teacher passed us – but that’s just because she’s another of his FAVOURITE THINGS! So I asked him if he remembered what he was doing, and he lay down and worked on his calm again… The next time she walked by, he held his position.

One thing we DO have to work on though, is car-feelings. He looked like a kid dragged from the playground when I requested hup-it-up into the car. The first time (mid-lesson), when I thought he needed to rest his brain a little, I ended up giving up, and walked around the car, before getting back to work. At the end of the lesson, when he’d eaten all the cookies, I just had to wait for him to jump in. Thankfully it didn’t take more than a few minutes of patience, but we still have a project here.

We missed the first December meeting – two errands at the same time, both requiring winter tyres, but since only the big car had been fixed up for winter, something had to give. And that was us.

Recallers – we do a game every couple of days or so, and there are definitely layers there that improve other things. Such as the motivational hand targets that translate to solid engagement for the first TEAM 1 exercise. His recall IS getting very good. Even if we don’t always get a head whip turn, and he’d rather run an honor lap barking at a high level distraction first (eagle, heron, etc) – he does come back. And there is little that is more reinforcing for ME than the happy smile and white chest fluff galloping in my direction.

Like when we’ve had our morning off-leash play and I ask if it’s time to go home now – and he trots right over to me for the leash and some treats.

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