Tuesday, September 29, 2009

That Weird Dog Lady...

...will most likely become my moniker about town as I attempt to make Elli bomb-proof on the table. Handling classes aren't really effective anymore, because she's gotten completely comfortable with the dogs there and with the instructor examining her on the table. Which is good in that it shows me that she CAN get comfortable with it, but I'm reaching the point of diminishing returns with going to the same class all the time.

And it's not like Elli is shy of people or strangers, at all! She will run out to the end of her leash to kiss up to absolutely anyone -- jump up on them, lick their hands, try to lick their faces, flop on her belly for scritchings, talk up a storm... she is NOT the more properly-temperamented, reserved type. (Which is more than a little embarrassing when I've just told said unsuspecting stranger that I do competitive obedience with my dogs. I'm sure they are terribly impressed.)

Ian, my properly reserved boy, has tried to explain to her that strangers may in fact be ax murderers. He has shown her by example time and again that, if offered goodies from a stranger's hands, she should take it to be polite and then surreptitiously deposit it on the ground, because god only knows where it came from. But no, Little Miss Love Me! continues her coquettish ways, oblivious to any possible danger from People She Doesn't Know.

When she's on the ground.

On the table, though, she's much more skittish. I don't know if it's the height issue, or if she feels like the table isn't secure underfoot, or if she just objects to people grabbing her face to look at her bite. She's slow to stand up straight, assuming a semi-crouch when I first put her on the table until I can coax her up and forward with some bait. I can't get her feet placed properly until she relaxes a bit and, unfortunately, you don't get that kind of time in the ring. If approached before I can get squared away, she's very difficult to see the bite on, and we won't even talk about what the scrunching does to her topline. (Can we say "camel?")

Sooooooooo, I think I'll be loading my grooming table into the car and setting out to lure unsuspecting strangers in public places into petting my dog on the table and feeding her string cheese. First we'll practice gaiting with distractions and speeding up the stacking process, then add in strangers: first just feeding her, then touching down her back, then looking at the bite as she becomes more comfortable. I will no doubt be labelled as strange, but I think that's a perfectly acceptable trade-off for a bomb-proof table dog.

8 more weeks till Springfield. 8 more weeks till Springfield...


  1. One of the places that I take Chase is the Octopus car wash -- there is earsplitting noise (sort of like an indoor arena), and lots of people milling around. I don't know that I could get a table set up, but do let him sit in one of the molded chairs next to me and have people greet him and give him treats. Once he can focus in a place like that, everywhere else is a piece of cake.

  2. If you watch the handlers, they are dealing with the same thing. They're just better at not letting the dog crouch.

    When you pick her up, if you have one arm around her middle and one hand under her chest, you can put her down front-feet first in a pretty good approximation of where her front feet should be and and your arm will still be around her middle. The leading hand moves to her collar. The trailing hand can support her belly and then move back to kind of sweep her back feet out, then you quickly pull that hand over to your body and support her belly and even adjust the back legs from your side. Meanwhile the leading hand is under the chin with a finger through the collar or, as the puppy can handle it, is holding the collar from the top.

    If you watch the handlers, they don't bait puppies on the table until the puppies are good at standing still. They get them up and standing and have hands very much all over them keeping them from moving. Once the basic skills are down, then they can abbreviate the stacking and holding process and bait.

    Now if you have a magical potion to make my puppy's ear hair stop growing, maybe we can join you at a show eventually :).

  3. Sky is too reserved, I'm working with her but am wondering when we will have our little break through. As for the table what seems to work for her is after I have someone go over her(only when we are practicing) when I take her off the table, I act like a complete goof, jump around clap, grab her favorite toy. She is much better since I started this, she is still reluctant to get on the table but once she is up there she is much, much better.

  4. I did 2 things with mine, first I taught them to want to go on the table. Leaaving the table folded, on the floor and the dog getting rewarded for going on it and standing,first as solid as possible. Without being lifted. then I introduce some wobble to the board, stand and get cookies. Like in agility training with a wobble board. Once we are good with just being on the table, we go to a local, busy park with the table and just stand and get really wonderful high value coookies from strangers. (If you are using meat or cheese, bring wet wipes for the people). The combination of the 2 things worked with my crew, and with a couple of dogs I rehabbed that had issues. Good luck and good training!