It is getting really close to 'show time' for Rugby, and I am getting reallllly nervous! Last week we had four straight days of him working really well for me. He as doing things correctly, and improving with each day. It didn't help much when out of the blue on Sunday, Rugby decided he had forgoten how to heel. More than that, he had forgoten how to work properly! What could possibly have such an effect to make him change so much overnight? Were did the Rugby from last week go?
I was a little upset at his timing, but I gave him a couple days off and we started working again Wednesday with the assumption that he had just gotten bored and tierd of it all. However, his attitude was still lingering on Wednesday as well. Thoughts of him blowing me off in the ring started coming to mind, and it motivated us to make a plan to find Rugby again in the time that we had.
It turns out it was quite easy to find Rugby again, it just took a little reminder of what constitutes 'working.'
Wednesday afternoon, we packed up our cones and hula hoops and went down to the playground. I set them all out approximately 8 feet from each other, so we could heel continuously around them all. There were lots of kids on the playground because of the time in the afternoon we went. For this training session he was wearing an extra piece of equipment...his micro-prong collar. We started off on leash, to give him the best shot as success. The leash tightened only twice, and barely tightened. The first time was out of a wide about-turn and the second was when he lagged on a fast transition. That was all it took to find Rugby again! Ta-Da! He was back, and was heeling normally again. After some more practice we switched to a lightweight string slid through the ring of his collar, to transition him back to off lead heeling. Once he proved himself to me I took the plunge and took that off too.
By this time we had gathered quite a crowd of kids from the playground we were working next too. The mom's were doing a good job at keeping the kids off to the side and watching patiently, lucky for us. We needed to take a break from heeling so I went over to solicit their help. They all raised their hands when I asked if any of them would mind being distractions for us. I created a tunnel similar to our food tunnels, except this time...not with food. I left Rugby on one side, and did a drop on recall through them.
I thanked them all for their help and invited them to meet Rugby. They all wanted to, so Rugby sat (much more polietly than I expected) in the middle of the circle of kids, while they all pet him simultaneously. Rugby would turn occasionally to lick someones hand, but just sat there and enjoyed it for the most part. I decided it was time to start working again so I gave everyone a high-five and dragged Rugby away from the pile of kids. At this point, the boys in the group lost interest and resumed play on the playground. The girls however continued to watch and follow us around while we finished up working.
It was nice to have their parents thank us for including them as we packed up our things to leave. Besides being a positive dog expierence for the kids, at least we know now of a few neighbors that didn't seem to mind us so blatently breaking the leash law (we break that one pretty often - Rugby is always under control when not physically attached to me though).
I am so glad to have found Rugby again. We took his newly found attitude on the road and practiced in the shopping center parking lot, thursday night class, and again today at Fidos for Freedom. I wish we can polish up our finishes before the week is over!