This morning, Czar and I headed out to Obedience at Knox Dog Obedience Club for our last week in the Beginners Class. It was funny to notice how many people and puppies I know to say hello to now. Starting at the off lead park and walking down through the parking area, alongside the areas set up for agility training, and gathering around the club house with people from many different classes. One of the lovely things about travelling out to Knox once or twice a week has been getting to know a whole group of other "crazy" dog people.
The class itself was pretty straightforward - a quick warm up, followed by walking through a heeling pattern that incorporated all of the elements we'd learnt over the last month.
Heel, Left, Heel, Right, Heel, Right About, Heel and Sit.
Repeat, with Left About (my least favourite, but we're getting there!) and Drop (something a lot of dogs weren't thrilled about in the damp grass, but Czar happily got all the way down and wiggled his paws at me). Repeat again, with Stand.
Stand, like all the manoeuvres we've been taught, is dependent on the hand signal prompting a particular behaviour in the dog. Not a learned, complex behaviour, but an instinctive, natural response to a brand new stimuli. For Stand, the handler puts a flat palm in front of the dog's nose to halt the dog and keep it standing still in the heel position. The hand must be in front of the dog's nose. Not above - this causes the dog to sit and look up. Not below - this causes the dog to drop down to the hand (and the treat in the hand!). After a few repeats, the dog learns to associate the command word with the posture and the reward, and the hand gesture can become briefer. In this respect, it is far more important that the handler master the best way to complete the hand signal, than the dog have a perfect response to the signal.
How do we do with Stand? My Stand signal is still getting there - sometimes I drop the leash from one hand, sometimes I don't have the treat ready in the right spot, sometimes my hand signal is chopping down and Czar follows it down in a drop and sometimes Czar tries to high five my hand when it comes close to his nose. However, we managed to show improvement, and the test was not overly stringent.
Once we were all done, we were presented with our ribbons, which was a lovely touch! Then attention turned to the next class - some written information about it, some instructions about the meeting place and time, and then we got to try something new and really exciting - jumps!
The jumps were very small, only an inch or two off the ground. All the little dogs had to jump a bit, but these little white jumps only came up to Czar's ankles at most. We watched the little dogs jump and leap over the jumps... and then Czar walked straight into them, knocking them flying because he was too busy looking at me (and the treat) to pay attention!! Classic!!
No training next weekend, due to the Melbourne Cup public holiday, so we will have to wait a little while to see what Class One brings! (Sadly without Toby and Squish and their respective mums, who've been so great at helping us progress along the way!)