Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Presto! came home on Wednesday, the day he turned eight weeks old.  His training began the next day, at eight weeks and one day.  I would have preferred to start working with him at seven weeks, but the intransigent curmudgeons at  the FAA wouldn't allow the little guy on an airplane until he was eight weeks old.

Job One was FOCUS.  On ME.   And the time to start was now.

I sat on the kitchen floor, my back against the cabinets below the counter.  Legs apart in a V.  I held a treat (Pet Botanics from PetSmart, cut in tiny quarter-inch cubes) between my lips.  "Presto!, come!" Both hands in his collar, I guided him up the front of me so he could get the treat from between my lips.

Presto! thought that was swell.  He was doing exactly as I wanted, coming in, head up, looking me in the face.  Until the third time.  That was when he realized there was a treasure trove of those same goodies in my upper left shirt pocket.  So he fought to get there instead of my mouth.

Lesson learned . . . by me.  Henceforth when we practice that or anything like that, the treats will be above us, on the kitchen counter.  And I'll put them into service one at a time.

There was, however, a plus -- a big plus -- to that little incident.  When I begin to teach heeling I want the dog's focus to be on my upper left (on my armband in the later stages), and I want the treats to always come out of that top left pocket.  Not out of a fanny pack positioned God knows where.  I strongly emphasize this -- to the extent that I have female students who are driving up Old Navy stock because Old Navy has womens shirts with two breast pockets.


On that first day of training we also began restrained puppy recalls.  My wife Barbara knelt behind Presto!, restraining him with her hands clasped around his chest -- not holding him by his collar.  At the other endof the yard (or on 113-degree days at the other end of a carpeted hallway) I called, "Presto! COME!"  The puppy had to leap over Barbara's clasped hands to get going.  Not every puppy will leap out of there, but if they will it's a nice way to begin to build drive.

Presto! exploded out of the restraint and came charging to me and the treat I held in both hands.  And right there I caught a glimpse of the wonderful raw material I have to work with.


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