February 9, 2012

field notes, ii-ix-xii

I took Aries out first this evening. He's pretty good on the leash most of the time, but sometimes he stops to sniff and it's hard to keep him moving. I brought some treats along, but he seemed to lose interest after the first few. I thought to myself, "What? Aries uninterested in food?" That was odd. He is food-possessive at home. But as I watched him ignore a treat I was waving under his nose, I realized that just being out and about is, for him, a greater reward.

I followed that train of thought back to Ondine. She never tires of treats, but I wondered whether they weren't really motivating or rewarding to her after all, or whether she's just greedy, and I wondered if I ought to try another kind of reward.

Lately Bren and Ondine have been playing with the squeaker from a gutted squeaky toy; Ondine gets excited and squirrely when Bren hides the squeaker in her hand and squeaks it quickly. When I took Ondine out this evening, I grabbed the squeaker. I kept it in my pocket for a while and then surprised her with it along the trail.

Sacre bleu, she likes that toy. A few times I kept it in my pocket and squeaked it only once, just to break her concentration from mild distractions, including a couple passing dogs. She responded to the single squeaks with a swivel-snap of her head, and then continued to check in often. We tried the rapid-squeak thing a few times when cars were passing, but the results were hit and miss. Seems like if I can get her to stop and play before she gets locked into her target, it's OK. We'll have to keep working on the timing.

Apart from all the observation and analysis and problem-solving, something light was dancing around in my head for a good part of the walk. Some of our stop-and-play sessions are as fun as fun gets down here on this planet, you know, kids and their dogs. Part of me is still nine years old and Ondine is a beautiful goofball.


  1. The last sentence is my favorite.

    Also you should just quit your job and be a dog trainer/whisperer. Cuz you're good at it.

  2. Bren's better - she brooks no backtalk. I'm more of a dog mumbler.