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Sticking To It

The great thing and the hard thing is to stick to things when you have outlived the first interest, and not yet got the second, which comes with a sort of mastery. 
— Janet Erskine Stuart

Did I ever mention how impatient I am? I start out things with great enthusiasm, but my excitement wanes when I don’t progress as quickly as I think I should or worse yet, I make huge progress but then everything comes to a big halt. Or even worse than that, I backslide and can’t seem to do even the simplest things right anymore. Add to the mix, working with a dog or horse who has their own agenda going on and their own good and bad days and you have an “I give up!” proclamation just waiting to happen.

But I’m learning along with Java to break training down into all its smallest elements and take it one piece at a time. And I’m learning to not just settle for “Well, Java kind of did what I wanted.” It’s really important to wait to get exactly what I asked for and not reward for “sort of”.

Yesterday, Java and I went to the cemetery that neighbors my house to work on Line Out, Hike, and On By commands for skijoring.

I had the skijoring line attached to Java’s halter and a leash attached to her collar to turn her left and right when I needed to and to straighten her out when she veered off course.

We started out with the skijor line and leash pretty short so I could walk alongside Java for better control.  The main point right now is to get her to pull the line tight when I tell her “Line Out” and for her to start walking forward when I say “Hike”.

The challenge for me is to keep a steady pressure on the line and not let it go slack while we’re walking, but also for me not to pull up the slack. Java needs to notice the slack herself and do what she needs to do to tighten the line again. My arm actually got sore from this balancing act.

When Java was doing well, I moved farther back behind her. If she needed help, I moved to her side again.

A couple things I learned in Saturday’s skijoring clinic:

  • To not use Java’s name when I give a command because she tends to turn and look at me when she hears her name.
  • That “Hike” does not mean run. It only means move forward and it’s best to do the training at a walk so the dog can better process what they are learning. If they run, they become excited, are focused on running, and are not learning anything. And to not praise Hike until Java is fully in motion. I was praising her as I saw her lean forward to take a step rather than when she actually was moving, and sometimes my bad timing was enough to make Java hesitate and stop.
  • To hold off on using the Gee and Haw (right and left turn) commands and the even more sophisticated Gee Over and Haw Over (move over to the right or left to let someone pass) and  Come Gee and Come Haw commands to do a complete turn around to the right or left. That was too much for Java’s brain right now. Still, on leashed walks with Java, I’m using the words and pointing in the direction I want to go to get the connection going.

I’m sure there were other things I was told, but like Java, my little brain can only handle so much.

This evening, I spent 30 minutes working with Java on heeling off leash, doing turns in both directions, sitting when coming to a stop, passing by dog treats on the floor without snatching them, and doing down stay while I jumped up and down and danced around her waving my arms and then ran up and down the hallway. Such a good girl.

The walking by treats was pretty amusing. The first time, Java grabbed the treat on the floor and I stopped and told her “No!” After that, she walked by the next treat without looking at it. When we reached the treat in my narrow hallway where it was hard to even step around the temptation, Java moved behind me just to make sure she gave the treat a wide berth, then stepped back up to heel position.

Now if we can just transfer Java’s amazing feats of obedience to occur when she is around other dogs and distractions. Patience…

It has been snowing all day today but the stuff is so fine, it’s not amounting to much. Just enough to require bringing out the snowblower tomorrow morning before work. Nothing like going to work with hat hair.

(snow captured in dark – no flash)

(interesting view of horizontal tree branch, at least I thought so)

(snow captured in dark – with flash)

Java doesn’t seem to mind the weather but I’ve heard rumblings of discontent from others.

A touch of Spring anyone?

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9 Comments

  1. Wow – fabulous photos of the snow in the dark! Amazing.

    Is skijoring something to do with pulling a sled? Sounds like great stimulation for dogs…

  2. Good for you and Java. I agree, those photos of the snow were fab! And the one of Java was great too. You have been doing some nice work with that camera of yours.

  3. Java is one smart dog! I don’t think I could ever get one of my dogs to walk by a treat laying on the ground, but then again I have never tried it!
    Love the snow pictures, and I sure hope Spring is around the corner! I really could use it around here!

  4. Yeah ~ I am dancing around and waving MY arms too ~ for you and Java and the treats still on the floor! I mean really, I could not be trained to walk by a treat that was open and waiting to be eaten:-) Those night photos of snow are so beautiful Maery! Of course, the rest of the patience quote as my mother would repeat often in my childhood is…”tis seldom found in women and never found in men.” It is not a virtue of mine, but maybe if I am patient I can learn to acquire it:-)

  5. I, too, love the no flash snow pic. Java’s ability to compensate her route to avoid temptation is amazing. O that I could have such self-control! Also, thank you so much for the touch of Spring. I am enjoying your blog so much.

  6. Your photos are beautiful. The branch is very nice! I just finished a painting with a branch that looks similar. Java is such a sweet and smart dog.

  7. It’s kind of funny to me that in this instance you WANT Java to pull and keep the line tight … where 99% of the rest of the world is trying to get dogs NOT to pull. :o)

    We have -16 degrees here today with snow, etc. I don’t know how you up-north girls do it. This is really, really cold.

  8. You have a wonderful friend in that sweet Java!!! What amazin’ night photos girl…just professional quality.

    Were ice and snow packed here in the frigid Ozarks. -10 tonight with wicked winds…UCK!!!

    God bless and have a warm fuzzy kinda day sweetie!!!!

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