Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Private Lesson & Ziggy diagnosis

I rode and trained horses for 18 years.  One of my favorite riding instructors used to talk about "stuck spots."  Stuck spots are times when what you're doing just isn't working.  Stuck spots are times to try something new - something that will get you to where you want to go.  (Otherwise you're stuck in the "doing the same thing, but expecting a different result" cycle).

I was/am in a stuck spot with Ziggy, and had been for a while now.  He was a great, attentive, quick-to learn puppy, but when I started to put some "pressure" on him to perform,  the problems began.  I recognize that I am in a stuck spot, but unfortunately I didn't have the training tools in my toolbox to get me out.  That's what I was hoping my private with Celeste Meade would help with, and it did.

The lesson started with me doing a bit of work with Ziggy.  "Pretend that you've just rented the ring to work your dog.  And try to pretend that I'm not here" were the instructions I was given.  Of course I was nervous, and not so good at the "pretend I'm not here" part.  After a few minutes of me working with Ziggy, Celeste stopped me to discuss what she just saw. 

The highlights of what she saw:  
* Ziggy has no attention at all, and only pays attention when I'm moving.
* After I am done giving Ziggy his treat,  and when I'm praising him, he puts his head down, and looks away as if I'm not there.
* Ziggy ignores me when I call his name.
* These things are my fault as a dog trainer.

Basically, Ziggy and I have a good social relationship, but no working relationship.  

That was really hard for me to hear, and not because it's not true.  All of this is true, and I absolutely take ownership of getting us here (I am the trainer in this situation, and I can't blame the dog for being who he is).  It made me feel emotional because I've been frustrated for months and just didn't know what to do.  I have a strong working relationship with Maggie & Denzil, so I know what "good" is - and I knew Z & I weren't in synch.

The great thing is that the lesson provided me with some things I can do, and games I can play,  to help Ziggy become more attentive and care more about my touch and praise in a "work" setting.  No more flipping me the paw and ignoring the person who loves him, houses him, feeds him, and takes care of his other needs.

I've rambled on for a while already, so I'll post some of the things I'm working on tomorrow.


  1. Wow--it sounds like you had a great lesson and got a lot out of it. It sounds like you got some real insight into your issues with Ziggy and some helpful ideas for working on them.

    Isn't it interesting how each of our dogs have such different personalities and relationships with us despite being raised and living in the same home? I guess it's just like human siblings--sometimes they are very similar to each other and sometimes they are drastically different from one another...

  2. It was a great lesson. It made me want to move to New Hampshire to train w/ her. Unfortunately I couldn't talk the husband in to that one. Something about needing jobs and wanting to move West instead of East. Logic. Sigh.


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