Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ziggy is a chicken

Ziggy enjoying a sunny weekend outing

As you know from my blog posts, I've been working to build Ziggy's attention and enthusiasm for obedience and agility.  He has been my most challenging training partner by far, as his favorite activity is sofa-warming. 

The other day I had an "ah-ha" moment.  I think most of Ziggy's problem is that he lacks confidence - particularly in unfamiliar locations and/or situations.  Z has a very expressive face, and I've noticed he gets this "oh no!!" look on face more often than I'd like.  In familiar places (the 2 club buildings we go to regularly, at home, etc.) that expression rarely appears.  In new situations the worried expression is there, and it doesn't go away quickly (or sometimes at all).  He also doesn't "bounce back" very quickly if something is a little off.

An example:  A few of weeks ago we were training and I accidentally hit Z in the head with a fleece tug toy.  This was not an injury, mind you - it was a fleece toy not moving quickly.  Now he refuses to play with toys at all. My months of toy training seem to be down the drain - sigh.  Toys are the opposite of a motivator now.

For about a week he was also afraid of my hand coming at him quickly (I just want to pet you...), and the loop end of the leash when we were on walks.  Really, anything approaching quickly from above.  We seem to have worked our way through the worst of this, but toy phobia remains.

The boy needs more confidence.  So what am I trying?

Continued socialization.  I've been taking him more places with me, and really decreasing what's asked of him when he's there.  Only very familiar and fun exercises (down, turning circles, nose touches, etc.).  He also gets lots of clicks and treats.  

Agility.  I'm also working him mainly in agility.  I'm hoping that agility trials will help build his confidence in new situations without the stress of more formal obedience.

On leash obedience.  We'll continue to practice obedience, but only on leash - where he seems to feel more comfortable.

Any other ideas??


  1. Is Ziggy shy of people he doesn't know? I've found that Wilson suffers in proportion to the number of strangers he has to deal with. So a crowded and bustling agility trial (especially indoors where the noise was amplified) was very stressing for him. I usually had better success if I crated out of my car (weather permitting) and limited his exposure, then he was a bit more upbeat. And of course the absolute highest value treats so he thought more about food than all the people. He's actually a fairly confident dog about new places, more so than Jimmy really. The big difference is Jimmy LOVES people, and LOVES agility, so that trumps any lack of confidence.

  2. Thanks, Taryn You make an interesting point about the people. Ziggy really likes new people, and seems to feel a bit more comfortable after he gets a bit of attention. Maybe I'll try the "please pet my dog" technique next time we're out and about.


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