Monday, December 01, 2003

The Dumbbell Chronicles - Part 1
Hobby Advanced class at Briarwood Dog Training has started working with doggy dumbbells.

This is supposed to be a fun thing for the dogs. Some of the dogs who have learned how to do it in previous rotations of the class do appear to enjoy it.

The desired sequence of events goes like this:

  • Dog sits on left side of owner about six feet in front of a hurdle.
  • Owner tosses dumbbell over the hurdle and says "Take it."
  • Dog enthusiastically jumps over the hurdle and takes the dumbbell in his/her mouth.
  • Dog jumps hurdle with dumbbell in mouth to return to owner.
  • Dog sits in front of owner and gives his/her owner the dumbbell.

Sunny has been through a dumbbell rotation before. She hated it so much that I used that class time to take her outside for a potty break. This time around we're going to stick with it and see if we can get to the place where it's fun for her.

The sequence of events when Sunny does the dumbbell exercise:
  • We don't bother standing in front of the hurdle.
  • I stick the dumbbell in front of Sunny's nose and say "Take it."
  • Sunny ignores me.
  • I gently push the dumbbell into Sunny's mouth.
  • I hold Sunny's chin up for about thirty seconds so the dumbbell won't fall out.
  • Sunny agrees to this because she is being bribed by little pieces of turkey dog.
  • After two tries at holding the dumbbell in her mouth, Sunny insists it's time to go out for a potty break.

The theory is that I will need to spend less and less time holding up Sunny's chin as she learns to hang on to the dumbbell without assistance. Gail the trainer thinks Sunny is making progress. We have practiced at home this past week, and I'm spending just as much time holding up Sunny's chin as I was last week. Sunny is starting to like the practice more, though, because she can guilt trip me into a great long game of tug afterward.

Pappy has never done the dumbbell rotation before.

The sequence of events when Pappy does the dumbbell exercise:
  • We don't bother standing in front of the hurdle.
  • I get down on the floor and secure him between my legs.
  • I make all kinds of encouraging noises to let him know this is fun.
  • He clamps his jaws shut. Very tightly shut.
  • I pry his mouth open while he's playing keepaway with his head.
  • I insert the dumbbell and hold his mouth shut around it while I continue making encouraging noises.
  • When I can spare a hand, I rub his chest to calm him down.
  • Pappy tries to spit the dumbbell out and run under the nearest piece of furniture.
  • After about thirty seconds, I let him drop the dumbbell.
  • I get very exited and feed him multiple little pieces of turkey dog.
  • Pappy is excited too because maybe we're done with this exercise.

Sounds cruel, doesn't it? I feel like an unfit doggy mother everytime we do this.

All the activities that Pappy now thinks are wonderful fun started out with him balking, so I'm not ready to give up yet. We just started dumbbells last week. There's plenty of time for improvement.

Fortunately, dumbbells only take about ten minutes of the two hour class. If things don't look better soon, I may teach Pappy that dumbbell time makes a good potty break time. Stay tuned.