Murph’s learning curve is so steep now I’m not sure where to begin. We continue to build on sit and stay, and now responding to his name and heel have been added to the mix. I am working Murph twice a day now for about 10 truly focused minutes each, once by himself here at work and then when I get home with Pickett added to the mix. But what’s important is that in every interaction with Murph, work or play, I try to make sure I am reinforcing a good habit and not accidentally instilling a bad one. I try to think through everything we’re doing.
I continue to walk Murph on the lead, constantly repeating the word “heel” so he begins to understand that command and his position on my left. Every 20 yards or so I blow the “sit” whistle and he sits. Then “heel” and we start walking. Same thing we’ve been doing since the beginning, but I keep adding in small things. He now has a small Dokken dummy instead of his stick. I keep it in a zip-lock full of duck feathers, a tip I learned from Craig Korff of Wildrose. Occasionally I hand it to him and he gets to carry it until the next sit and I take it back. Always the calm give and take.
Today though, we did our first “blind” retrieve (technically he could see it, but it was placed without his knowledge.) I took the dummy from him and we proceeded to walk. I dropped it behind me and walked him another 20 years and turned around. I walked to the point where I could see that he spotted it. I put him at sit, dropped the lead and made him sit calmly at stay. I pushed it to 10 seconds (no food involved) and he sat looking up at me waiting. Just what I wanted. I pointed, tapped his head and off he went. He brought the dummy back to the sound of the “come” whistle and as soon as he got to me, I placed him on my left in the heel position, took the dummy and put it away. Another little something added to his regimen.
photo by Tim Bronson
The beauty of his ability to sit there calmly until I tapped is head, is the result of making him sit and wait every time I feed him. He gets to eat when the bowl in down and I tap his head. (See the video). Again every thing we do is the result of simple building blocks. He could never have succeeded in sitting there quietly with that dummy out there if that behavior was not instilled from the beginning.
He is a sponge and is absorbing everything. What is important now is to be sure he is absorbing good behavior and habits, and I am not doing anything to instill bad habits, for what he learns here will be with him forever. We have about five weeks to go and his brain will be fully formed. What I do now is incredibly important to our future success, but one thing is for sure, we are becoming partners in this endeavor and it shows more and more every day. What a remarkable time this is.