Thursday, 30 September 2010

Intermediate Training Week 3

First, let me surmise the lessons I have learned outside of the training course in relation to Corsos and babies. Corsos get big and look like adults when they are still just babies themselves. Tiesto is only 10 months old but acts 10 years old sometimes. What does that mean in relation to training? It means that 9 times out of 10 you will be catching yourself expecting them to act 10 years and not 10 months.

Watch your Corso’s body language as your baby and the dog interact. There is a change that comes over their body, a tension, a look in their eye that tells you that they are about to forget that your baby isn’t a puppy and start playing with him or her like she is. It is at this precise moment that you must get their focus on you, either by using the watch me command and a treat or a loud noise from you. Once their focus is on you and away from the child, praise them. Remember, you are acting as the interspecies mediator, no one is being wrong! Both fur baby and man cub are being themselves, your job is to make sure that the version of themselves that they are putting forward is the safest for all concerned. I can say from experience that in the beginning they will mostly have to ignore each other and agree to live together like neighboring countries that aren’t really all that fond of each other. However, this will get better! Tiesto and Joshua have daily “wallerings,” I like to call them, during which they give each other a good snuggle. Today, my son was upset about something and I could not figure out how to console him. However, he said, “Tito!” And 21 month old Joshua crawled over to his furry buddy and buried his face in his back and cried it out, it lasted like three seconds cause “Tito” had him laughing. So it does get better! This precaution is with all breeds of dog, however, with giant breeds even more so, a playful slap from a 10 month old Corso puppy to a man cub is like an adult man getting playfully slapped by a grizzly.

Watch your Corso’s body language when you are socializing in public. I cannot stress this one enough. As humans, our natural course of action is to be attentive to the humans. I find that I am a horrible public conversationalist anymore for two reasons: watching Joshua and Tiesto! Watch for tightening in your Corso’s body, facial tension, ears pricking and eyes getting very focused. These are signs of discomfort. Immediately cease any interactions and remove your dog from the situation. This will allow your Corso to refocus on you and help them realize that you are watching over them like a good Alpha should! I put Joshua on my back in a backpack when I am training Tiesto on my own because I need to be so focused on the fur baby. Joshua rides happily eating crackers and playing with toys whilst I train. This frees me to be as focused as I should be. As an example, during week 3 of training, Tiesto and I were the only ones who showed up for class. It was fabulous and we worked out in the main area of PetSmart where there were lots of people. Tiesto took it all in stride and laid and waited while 20 people queued up to pet him. However, I noticed towards the end of the last petting his body changed, tension came, his face got the wrinkle of focus as I like to call it. He began sniffing the air and even his eyes changed their expression. I looked around but could see nothing that would be bothering him. I released him from his down and wait and allowed him to stand. We both continued to scan the store for what had him tense. What should my wandering eyes see but two tiny ferrets walking along in the store on a leash! Tiesto was ready to hunt! I worked him some more with them in plain sight and he was never really comfortable but began ignoring them and that is just what we wanted! Even though he was uncomfortable he shook hands with two complete strangers and introduced himself as a gentleman and a scholar.

Watch for signs that your man cub is ready to begin issuing commands. Joshua loves giving his Tito treats. Only the past two weeks has he been able to verbalize the commands. So I have started trying to get him to say the commands and reward Tiesto. This will put your child in a clearly alpha position to your Corso, the director and rewarder. Joshua could not always do this so I had to use other techniques such as:

• Joshua always went through doors first.
• Joshua always ate first.
• Joshua always had access to me.
• Never allowing Tiesto between Joshua and I during playtime.
• When Tiesto was laying down, placing Joshua on top of him across his shoulders(do this only if your Corso is very young, this is not something to do suddenly with an adult dog!).
• Allowing Joshua to play in Tiesto’s food bowl(do this only if you start when your Corso is a puppy and maintain it to keep them from being food protective)
• Allowing Joshua to play with Tiesto’s toys and Tiesto only getting them when he is finished.(Again, do not start this with an adult dog, puppies are smaller and do not outweigh a man so you can control the situation)

Week three of training was very fun! We are learning to sit and down for longer periods of time. He is also learning to right turn at a heel and doing very well at it. He will work off lead in the yard at home and that makes me so happy! I can even get him to wait through his favorite toys being tossed and kicked about.

Teaching him these latest tricks is very difficult in comparison to the Basic course. Now, that may seem like a no brainer. This week I realized the need to increase the number of times I worked with him in a day. We shoot for 2 to 3, 20 minute sessions a day. Before, during and after each session we have a rousing game of fetch and a dandy scratch. Remember that unless you want to use your Corso for a trained security dog it is best not to play tug of war with them. They will always win at a certain point, make them think they are dominate to you and it will awaken the natural protector within. Training is a great way to “play” with your Corso. Tiesto loves our training time and he appears to think the whole session is a play time. This is for all breeds, training is working together and working together equals bonding. If you only want a family pet, I would still recommend that you continue to go to training classes and train your dog more and more as it is great fun to all involved. A really fabulous trainer and book I am currently reading called The Loved Dog by Tamar Gellar believes the same, training should be fun and filled with love and connection!

“Back” is the hardest command so far and he is so reluctant to do it! We have to practice in between chairs and walls to make sure he doesn’t just turn around and trot off. However, after two days of working on it, I noticed some marked improvement. I worked him in the home and back yard for the first two days then took our show on the road.

I have been slack in taking him to a public place during the week to work him, I noticed this Saturday that that is a mistake. So I am trying to go at least three times a week to work him where it is completely out of the norm and distracting. I will update you as we progress in this area. Right now cars and people are just too much. I am confident that after a few days of work he will be stellar at this as well!

Stay tuned for the Training week four update! Until then, socialize, socialize, socialize and play-train, play-train, play-train!(I love that combination of words, Tamar Gellar uses it in her The Loved Dog book, fabulous!)