White Dog had her reservations. "Are you SURE you want to bring Sachi, momma? You have a real wild card there." I nodded knowing she was right but I wanted to take full advantage of having a private trainer to focus on making sure the Baby comes out of class packed full of new skills and knowledge.
At home, Sachi is Zsofia's best friend...and her biggest instigator to trouble. She will often look to respond to my call or Steve's command, only to be tackled in an invitation to wrestle by our Little Man. Given the choice of "Come, Sit" and rollicking roughhousing, guess what wins. So today Sachi had been invited to come and be a distractor as we worked on important skills.
He did not wait even until we arrived at school. Halfway through the drive, the Undaunted One managed to figure out how to work the zipper of his backseat travel case and suddenly was trying to jump into Steve's lap. Zsofia woo'd her dismay because she, too, wanted to sit in the front but was seat belted.
Only seconds inside the training room our Master Distractor went to work by pooping in he middle of the room...which caused Zso to buck and fight for a chance to snack on one of her favorite treats. No time for hellos, Sara went right into training mode with the Baby as the mess was cleared away.
It seemed like a good segue into the day's lesson...Zsofia's least favorite so far...LEAVE IT! Sara would toss out a piece of hot dog and allow the Darkest White Dog to get close but then commanded "Leave IT!" before my baby could touch it. The goal was that she would turn toward the trainer and walk away from the treat. If she did not there was a leash correction and she was brought back to start over. If she left the hot dog, she was rewarded with a treat from Sara's pocket.
We practiced this a long time because it was a hard lesson for our girl. It got even tougher when Steve took over commanding. Zsofia is a daddy's girl and she knows it. She is an excellent manipulator and usually knows she can just wait him out. Steve errs on the side of being too gentle in tone and correction...it often sounds and feels more like a suggestion than a command. But after a while both were working well enough as a team that Steve led Zsofia through the landmine of scattered hot dogs and she ignored them all.
Release the distractor and the story became VERY different as Zsofia was MUCH more concerned that Sachi was running through the room eating the tossed bits that she was being asked to Leave. She was quite vocal about the unfairness. It is a practice item for at home.
Zsofia and I finished the lesson working on wheelchair turns. Often when we are at the park, Steve is off with one or two others of the White Dog Army. If I am holding Zso's leash and need to maneuver myself either to turn, or backup, I need both my hands on the wheels. Tying the leash to the chair as I move ends up with the dog getting tangled around me or stuck in the operating parts of the chair. Our goal was to figure out a way to pivot and back up that keep the Baby in line and safe.
We played with a couple different variations before Sara hit on the idea of my sitting on Zso's leash, allowing her just enough room at my side so that she could not swing out of position but could still sit or lie down. We added a second lead which I could place slack over my lap and use to reinforce commands if needed.
We worked up and down the room, stopping, pivoting, backing up. It worked perfectly and Zsofia "got it" in no time! The final test was a ride around the room using our new method, with Steve pushing me and Sachi riding on my lap. Despite his constant invitation to engage her, Zsofia delivered a perfect performance.
When we got home, the White Dog Army was appalled at Sachi's bad manners. "What?" he said as he pranced over to attack Zsofia's ear. "I was there to distract. I think I did a FINE job!"