Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Project Dog

I'm in the process of training my young borderstaffy (she just turned 1 in November) and thought I'd invite you along on my little journey. This blog has been a good training motivator for me...I've got flyball on the brain again.

The borderstaffy's name is Fringe, here's a picture of her (pretty cute, huh :)).

As I've mentioned in other posts, I took a little break from flyball (zero practices and maybe 3 tourneys for almost a year), which sadly coincided with when I needed to be training this dog. 

She is very happy and well-adjusted at home (loves my kids, loves the other dogs, tugs, works great for food & clicker, chases me around the house and bites me, you know, the typical borderstaffy), but out in the world she's tentative and spooky, and not that interested in playing with me. MY FAULT. 

In fact, it's like deja vu. About a year ago, I had a young borderjack that I ended up placing with somebody else because she was almost exactly the same way. Back then, I didn't have the time or energy to deal with it, and I knew the dog had too much potential to hang out here on the couch. I wasn't ready for a Project Dog, I was just trying to get my shit together in the other aspects of my life. Luckily, the borderjack ended up with the greatest owner in the world and is now running 4.0's on the same team as her littermates and being dressed up in cute outfits for every holiday and seems very happy, which was my wish for her when I placed her. 

But I guess the universe figured it hadn't taught me a lesson yet, so it gave me almost exactly the same dog to deal with again.

I don't do very well with dogs that are spooky in public. I'm not a patient person. Give me a crazy independent high-drive dog like Punk or my Jack Russells any day over a weird spooky dog that needs coaxing and patience and baby steps. (Ironically, my boyfriend says that one of the things he admires the most about me is my patience, but I guess after him and the kids and my job and the house and all that other stuff, there's not much left for the dogs. ;))

My border collie Sky, now 9 years old, was a total freak when she was young. I took her with me everywhere, and made her walk through PetSmart while people offered her treats, and handed her off to people so she'd get used to it. We also practiced every week back then so she got tons of exposure to flyball situations, and she still wasn't ready to compete until she was 2 years old. Of course, once she got it, she really got it. She still runs 4.0's today, and anybody can take her out of her crate and handle her. Thinking about this motivates me -- this is what Fringe could be if I just put the time into her (plus one added benefit -- Fringe will actually be a height dog!).

This morning Fringe and I had a 5 minute tug session in the house and it was fun. She was really into it. In fact, here she is sitting right next to the cabinet where the tug is, whining at me while I write this blog post.

My boyfriend just left for Florida for 2 weeks, so I'm going to sneak the flyball box back into the den while he's gone and and work with her on that. We've done some basic box work with the prop in front at the team practice (luring her with food around my legs until she got the concept of putting all 4 feet up, and now she's popping off with all 4 feet on her own), so I want to continue that work but transition from food to the tug. 

I also need to take her out into the world and get her used to things. Unfortunately she gets carsick (sigh), so that's another thing we'll have to work on, too. 

Anyway, thanks for reading. All suggestions welcome. I can't wait till the day she's finally racing and I can report on the blog about it. :)


Laura said...

Having owned and trained a "Project Dog" in Flyball, I can only encourage you to be patient.

My "Project Dog" arrived at my home at 11 months old. He had been originally trained for the showring, then trained as a mobility service dog. When neither of those occupations worked out for him, he came to me... via a very traumatic flight followed by an escape at the airport. Although I had chosen him carefully, I still ended up with a shy, timid, and very velcro-dog to train for Flyball. We had numerous issues in the beginning to work through: fear of strangers, fear of loud noises, dislike of balls, and fear of leaving Mom. But, we worked through these issues. Granted, it took me two years. However, now, seeing him in the lanes, racing, and having a ball doing it... it makes those two years so worth it. And, as a result of training him and being patient with him, I learned a lot and have become a better trainer.

Also, as my reward, God blessed me with two more dogs with the drive, focus, and ball-obsession needed to train a top-notch Flyball dog! All because I was patient with my "Project Dog" and never gave up.

Cindy said...

I believe the universe generally gives you what you need....:)
As for the carsick, try putting your crate up higher where the dog can see out the window. That helped my borderwhippet who would get deathly carsick. He does great now ! Good Luck

Lisa Pignetti Murnan said...

Thanks for the encouragement, guys. :)

Kim said...

Projects can be fun but torturous all at the same time. You know all the trials I have had with Tempe. She is my project and surprisingly she is up and running now and pretty much full time. It took a lot of work and well melatonin to take the edge off. I now give it to her daily. She is evening managing some sub 5 second runs and I am hoping with more confidence she will speed up.

Keep plugging away with Fringe, maybe try something to take the edge off when you go places.

For car sickness: for Aspen - we never feed at least 2 hours before we are going to travel. For long trips, we periodically open the window because the fresh air helps calm things down again. Yes he rides in someone's lap which allows us to actually know before he will get sick (his heart races and his stomach tightens up) so we can get the window open quickly and let him have air. You can also try giving some ginger before traveling.

Lisa Pignetti Murnan said...

The worst part about the carsickness is that she eats poop in the yard (like many borderstaffies i know - ick!). So you can imagine what it's like when she gets carsick.

R3K9S said...

I currently have a project dog, whom sounds a lot like yours. At this time, I decided to "take a break". My frustration/lack of patience wasn't helping either of us.
I loved reading this post, as I now don't feel so alone with my "project dog". I can't wait to read more on this subject.
Thanks so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Each dog I get is a little more of a "project". My first flyball dog was doing full runs at a tournament perfectly seven weeks after I saw flyball for the first time. Fast forward 12 years and and my current "project" has taken 10 months and still counting!

Tammy B

Lisa Pignetti Murnan said...

Don't give up, R3K9S! I won't either. We'll be proud of ourselves when we get our little projects out in the lanes someday.

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