Saturday, May 24, 2014

Teaching Ulysses to Dance

Brisbane has a personal space bubble, when I move toward him he moves out of my way. In our small house I never run into him because he is constantly aware of where I am, and anticipates where I am going. Briz is very much a velcro dog, he usually stays very close to me, so we move through life together in a sort of dance.

Moving Brisbane from place to place is a bit like moving a buoyant object through water, a light touch sends it away. I can lead Briz by the collar, and position him very precisely with subtle cues.

Ulysses is another story entirely. He moves like a wet blanket, I touch him and he sort of folds around me. When I push him, he collapses around my hands. Pulling Uly's collar or harness mostly just makes him ooze to the floor.

I'm not sure now if Brisbane has always had his personal space bubble, or if it is something I taught him as a puppy. Before Uly arrived I had thought it was an innate quality of herding breeds, minus some very squishy German Shepherd dogs. Now I suspect it is something that must be taught, but herding dogs probably learn it better and with more finesse than insensitive gundogs and bully breeds.

So I'm teaching Uly to dance. It's a clicker game, I move toward him, he takes a step back and gets clicked. I'm sure he knows I don't like running into dogs constantly, but he didn't know what I wanted him to do instead. He's picking it up very quickly, dancing out of my way while staying as close as he can. He's nowhere near as good as Brisbane, but Briz and I have years of experience and tons of formal obedience training. Uly is learning how to move with me though, and it's a lot of fun to watch.

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