I love Holly, and I love Bri. Both of them have their own incredible winning qualities. Sometimes I forget though, just how different both of them are.

Holly picks up new behaviors within minutes. About five clicks into a behavior if I’ve got the pattern right and she knows generally what I want and will narrow it down from there with incredible precision. Really, the only thing that kills me with Holly is that she works for food and tends to be very, very easily distracted. If something becomes more interesting chances are she’ll go check it out and then come back.

Bri… Insert a sigh here. My dear, darling Bri… I am discovering she is a little, ah, slower.

Do not mistake that quality for stupidity, not at all! Once Bri has grasped an idea she will run you right over with her undivided attention, dedication and effort that she gives it. In fact, as I am discovering, my solid puppy training and her effort may actually be hindering some of our current efforts.

For example: We recently started an intermediate obedience class to continue working on distractions, meeting new people, and just for the fun of it! One of the things that this particular instructor has owners teach their dogs is to go a mat on cue. Bri never learned that since I always prefer her to be lying under my legs if possible rather than targeting a mat. But, it’s part of the class and it could certainly come in handy later. So I started working on it.

It has been unexpectedly difficult.

Bri gives me complete and undivided attention. Meaning she keeps eye contact almost 100% of the time, and only offers behaviors she knows, or are asked for. My tactic when working with Holly was to wait for a correct offered behavior. Holly knows this and plays around until she gets it. Bri does what she thinks has been requested, then sits, maintains eye contact and waits. And waits… And waits…… I’m incredibly proud that she’s so good at paying attention, but it’s a little tedious. Especially since, after about five minutes of solid eye contact and waiting for offered behaviors, she just slides into a down and continues to watch me.

Something I’ve noticed is that her focus is so completely on my face and movements that she doesn’t even notice when she steps on the mat. I rather suspect that she has yet to put two and two together that stepping on mat gets treats.

I tried getting Holly to give her a “cheat sheet” by working Holly and Bri together. It fell flat as well. Holly had it down in five minutes. Bri watched Holly, sat down to the side of the mat, stared and waited. Patiently, quietly, holding an excellent wait, ignoring another excited dog, but not trying to follow Holly’s lead.

Next I tried sitting next to the mat and having her target my hand on the mat and slowly fading the hand out. No go. She went so far as to target the hand in my pocket, behind my back, and didn’t translate hand target into mat target.

Sigh.

In total I think we’ve logged about 3 hours of working on this over the past week. With little success. Hopefully my instructor will have some ideas but I’m almost shot. I now appreciate the genius that is my flighty Coonhound.

Oh well. We’ll get there eventually! When I finally figure out how to help her get it, she’ll run me over with her dedication and effort with it. Just a matter of time.

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Bri

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