Zip Early Learning
August 2018: 6 months old
She is a wild running, butterfly-working dog
Or more scientifically: a dog with a compulsive behaviours that responds very fast to arousal and movement in the environment.
Her first response is to chase and grab when there is fast movement. This is normal, juvenile behaviour in a sheepdog. She has yet to find, or it has yet to emerge, an adult “eye”, or stalking behaviour that will work well on sheep and other dogs, cats, pigeons. But not butterflies or bats.
Some young collie pups arrive with a very strong eye by 12 weeks and learn to develop flanking moves. She is the opposite way around and until she discovers the power of eye, which is infinitely more effective than chasing, chasing will get stronger. I need to arrange some eye clinics!
This need, or compulsion, to chase and race is being used as her default behaviour. If I have Merrick in the kitchen for training she will evacuate to the garden to chase. If I groom Time up on the table, same response. If this option is not available, there is high, frustrating arousal resembling a panic.
Her affection is significantly calmer than the straightforward need for approval which is often aroused jumping. It is a fine line between this and a happy morning greeting, which is quite joyful jumping.
An extremely bendy body gives her no challenge when trying to make every part of it touch me at the same time. Quite wriggly and very tactile with a cute ability to tuck her head under my chin. Always a winner, unless a sandwich is involved.
This does bode well for a future of heelwork. I like the dogs to want to seek tactile contact in all positions and some “out of the barn” pups can have quite an aversion to so much close proximity.
Training is not heading to anything specific yet besides the need to learn how to live here. The Rams still irritate her, but she is called off with no trouble and will stand to look at them whilst I feed the chickens (chickens are in the Ram field). This stand is not relaxed, she is in a readiness for explosion, but we now have two options when faced with an adversary – look at them without commentating or come inside to me.
The stick chewing is down to a weekly event and food is enjoyed alongside the other dogs, even bones. Although she presented me with something an archaeologist would enjoy last night.
Words she knows:
“that’ll do” which is my choice for “cease and desist”, primarily for Ram hassling, but it also brings her off the butterflies when it is super-hot. She has learned to “stay” and stand back at the gate when I go to feed chickens and is generalising to all situations where she cannot follow me. I use stay for the disappointment moments, and “wait” will be the rock solid “freeze”, until cued to move or do something else.
Morning greeting is on the grooming table, so this is a much loved place now for affection with tools. Car travel is excellent, she jumps up and into her crate to settle. No compulsive road rules. “Off” is becoming a necessity. For me it is the intending launch when I have coffee in my hand.
This is focussed on teaching her how to learn and me exploring what type of learner she is.
These two exercises: follow the cup and step in a pot, can lead to foundation skills for many of my heelwork to music behaviours. But you will see she is a sensitive learner, often blossoming a little more when I chat to her, and has moments of uncertainty which you can see with the jumping up at me.
These specific exercises will teach her different delivery patterns and what predicts them. The click means food is coming, that seems to be developing well, and then she looks at me to see where the food will be placed. Young learners can often get fixed into one type of delivery and this can take some time to change if we spend too long on the same pattern. In both the videos she is learning to adapt to different outcomes of food placement. I will need this adaptibility in the future.
Following the cup is about learning to focus on one piece of information and lots of easy repetition that is successful – building her learning stamina.
The step in a pot has replaced the platform training that Merrick learned many of her proprioception skills with. I find the pot is less inclined to error and more deliberate in actions.
Merrick is enjoying the job of teaching this new addition, by and large. There are a couple of Zip habits that she could hope are only juvenile and will fade with maturity – the chase and nip tactic is not welcomed. But Merrick has learned to run faster, turn faster and keep out of the way. If there is an overstep she will have a small grump about it.
Some of the lessons are not welcomed by me. Racing to the gate to see off the pigeons / partridge / crows or other suspicious wildlife is annoying. But it gives me great opportunities to call them back to the house for sprinkled treats. When we do get something less “call-wolf” such as deliveries I will need all the practice I can invest.
I like to see her playing with Merrick, this is totalling hours a day, although her charm allows for some major cheekiness:
Learning Life Skills
You can follow the lessons with Zip and Friends: