Thursday, February 11, 2010

Checking in from Bad Rap

I thought Albert and I had a really good first date at Bad Rap class. But I’m not sure he feels the same way. The last two weeks he’s had flimsy excuses for being unavailable. Two weeks ago he was “out of town” – spending the week as a guest in a nice home. This past week he had an “upset stomach”. No treats = no class. He’s starting to remind me of a few of the girls I tried to date in college. But as they say: Don’t chase – replace! I have been practicing the drills with Albert and I took him to a different class on Saturday, but for the past two weeks my partner at Bad Rap class has been:


As you can see, Azul is a very handsome young pit bull. He’s also quite a clever dog. He’s been content to skate through life relying on his good looks and street smarts. With some discipline and consistency, I’m hoping Azul can learn there’s more to life than staring at passers-by and leaping onto the volunteers that come into his kennel.

Azul knows how to sit, and has shown signs of knowing down as well. The trick is to get his attention. I thought it was hard to get Albert’s focus, but Azul is another level. While at class, instead of paying attention to me he likes to check out other dogs. And pedestrians. And bicyclists. And the grass. And the sky. And his leash. When engaged he responds well, and he's not wild or difficult to handle, but he definitely wants to do his own thing.

Donyale is my group instructor. She can see that I have trouble getting Azul’s focus, and she’s stepped in to work with him a bit herself. She’s more successful than me but she says he’s got a mischievous streak. She likens him to the smart kid in class who can do all the work but gets bored and zones out instead.

When I see that Donyale also has to work hard to gain Azul’s attention, I at least feel better about my own approach. I had been thinking that the problems were stemming from my lack of experience. I need to improve, but it looks like the bigger problem is that it can be a challenge to command Azul's attention.

Still, I see potential in Azul and of course two classes is not much time to expect great improvement. That's especially true because I didn't have an existing bond with Azul - I had only walked him once or twice prior to taking him to pit ed class. Donyale has recommended a hands-on approach for a dog like Azul. And it is working - if I say sit and he doesn’t immediately sit, it usually just takes a slight push on his backside. Obviously the goal is to get him to sit with just a verbal or visual cue, and he already does that if I've established his focus. Donyale believes he’ll eventually get tired of me pushing him and will start to be more responsive. Since I’m 6’6”, I just hope he gets tired of it before my back does.

I shouldn’t be too hard on Azul. He’s certainly not the toughest case we’ve ever had at BACS. He's smart and friendly, and although he's got energy he's not wild. He also doesn't seem to be too aggressive to other dogs, just interested in them. He’d already make a good dog for a lot of homes right now, especially for someone willing to provide active leadership. I’m just impatient to see him be more responsive to me. We’ll get there Azul! And Albert, I'm not done with you either (assuming you don't get the call up, of course.)

Again, thanks to all the other volunteers who brought BACS troops to the class. At minimum, Yvonne, Lyle, Raulon, Rocko, and Sandy were all in attendance. And thanks to Donyale and Bad Rap for working with so many freeloading shelter dogs and volunteers!


Due to the Bad Rap classes switching to Saturday I'm not going to be able to attend with Azul the next couple of weeks as I have prior commitments. However, I have been practicing a few of the drills with him on regular walks. He's sitting like a champ now, and he also responds to "down" with some treat encouragement. I'm planning to keep up the drills with Private Azul and see how he does in class (with all its distractions) in a couple of weeks.


Janice said...

Yes, it's true that this is a part of the pit personality. Max is also extremetly smart, but becomes inattentive at times. This stubborn streak is characteristic of these dogs and it's both a trait I love and hate!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm Sherri, the person hoping to adopt Albert after my dog Isis recovers from her spaying, sometime around Feb 24. Albert isn't making up excuses, he's just eager to come home with us! :-)

We played with Azul as well and think he's a great dog!

Joel said...

Good to hear you're still interested in Albert, he'll make a great dog for you. I don't blame him for being more interested in you than me!

Elisabeth M. said...

Joel, your'e 6'6"?? Wow, I had not idea! Azul is gorgeous! Hang in there with him. Once you two form a bond, I'm sure that he'll start responding to you much more. Good work!!

Anonymous said...

Azul is an awesome boy, Love him! Can't wait to be able to work with him.