Sunday, May 9, 2010

Azul tries to make the grade at BAD RAP

Some time has gone by since my initial press conference following Azul’s debut at BAD RAP class, and devoted readers have been clamoring for a progress update. The good news is that we’ve been able to attend on a fairly regular basis (“we” meaning “me” - Azul’s schedule is quite flexible). We’re not honor roll yet but we’re not wearing the dunce cap either. Here is our self-assessment:

Original grade: D-
Current grade: C

Azul likes to check out his surroundings, and with all the people and dogs at BAD RAP class it can be very difficult to gain his attention. Early on it was nearly impossible for me. Now I’m able to get a “Look” from a sitting position before starting any drill. It’s hard to get a look while we’re in motion, and he won’t yet maintain eye contact the way some other dogs will (like Boots), but we have made strides.


CORRECT! Back still hurting though. Next step is to get him to bring his focus up to me, instead of me having to bend down to him.

Original grade: D+
Current grade: B-

We’re getting better at drills. I’ve learned that some days Azul is motivated by a squeaky toy, and other days he’s motivated by treats. I bring both. I’ve gotten better at luring him from the right distance, and praising but not over-praising.

BAD RAP CEO Tim Racer was giving us a hard eye, but we managed to do pretty well at the tough right-hand turn drill. Azul is supposed to follow my lead to his right without me having to pull him. It's not as easy as the left hand turn, where it's possible to use my body to maneuver the dog. With more practice I'd like to not have to use the treat to lure him, but it's helping him learn the drill. I was able to keep some slack in the leash and divert his attention away from whatever yumminess he was smelling on the ground.

Dog Reactiveness
Original grade: B
Current grade: B+

Azul has never shown any aggression towards other dogs. As a matter of fact, he’s one of the BACS dogs who has been permitted to go on an occasional double date at the play area. He has not made any movements towards other dogs while at class even in drills that put dogs in closer proximity, but he will get higher marks here when I can get him to look more at me and less at the other dogs. Even though Azul does not show aggressiveness, other dogs may interpret his stares as a challenge.

No dogs show any aggression during the crossing drill.

Leash Biting
Original grade: F-
Current grade: B

Anyone who’s walked Azul knows that his favorite display of rebellion is to jump up to bite his leash and play tug of war. This was a particular problem in the first few BAD RAP classes once Azul realized he was expected to do what I wanted. I had to spend a good 15-20 minutes of each class wrestling Azul for the leash. This has greatly improved. We still have an episode or two each class, but lately I’ve only had to spend 2-3 minutes reclaiming the leash. Taking him to class and walking him regularly has established me as a leader, and he’s starting to enjoy completing tasks and receiving praise and treats. As a note though, EVERY other dog gets an A+ in this category.

And for a totally shameless Azul plug...he's SUPPOSED to be looking at me here, but what a handsome guy huh? If I included a Beauty category he would have an easy A. But this is not Miss America.

So we can still improve all of our grades, but we are trending upwards. Both Donyale and Tim have been impressed with our progress. Good to see so many BACS dogs and volunteers at the class, and thanks to Rob McNicholas for taking the pictures and video! Also thanks to other volunteers, it's obvious others have been working with Azul (somebody taught him to shake).

Rob has posted a bunch of pictures and videos from Saturday's class. Featured BACS cast members include Azul, Raulon, Boots, Horton, Mercedes, Bella, and Nino.


Alicia said...

Azul is moving to the head of the class! Nicely done, Joel!!

Anonymous said...

Azul is so cute. I hope he gets adopted soon.

Pam said...

I believe that was Kelley, Azul's #2 fan (behind you, Joel) who taught him the handshake. Thanks to both of you for the time and effort you put into helping Azul become the best dog he can be!

Beth said...

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Azul, So Happy he's doing well. I LOVE this dog. And I can't take credit for teaching him to shake.

Anonymous said...

i saw azul today on a fieldtrip and he looked so playful i hope he gets adopted soon

Joel said...

I hope Azul gets adopted soon too, and I'll keep working with him until he does. He's a calm, focused dog which people should like. On the other hand, while he is friendly he is not a super-affectionate loverboy. He's not the type of dog who is going to jump up into a potential adopter's lap on the first meeting and make them fall in love with him. He's more likely to try to impress them with his considerable knot toy-shaking skills.

The good news is that Azul handles the shelter environment fine. Despite being stuck in a kennel for seven months now, he does not appear to be stressed out about it. There are other dogs who need to find homes more than he does from that perspective. It only takes one person, eventually he will find his home.

Anonymous said...

Azul is doing well in the two classes I have taken him to. okay, he still gets playful and tries to get the leash to tug on. Class one of our new partnership, I lead him around while he tugged on the leash for about 10 - 15 minute. We are still getting settled together since my past relationship with him was his tug toy buddy. Hi eye contact is pretty good with me. Thank you Joel for giving me the opportunity to take over for you. I LOVE THIS BOY.