So far the biggest thing that I have taken from the Bridging the Gap class is the concept of engaging the dog. It amazes me that I missed this, but in a way it makes sense.
Speedy was a very unusual dog. Even now if I forget that I need to be a lot quieter when I work with him, he can go over his stimulation threshold before I realize what is happening!
Maddie was so soft that even a squealy "yaaaaaaaaaaay!" would cause her to worry and go down on her side!
Since a very quiet approach worked well for both of them, I have always handled Dean in the same way. I am not a totally silent trainer and handler, but I tend to use my clicks and treats to communicate more than "regular" communication.
Now we are working on engagement, which is consisting a lot of me acting like a regular person when I work with Dean!! Don't get me wrong - the treats and the toys are still there. But I am learning how to use them in new and better ways.
Here is a video of Dean working on this a bit. He actually does this better outside for toys, but this was indoors for food.
This isn't really all that different from the Give Me a Break game that we have been playing for a long time. There is just a little bit more of a focus on the actual engagement than on the reinforcer.
It is particularly interesting to me that this is something that I have just done with Tessa naturally. I think because she is naturally more engaged with me, I have responded by being more engaged with her. Now I am looking to create this with Dean in reverse, and I believe I am starting to see a difference.
Can't wait to see where this goes . . .!!!