River gets sticky and tends to lag on-line, not just walking 12 feet behind but kind of dragging on the halter at times. To instill a new pattern of cooperation — walk with me, not against me — Erin taught me how to teach Stick to Me on-line, with an eye toward future Liberty.
Rocky sorta kinda always wanted to stick to me, and in fact looking back, I can see that Rocky taught me how to play Stick to Me game — at Liberty, no less. I didn’t teach him nuthin’.
With River, I’ve had to learn how to be particular about her finding the sweet spot, able to flick behind instantly when she lags or to use the stick in front if she surges forward. The stick, not the lead line, as at Liberty I wouldn’t have the lead line.
We did well the first two sessions but on the third, I felt like I was getting after her constantly, and that every walk turned into several flicks or a turn to the inside hindquarter yield. I didn’t want her to think that being with me means being flicked all the time. Embiggening my phases just made her less willing, so I had to think about what else I could do. I thought … well, she’s lagging, so what if we walk v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Not just step and pause, but actually moving our feet in slow motion.
She loved it. Her ears came forward, she looked at me, she matched her steps to mine, and I slowed us down even more. Then we rested and licked and chewed. After that, I could alternate among stealth walk, normal walk, jog, and trot, and she would stick to me.
We had varying success in the fourth session yesterday. We are taking today off. In the next session, I want to combine Stick to Me with Point to Point. I’ll hide cookies, apple slices, and other goodies around the ranch — guess I better put the donkeys away first — and we’ll practice all our gaits and find treats everywhere we go.
That should work on two levels. One, she won’t get so obsessed about the idea that I might have cookies on my person that she can only think about mugging me and not about anything else. Two, she will find new interest in Stick to Me because we’ll put the principle to a purpose.