At this time Secret was old enough to start to take to training. I had introduced a lot of obstacles and behaviour at home and was ready to start to take it out to training classes, a critical place if the dog is ever to be able to trial. Training classes are noisy, exciting and often chaotic. There are dogs barking and tugging, handlers calling and rewarding and motion everywhere. And Secret did not cope. When I took her down she took one look at everything happening and promptly lost her head. Screaming and lunging at other dogs, screaming her head off when she was in a crate, not even vaguely able to concentrate on me when I was trying to work her. And this was at a very quiet club! I was rather appalled- how was I going to work this dog? I tried all the normal techniques- fasting her for 24 hours so she was really hungry (and she is definitely a food motivated dog!), trying to get her to tug (no way!)..nothing worked. I couldn't train any of my other dogs when I had her either because she went absolutely ballistic- she rolled her crate out of the back of the car and onto the ground she was so worked up. When I brought her out she was exhausted and panting, but wouldn't drink and couldn't focus on me. In short she had NO SELF CONTROL.
I stopped taking her to training- more than a little upset that this dog which was showing potential in the back yard was seemingly 'untrainable'.
We put her into boot camp at home- all her food she had to work for, including treats she was given. Sitting with eye contact was asked for with everything she did from going into the house to every road we came to out on a walk. Instead of sleeping outside and pacing all night she was crated at night. Instead of pacing inside during the day after the cat she was tied up to the sofa. I reread bits of 'control unleashed' and we started playing some of the games in that, especially the 'look at that' game. This game involves rewarding the animal for looking at something and then having them turn back to you for the treat (i.e make eye contact). If this is done when the animal is at a sub threshold level it is then supposed to turn what was once a desirable behaviour for the animal into a trick she does to get the food. I understood the theory and was curious to see if it would work. I decided to try it at home with the cat as I didn't want to take her back to agility until I had a lot more control over her. Initially she wouldn't look up at me to get the treat, and when she ate it she did so very s-l-o-w-i-l-y, similar to the way she stalked the cat. If I moved right back, till she was below her threshold she would look at the cat, then back at me to get the treat. I did this every morning, but didn't see any difference in her attitude to the cat. She still wanted to stalk her every second of every day. Not sure that this method works with something that is so inherently stimulating to the dog..similar to the people that say it doesn't work very well to try and clicker train a sheep dog. These dogs are wired to do this and it seems like you are fighting against genetics to stop some behaviours. I decided to persevere though, with the hope that I would be able to transfer it to the agility field, an area that wasn't genetically wired.
Other games I played with her were the 'go to your mat' game..which she did with lots of enthusiasm and massaging/body work..which she hated! She is quite a cuddly dog and doesn't mind physical contact so I thought she would enjoy it..but she moved away and generally didn't accept it, so I didn't push the issue. I also tried to tug with her more at home as she has never been a particularly toy motivated dog (unfortunately this was not addressed with her when she was a pup and wasn't living with me). She seemed to be happy to tug when she was at home and nothing else was happening, whether this would transfer to when there were other dogs around we would just have to wait and see.