A TEAM IN PROGRESS

by Marie-France Prayal

Since my first Coton more than 2 years ago, I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about this breed. Still, I had not experienced obedience training before recently.

But... which of my several zanies would be the elected candidate?? Cleo the clown? Scarlett the princess?? Moufi the glue pot?? Markie the sprightly?? Why not ET?? the only coton male in the household... I had a hunch he would enjoy obedience. He adores to walk with me, but most of all, he adores FOOD, thus when we speak about obedience training, ve speak of rewards but in general "edible" ones... And, considering his love for FOOD, and of our complicity, I thought he would make an ideal candidate.

Come Tuesday evening, we find ourselves en route toward our first obedience expedition! A new technique: the use of a "clicker" before the reward is given. The idea is to relate the reward to the expected behaviour, the click and the food reward.

Naturally, ET quickly understood the system. He is remarkably attentive to my every move. His gaze is glued to mine, seemingly begging for my approbation (or the food reward???). He quickly soared to the number one of the class and has surprised me several times. For example, when the instructor would retain him on the recall command prior to my calling him near me and for which she would hold a food bag, guess what came next? If you think he showed more interest in the food... you are fooled!!! As surprising as it may seem, ET only wanted to come near me! I was so apprehensive thinking that he would not listen! I was so proud of my white fluff ball! I thereafter granted him a lot more trust as we were a team with the necessary complicity!

Another exercice in which was required to walk around a scented hamburger... In the middle of the classroom, all goes well... the object is placed at a distance... Beside the rubber mat, we pass again but, in the middle of the mat... How would he react... surprisingly well!!! He almost ignored the scented hamburger, I was astonished!!

We assisted to all the sessions, so now, he is familiar with the routine: the leash, the car, the stairs and ... the fun! We practice daily. ET even mastered a new trick, again very quickly. He spins, once, twice, and a thired time! What a sight to behold, depicting a litlle polar bear as he standstill on his rear legs.

We have now graduated with honours! ET was elected the best student of the class! We unanimously decided to hone our obedience skills starting next September. Our instructor appears very enthusiastic, considering ET's remarkable results.

THE COTON MALGACHE, Volume 3, No 2, May 1998