Join Our Community of Dog Lovers

Champion of My Heart is an award-winning dog blog. We've created many important resources that people from all over the world continue to access. Like this post? Get an email alert when new content goes live by subscribing. Plus, look for info on sales and bonus discounts from our affiliates.

Subscribe !

Category Archives for Dog Training Update

Weekly Training Update (Dec 21)

This week’s class took place at a different dog park at the very north edge of Boulder. It’s a nice, pretty new one with 3 fenced areas (one for big dogs, one for not-so-big dogs, one for small dogs). Our group used the not-so-big one since it was empty. Lilly did grumble once at a dog that blew off his recall and began bounding around, but the real wake-up call was her LEAVE IT work. Those duck treats were just too much for her.

Seriously. Lilly acted like I starve her, hoovering up anything she found on the ground. Gigi had dropped a bunch of treats on the ground as a challenge. Lilly and I failed … miserably.

It’s important to note that Lilly rarely has any big breakthroughs in class. The really good learning work happens at home. At class, we practice.

But, we must look pretty convincing because a man saw me working Lilly in the parking lot before class started. We were doing some close heeling and turns and crosses. And, she was flawless. As he approached, I asked Lilly to SIT then DOWN. Then, he asked me for a business card.

We were right near Gigi’s car, which has her logo and such on it. I guess he thought I was Gigi. Quite the compliment.

As he and Gigi exchanged information, we were talking about how many people see us and say “I wish my dog was that good.”

My standard answer now? “It’s not magic. It’s hard work.”

So, we’ve been working on LEAVE IT this week. I even bought some dried duck breast treats yesterday to use. At least at home, her LEAVE IT did improve. Heck, I even got her to walk away from a window, where she was fixating on a rabbit hopping around outside. That’s pretty good.

I have a mountain of cooking and cleaning to do before the holiday, so I’d best get going. BUT, if it doesn’t snow on Sunday (which it likely will), we’ll go to class. Otherwise, we won’t … bummer. After our close call on HWY 93 on a regular snowy day, there’s no way I’m risking it on the Sunday before X-mas.

I’m working on some funny (I hope) things for next week, so I know everyone will be busy, but visit if you can.

If not, then happy holidays (whichever ones you celebrate).

P.S. Thank goodness the Winter Solstice is here. Finally … the days will start getting longer again.

Weekly Training Update (Dec 14)

This week’s Sunday class took place in and around Whole Pets, a specialty pet store located (of course) near Whole Foods. I had hoped to tell you that all this relaxation training paid off, but I can’t. There was too much noise and movement for Lilly’s delicate sensibilities. During the hour-long class, she relaxed for maybe 15 minutes of it. Mostly, she just freaked out and blew me off.

The store is pretty small, with narrow aisles. It was fairly busy, but not packed. Still, Lilly was NOT happy inside. It did not help that a couple dogs were screaming their heads off back in the do-it-yourself dog wash area.

We walked around and worked in the parking lots and on the sidewalks. Lilly tried hard, but the traffic noise from the nearby streets and all the shopping carts rattling across the icy lot put her over the edge. Poor thing. It was all she could do to focus on me and keep walking.

She did a bit better the second time we went into the store. She greeted the store staff well, took treats and such, but she would only do the most remedial tricks for them, which is a sure sign of stress.

She did have ONE pretty relaxed down stay in the store, next to Leo (the young Airdale) and Romeo (a standard poodle) who were our only classmates.

We went outside again and practiced polite passing in close quarters. In other words, we heeled past each other on a narrow sidewalk and rewarded the dogs for looking away from one another on approach, which is what polite dogs do, I guess. Lilly pretty much looks at me all the time anyway, so she did fine even with these two young male dogs walking by.

At the end of class, however, when I bent down to massage her a bit, she growled at Romeo under her breath and took a step toward him. It was the same mommy-guarding thing she does to Ginko at home, so rather than “reactive” I think she was resource guarding me, which she does sometimes, especially if I’m bending down at her level.

I know that, but I thought she could use some body contact from me.

So, it was a pretty discouraging outing. Lilly could only do very basic things, like sit, and even then she seemed not to be listening for real.

Then, we had the near miss in the car on the way home. I wrote about that on Weds.

Once we got home, Lilly seemed very, very subdued. She just laid around and slept, like the strain of class was just too much. It made me sad.

I need to work on a specific training plan now that we’re into our third 15-day use of the relaxation protocol. I’m ready to start working on some of the other items from “Control Unleashed.” It’s still kind of overwhelming to me, so I’ll just pick one piece at a time and keep you posted.

It’s snowing here again today. Hope you’re warm and safe and not losing your mind this holiday season. Have a good weekend.

I learned yesterday that Dr. Karen Overall, who developed the relaxation protocol we’re using, lost her dog Flash to hemangiosarcoma on Dec 8. Flash came to her as a very severe case, after putting several people in the hospital. Most people would have chosen euthanasia, but she worked with Flash and turned things around. They were very close, and based on the long, beautiful note she wrote, she’s grieving hard. So, think a good thought for her today.

Weekly Training Update (Dec 7)

A couple interesting things happened this week, including a dog barreling straight at Lilly in class. Here’s the full update.


Lilly went with me to 3 stores on “main street” in town. She was nervous (tail tucked to tummy), but she kept perfect sit-stays or down-stays while I browsed. And, she greeted people who greeted her — except for the scary man who pounded on the ground (as I mentioned weds).

Relaxation Protocol
We finished our second 15-day series in the relaxation protocol. We continued to have trouble with the me leaving the front door and going where she could not see me. Eventually, each day, she would stay put, but it took some doing — lots of treats, near constant praise chatter.

I’m thinking about repeating the series in the entry way of the house since it’s the location of her most wild behavior at home. But, I’m also wondering if it’s doing any real good. Despite my healthy skepticism, I was hoping to report a BIG difference. So far, I can’t.

At Class
As I mentioned last week, our Sunday class now held on a rotating basis at a bunch of spots around town. Last week, it was a different dog park than the one Lilly is used to. This one is not fenced and has many large trees with squirrels. We do not have tree squirrels where we live, so Lilly finds them oh-so-fascinating.

I figured that she’d be fine in the new place, once she saw a squirrel. Granted, I traded lack of concentration on me for a general bravery in a new location, but that’s how it goes. She didn’t even seem to care that trains were rumbling by on nearby tracks.

All in all, Lilly seemed happy at the new place … Almost like she didn’t realize it was “class,” even though we were working in a group.

She stayed while other dogs walked nearby. She walked around other dogs while they stayed.

She practiced COME, after I let her wander away on her long leash before calling her back. Other dogs did the same nearby, and she was fine. One new young, male Airdale even snuck up and sniffed Lilly’s butt. She got all wiggly as I moved her away, like “Did you see me NOT freak out when he sniffed my butt?” I was very proud.

Then, we practiced WHOA, stopping her forward motion from a distance. She’s too good at that game, when we do it off a ledge, so Gigi teased her with her voice and toys, and Lilly’s WHOA went to pot. She did it really well once, despite the teasing, so we both fussed on her big-time. She even played with a toy Gigi offered her. That’s BIG since Lilly rarely plays in public.

We did a couple other exercises before our end-of-class recalls. Lilly did her first recall perfectly. We were hanging out watching others from a distance, when a new dog (who reminds me very much of Lilly) broke off her recall and came running straight at us. I have NOT yet taught Lilly the INCOMING cue that Leslie McDevitt recommends in her book, “Control Unleashed,” so I simply turned Lilly away and started walking. She happily came with me, even as the new dog raced up behind us. We kept walking away, and eventually the dog returned to her owner.

Lilly did her second recall after that just fine. I didn’t even face her. I just looked briefly over my shoulder, from a good distance away, and called her. She flew straight to me, whipped around to face me and flopped into a perfect down. I could hear the guys who are training their Brittany puppy say, “Well, now you’re just showing off.”


It’s just a way to proof the recall, when she can’t “see” me. But, yes, clearly Lilly is much more advanced than the other dogs, but she’s THREE, and the others are mostly under one year.

If you’re keeping track, the other dogs are leashed while one dog does it’s recall, so I don’t have to worry about anyone chasing her as she comes to me. Lilly, of course, is off leash for these even though there wasn’t a fence because she hates dragging a long lead. It makes her slow and sheepish.

I used to worry about her strong flee reaction, if something scares her, but we’ve found that she’s pretty reliable in class. Heck, I used to double leash her in public, just to be sure, and I haven’t had to do that in a LONG time. So, I know it sounds remedial, but it’s a big deal for Lilly to recall in public like this.

Have a great weekend.

Weekly Training Update (Nov 30)

The biggest lesson I learned from Lilly this week is that you can’t assume any behavior is rock-solid on every single day. It’s all too easy to get complacent or to take our brilliant dogs for granted. We cut back on treats. We verbally fuss on them less. We assume that they are the same minute to minute, day to day. And, that’s simply not the case.

As you may recall, I’m doing a detailed Relaxation Protocol with Lilly. My skepticism continues, but I suspect it has mostly to do with my own potential misunderstanding of the outcome I should expect. I got the impression that Lilly should get progressively more relaxed as the protocol work continued. That is oh SO not the case, so far.

We’ve hit a plateau.

Lilly is more relaxed when we do the protocol than when we started Nov 1, but she’s been at the same level of mellowness since about Nov 6. Today is Nov 30. It’s not a bad place to be — She lays down, face and hips relaxed. And, she doesn’t budge. She doesn’t seem to anticipate anything I do or think that I expect anything from her, but she does watch my every move.

Yet, I began thinking it wasn’t working, and I began wondering if I should even continue.

All this begs the question … Is there a limit to how relaxed a specific dog (especially and intense border collie) can get?

For Lilly, I’m beginning to think so. If I accept that, then I can probably keep doing the protocol without feeling like I’m faking it. In other words, I can keep the faith, the illusion, that it’s helping. That I really am training a relaxed/calm state … much like I would a trick or other very physical behavior.

And, yet, just as I assumed we’d reached a steady state, Lilly suffered a couple tough nights with the protocol. It’s not so much the doorbell, as I’d feared, as me walking out of sight through the front door. When we did the protocol in my office, she didn’t give a hoot about me leaving the room and closing the door — even when I knocked on the door or rang a pseudo doorbell.

Keep in mind that our doorbell never rings. Because we live on a biggish piece of land, which is completely fenced and behind a locked gate (and watched every minute by both dogs), people never get close to the house without us knowing. So, Lilly probably doesn’t have the same doorbell experience as most dogs.

But, the front door is a whole other story. What’s interesting to me is that the first time I did it, Lilly was PERFECT. Didn’t budge, didn’t seem worried.

Then, when the protocol had me do it again and again, we ran into trouble. It took a half dozen tries before she would stay put (if not relax). It’s like the first time was no big deal, but then she got to thinking about it and got worried.

The key? My voice. I’d stopped quietly praising her all the time because she was doing so well with the protocol. At the end of each piece, I just say “gooood girrrl” and give her a treat. If she looks particularly happy, I use our marker word “yes.”

Once I began constant, quiet narrative about her brilliance, she stayed put. But, it was hard — for us both.

The second doorbell night the pattern repeated. I assumed she’d be OK since we worked through it the night before, but no go. She popped up, and popped up, and popped up. So, I tried a different transition, where I let her see me through the storm door and kept up the praising chatter. That helped, I think.

We have a few more days on this second, 15-day round in the protocol. We’ll see how it goes. I may or may not continue after that.

I don’t mind working hard on this, but I do need to see some visible results to keep me from feeling like I’m wasting my time. As much as the popping up frustrated me, I made me realize that there is work to be done … even when the plateau looks like a boring, silly status quo.

Here’s my big revelation. Early on when I tried to build confidence in Lilly, I believed that confidence meant active and revved up. Now, my goal seems to be this: A confident Lilly is calm and quiet, but no less tuned into what I ask.

In the coming weeks, Lilly’s biofeedback training will be put to the test. Our trainer has decided to move the Sunday “pet” obedience, drop-in class to a different location each week — stores, parks, hiking trails, etc.

It could either be a huge boon to Lilly’s confidence to be able to work, no matter where we go. Or, it could be a recipe for a big set-back because it doesn’t look or feel like the class she’s grown accustomed to.

Only time will tell.

Have a great weekend. Thanks, as always, for visiting.

What makes sense, what doesn’t

There is one truth that rings clear when training Lilly. If what I’m asking makes sense, she catches on very quickly. Sometimes, it’s just 3-5 clicks. Sometimes, it’s just 10 minutes. And, she’s totally on board. Other times, I’m clearly doing something wrong, and she simply doesn’t get it.

One example is to bow on command. I’ve tried to shape it, lure and reward it, but she never catches on. We have the same trouble with a stand from a sit or down. No matter what I try, she either blows it off or travels in her quest to rise. Plus, since I don’t come from a competitive obedience background, it’s just not something I thought to teach early on.

I’m beginning to worry that blinking or sleepy eyes is another thing that makes no sense to her. We worked on it a few minutes each night last week, but she has yet to really offer it, like she understands that’s what is being rewarded. Well, that’s true when we’re training. But, Friday night, while sitting in front of the fire while watching TV, Lilly had very heavy lids. At first, I thought she was simply tired, but I suspect that she was trying to catch my attention. So, that’s potentially good news. I still haven’t named it yet, though, because she’s not offering it consistently and on purpose enough for my tastes.

The lay your head down idea, however, she got in 3 clicks. We’re calling it CHIN. In a training session, she does it well on every try, but so far it hasn’t transfered 100% to other places. But, we’re working on it. She already has a ground target cue (SNOOP), but that’s more for when she’s standing or sitting. The CHIN cue is more about putting her head down flat, while in a down.

We’re also working on riding a skateboard I just bought for her. We’re calling it SCOOT. Because she already has the exercise ball ROLL IT trick, where she pushes a big ball in front of her and walks behind it, she transfered that idea to the skateboard the first day. So, she’s putting her front feet on it and pushing it along. There are also times when she gets a run at it, and she pushes off and sort of “rides” it for a couple feet. But, beyond those first few training sessions, we haven’t made much progress.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m feeling a bit of training fatigue. Perhaps it’s impacting the quality of my training technique … hence the lack of big-time progress on any front.

Weekly Training Update (Nov 23)

Since it’s been 3 months since Lilly started taking an anti-depressant, I can probably stop naming Friday’s entry with a number. So suffice it to say that Fridays will continue to be a big picture update on our progress and the week’s work.

As a preface to this week’s update, I want to revisit something conceptually, and that’s why I chose to try medication to help with Lilly’s behavior problem. For those just catching up, I spent 2+ years trying to help Lilly in other ways, including new ideas, new training venues, near constant training, all-natural supplements … you name it.

The decision to try drugs was HUGE for me. It’s not something I did lightly. It’s not like I expected miracles. It’s not like I’m not busting my @#$@# to work through Lilly’s worries. But, just as I would not withhold pain medication if Lilly or Ginko were hurt, I certainly would not withhold medications for other problems, if they might help. Ginko, for example, takes essentially the same thyroid medicine I take for low thyroid. From where I sit, and how I live, that’s not anthropomorphizing. That’s good medicine. To me, it’s the same with the drugs used to help with behavior.

The results after 3 months are both encouraging and NOT. Lilly is indeed snarking at other dogs less, but she’s also still having panick attacks now and then. Just this week, she survived a passing skateboarder on the path. She got nervous, but did not react with her voice or body. Then, a free-ranging springer on a flex-leash came bombing down the path, so I asked Lilly to get OFF TRAIL while he passed. My mistake? I asked her to sit near a bronze statue of a man with a gun. There are many bronzes in Golden, the town closest to us, and Lilly indeed used to have full-blown freak-out sessions about all of them, but over the last 2 years, she’s gotten much better. So, her total panick caught me off guard. It’s been at least 18 months without a statue-related incident.

So, I was pretty discouraged.

What it says to me, in terms of the drug’s effectiveness, is that it’s helping Lilly deal with 1 or 2 triggers at a time, but if 3 or more come in quick succession, then she still goes over threshold. Is that progress? I’m not sure.

Class notes
Before the others arrived, we worked on re-orienting after she’s released from her crate. Since we were in public, I had her leashed, but it was a long training one, and Lilly quickly learned to pop out and turn into me. So that’s good. I’ve tried training it at home too, with less success. At home, she’s far more likely to blow me off.

There were only a few dogs at class this week, several of them young and wild. Lilly did really well. I could tell that she wanted to “correct” them, but she didn’t. Still, if she nearly took action, I praised and treated her like crazy, then I moved her farther away so that she’d be less tempted. For example, we were sitting about 5 feet from the fence when a dog charged the fence while playing inside. Lilly fidgeted, but did not react. Still, we moved further back and settled again on our mat.

We played a little LOOK this week. She doesn’t seem to think it’s hilarious, so I’m not sure she sees it as a game, but she will look at people, dogs, bikes, geese, whatever, when I ask.

The challenge this week, in addition to the dogs and such, was that one handler brought her 2 children so that they can learn to work with the dog too. I could tell that their noise and quick movements bothered Lilly, but she hung in there. Until … at one point, the son decided to play with the PVC goal on the soccer fields we were using. It was maybe 30 feet from us, and he tipped it over.

Lilly didn’t have a direct response, but in the next exercise (flatwork of sorts) Lilly was slow and disinterested, which is the early stage of shutdown. Thankfully, Gigi and I were able to jolly Lilly out of it, but it cast a tinge on the day. Later, Lilly’s recalls were perfect but S-L-O-W.

She seems to like having her mat to lay on, though. If plops before I get her mat on the ground, then I just say NEST and she scoots at least part of her body on to the mat. I’m sure some of my classmates think I’m goofy.

Relaxation Protocol
We’re into our second 15-day round in the protocol. Now, we’re working in the entry hall, so that I can use the front door and doorbell, etc. As I’ve mentioned, I’m training the sleepy eyes and lowering of the head in a down as separate pieces because I’m NOT getting them naturally through the protocol. Lilly is pretty mellow (for her) while we work the protocol, but I wouldn’t say she’s getting progressively more relaxed. She still follows me with her head and eyes when I circle her or move away, for example. But, other than the talking and knocking problem last week, she doesn’t pop up.

I dread the doorbell, which is coming, though. Wish me luck.

In Public
Lilly went holiday shopping with me last weekend. It was cool enough that I didn’t have to worry about leaving her in the car. She’s a real trooper, hanging out in her crate while I shop. Then, when I return, we worked a little bit in each parking lot or on the sidewalk outside the stores. She seemed anxious to get back to the car each time, but she did work and not freak out at the people or cars going by. She didn’t even seem to care when dogs in other cars barked at her as we passed.

Week Twelve: Anti-depressant update

I’m feeling fairly overwhelmed by all the things I should be training Lilly to do as part of our new behavior modification plan. Each little shaping event only takes a few minutes, but it feels like a lot some days. This week, I tried a new coping strategy, where I only try to do 1-2 things other than the Relaxation Protocol. Here’s how things went.

At Class
At Sunday’s drop-in class with Gigi, I used the same settle-in strategy as last week, where Lilly’s mat made for a small safe haven. For those who may be wondering, this class is done in a public setting, and we often move from spot to spot near the dog park, so setting up a crate isn’t an option. That means Lilly’s mat must suffice.

She did really well on her mat outside the fenced training field while the other dogs played and worked a bit. When it came time to do distance stays, I brought her inside the field and placed her on her mat between Lucca (one of the German Shepherds we trust) and another newer dog who does pop up but seems to have a strong call-off and recall.

I could tell that Lilly was a bit nervous, but she stayed and worked. I gave near constant feedback from a distance, and I returned many times to give her food too. I enjoyed watching her use LOOK, without me cueing it. She kept looking at Lucca and then at me like, “Hey, did you see me look?”

We worked on STAY for quite a while, and when we were done, Gigi asked me to recall Lilly first so that we could leave the training area while the other dogs did their recalls and then played. So, I moved far away from Lilly toward the gate and called her, cheering her in. Then, I leashed her up so that we could leave the fenced area.

She did great in her recall, even though a very new dog (not sure his breed mix) got very excited by my cheering and popped up as Lilly passed.

Then, we did some OFF-TRAIL work so that the dogs could practice making way for walkers, bikers and such. Lilly did great, even with bikes whizzing by. This included a couple of small boys, who made all sorts of noise as they passed on their tiny bikes. Lilly looked at them and clearly didn’t like it, but she did not react. She just looked at them and then at me.

She did get uncomfortable and bark, just once, at some kids on the playground behind her during one exercise. So, I moved her across the path, where she could see the kids, rather than have them behind her.

We did some hand-target heeling near a flock of geese. That didn’t go so well. Lilly was very unfocused, but I think it was just interested sniffing, rather than displacement or nervous sniffing.

Relaxation Protocol Work
We finished our first 15-day round of the protocol yesterday. I chose to begin in my office since Lilly spends so much time with me in my home-office and since we do a lot of shaping work in here. As I said yesterday, if you had asked me on day 5, I would have said I thought the protocol was working. But, if you asked me now, my answer might be “no.”

Lilly adjusted from a sit to a down for the protocol within the first couple of sessions. So, that’s a victory, but she has not progressed to anything more since. Sometimes for the exercises where I’m supposed to be out of sight, I climb in my closet, which has louvered doors. So, I can see her. And, during the longer stays when I’m “gone,” her eyes do get heavy. So that’s something.

But, she has yet to put her head on her paws or flop out on her side. Her down is a nice tipped hip, relaxed down … not what people call a sphinx down, where dogs look ready to pop up. But, to get anything else, I’m going to have to shape that separately.

Lilly had trouble with the solo or double hand claps at first, but she has no trouble with continuous clapping since I clap so much for her when she does well in agility or after doing tricks.

So, all in all, we were doing well until I started talking while out of sight. She doesn’t react to “Hello,” but I don’t really say that all that much in regular life. So, I changed it to “Hey, there” and all hell broke loose. Even with Ginko in another room, he heard me and started barking, which caused Lilly to pop up and pop up and pop up. I finally had to stick Ginko in the basement, where he still barked, but it was muffled. I lowered my voice a ton, and only then, could Lilly keep her stay. We got through it, but I was very discouraged.

My office is not near the doorbell, so I’ve been using a regular bell as my doorbell noise for this round. I’m almost afraid to try the doorbell since that will also get Ginko going, which won’t help at all. He also barks when I knock on the wall or door. I don’t even want to get into working on his issues, so we’ll just have to crate him in the basement and turn on the TV down there so he can’t hear quite so well.

Other Shaping
I started working more specifically on blinking this week. I’m still having trouble with blinking being combined with lip licking, which as I’ve mentioned is something Lilly already does on command. So, I’m trying to be VERY patient and wait for just blinking. I click what I can, but she’s not really offering it yet.

I’m also working on a collar grab that we’re calling GOTCHA. Typically, Lilly gets sheepish or defensive/submissive if you try to grab her, so I’m having to reframe that. I don’t think she thinks it’s particularly funny yet, but she likes the treats that come with it.

I tried doing a little of the method Leslie McDevitt calls “Give me a Break,” but I’m not sure I’m doing it right, so I may put that off for a while.

Maybe it’s the change of seasons. Maybe it’s the holiday pressures looming. Maybe it’s my many work deadlines, but I’m feeling really tired with training this week. I know that once I can make sense of each new thing — both for myself and for Lilly — the actually training part goes pretty fast. But, figuring it out before that is depleting me right now.

If you have any ideas on keeping up your energy and commitment, I’d love to hear them.

Have a nice weekend.

The Relaxation Protocol

You found the right place to learn more about the Relaxation Protocol for Dogs! When I first read about Dr. Karen Overall’s Protocol for Relaxation in Leslie McDevitt’s book “Control Unleashed,” I had NO idea what it was about. None. Never heard of it. It’s considered baseline work for serious behavior modification training, like what I’m doing with Lilly. That much I got from the book, but it wasn’t until I saw the whole thing in print that a sinking feeling sunk me. I’m feeling better about it now, but here’s a bit about my journey so far.

Continue reading

Week Eleven: Anti-depressant update

Lilly went to our Sunday drop-in class for the first time in a few weeks. It was the first time we tried some of the strategies from the book “Control Unleashed” in a class setting. There were a few challenges since there were many new dogs in the class, so it was a big group. Here’s a rundown of our efforts.

We arrived just a bit early, and I parked in different lot so that Lilly would be less likely to have to deal with other dogs upon arrival or departure. I sat for a few minutes with Lilly on the tailgate of my car. I massaged her ears and took some deep breaths. Then, I tucked her mat in my belt, next to my bait bag. With clicker in hand and treats at the ready, we set out with Lilly on a long training lead, held short.

As we walked toward the small side of the fenced-in dog park, Lilly showed interest in saying hello to Conto, a big German Shepherd that we adore, but since the new rule is no visiting unless it’s part of an exercise, I called her off. This surprised Conto’s handler since I usually let Lilly say hi, if she shows interest, but I just explained that for now, Lilly is on a no visiting rule.

While everyone else went into the fenced area to let their dogs play a bit before class, Lilly and I settled down on the grass outside on her mat. I rubbed her. I kissed her. I fed her treats for just hanging out with me. When she growled and started to pop up toward a new dog that ran to the fence to look at her, we moved further back and settled in again on the ground together about 20 feet from the fence. We played LOOK, and it went OK, I think.

I asked our fellow reactive pal, Pete, and his handler to keep a bit of extra distance, so as is their norm, they stayed right up to the fence. Pete is great, even when other dogs come right up to him like that.

When class started, Pete and Judy went into the fenced area, but when I asked Lilly to join class, she laid down in classic shutdown style. So, we stayed outside the fence and worked there. We did some heeling and some down stays fairly close to the fence line. I just plopped down her mat, and she hung out with a high rate of reward for being good. We also played a little LOOK here too.

Usually, the class does restrained recalls last, but this week we did them first. So, again, I asked Lilly to join class. She balked a bit, but I used our mantra “The faster we move, the braver we are.” Once inside the pen with the other dogs, she did shutdown a bit, but I just gave her extra space until she perked up and then lots of treats. I also reverted to keeping her focused on me because she seemed to need it.

Come her turn, she ran straight to me across the field, with the other dozen or so dogs looking on. I cheered my head off, jackpotted her like crazy, leashed her up, and we sprinted for the gate. Once outside, we celebrated some more and jumped our jitters out. I figured that one recall was plenty, then I gave her a break again to just sniff and relax and walk around.

Later we worked over the the basketball courts on some stays and heeling. Then, we did pass the pup, where your dog has to work for someone else. Lilly tends to do well at that, so I went ahead and got into the circle. I just asked people to back up and give her extra space from the group … with the deal being I’d rescue her if she got too scared. I watched her out of the corner of my eye, and she did really well. She worked for 4 different people. Some she knows. Some she doesn’t. And by all accounts, she did just fine. So, that’s a good confidence builder for her, I think.

Plus, I got to work with Lucca (a brilliant German Shepherd), Taloola (a young, huge, goofy lab mix), Onyx (another border collie) and Princess Diana (a Brittany pup). It’s always interesting to me to work with other dogs. I think I have a higher rate of reinforcement than most people in my class, so dogs tend to dig me.

So, other than one shutdown, which I honored, and one growl, she did great.

Other Notes

During other work in public this week, we practiced LOOK with some chickens.

1 12 13 14