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Weekly Training Update (Jan 2)

We used our one remaining group class (advanced pet dog obedience) from a punch card purchased over the summer for an outing on New Year’s Eve. Typically, we pay $90 for 6 classes, and get one free. So, that comes to $12.86 per class instead of the $15 per class cash rate. To keep our training accounting tidy, I wanted to use up our last class I’d already purchased. Lucky for us that the weather was decent and the location was a spot where Lilly sometimes does well. Plus, the usual Wednesday classes are typically smaller than the Sunday classes we most often take. I’m happy to say Lilly did great.

Lilly and I arrived a little early, and the unfenced dog park was completely empty. When she realized where we were, Lilly did throw a classic shut-down body (flat to the ground). But, it only took a little cajoling to get her up and moving so that she could see there were no other dogs in the park.

We made our way on leash through the regular park into the dog park area. Once there, I cut her loose. She had a grand time, poking around, and even running once in a while. Any time she came back to me (when I asked and when I didn’t) I gave her loads of treats.

I think it helped her relax A LOT to have free run of the place at the beginning.

Then, we leashed up again and headed back towards the others who had gathered on the edge of the park. There were 3 dogs we know and only one dog we didn’t, so we had a good shot at having a good class.

Since she seemed fine, I did not use a head collar. Just her regular one.

Here’s what we worked on:

  • Loose-leash walking (what we call WALK STEADY)
  • DOWN-STAY with toy distractions (Since Lilly isn’t toy motivated around other dogs, this was easy for her.)
  • Some heeling flatwork (mostly side changes and some front crosses)
  • SIT-STAY relatively close to other dogs
  • More loose-leash walking
  • And, some WHOA work (We played with both WALK UP and WHOA since Lilly easily does WHOA with a visual divider — like a drop off — but has a harder time on the flat.)

Lilly worked really well. Pretty much did everything I asked.

When it was time for the younger dogs to play and blow off steam, we walked way back into the non-dog section of the park. Lilly actually watched the other dogs playing, with an alert, but happy body. She held herself rather vertical, but her face was smiling and her tail was wagging. It’s almost like she wanted to play, but I suspect she was thinking about how much fun it would be to boss those other dogs.

She really only had 2 close-ish encounters with other dogs. Here’s how those went.

During the approach dogs and SIT-STAY exercise, the one dog we don’t know (a golden) got a little close and showed interest in Lilly. I couldn’t see her face from my angle, but from her body posture, it looked like she merely gave him stink-eye and curled a lip at him. No barking, no lunging, no growling. She just quietly told him to back off.

I called her off and walked her away since even a little extra distance helps, if the other dog gets the hint and stops looking at her.

While we worked on WHOA on the ledge between the grass and the concrete, I would throw food to get Lilly to move away from me. I moved away from her the other direction while her back was turned. Then, once she ate the piece of food, she would approach me and stop on cue at the edge of the grass. Lilly is VERY good at this exercise. After a couple repetitions, I really don’t have to cue the behavior. She will stop on her own at the ledge. (If only I could get this response on the flat now … We’ve been working on WHOA for ages on the flat, but she still takes 3-4 steps toward me before she stops, when there isn’t a visual marker like a ledge.)

Now, Lilly is on leash for his exercise since we’re outside the official dog park area, but I’m NOT holding on to it. I’m about 20 feet from her.

After she worked off to the side for a while, I moved her between two of the dogs we know to raise the criteria. The other dogs were about 6-8 feet to either side of her, so she had plenty of space.

I’d just thrown food behind her, and she was off looking for it in the grass when KB’s youngest lab (R) took the opportunity to make what we call a “victory lap” with a weasel toy he was very happy to have. So, he’s racing right toward Lilly, flapping and shaking the weasel with pure joy.

I didn’t really have time to do anything, and I’m shocked to tell you that I STAYED CALM.

So, when she glanced up from her food hunting to look at him running toward her, I just said LEAVE IT. And, she did. She went back to looking for the food.

The difference? R WASN’T interested in Lilly at ALL. He was totally focused on his weasel.

Funny enough, after she found the piece of food and headed toward me, R came racing by the other direction. He would have bowled her over, but she waited for him to run past and then continued toward the ledge, stopping perfectly into a DOWN … just as I’d asked before the encounter began.

It was the cutest thing. She had this look on her face like, “Look at this goofy pup,” and just waited for him to get out of the way.

So, I’m happy to report that our last class of 2008 was a BIG success.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.