It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I did any serious training with the dogs. Like 2 years for Wally, and never for Fiona. Sure, we have worked on little things here and there but it was spotty. Before I moved to CA in 2012 Wally and I were doing weekly competition obedience lessons with Cathy Soule and loving it. Somehow, between then and now, I lost the spark for serious training and just wanted to be with my dogs. But that got annoying because, while adorable, they had both developed (or came with) bad habits.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time at ClickerTraining.com reading the library articles and getting inspired. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the huge number of behaviors I want to train each dog, so it’s nice to read stories about how easy it is to do if you just invest the little bit of time. For me the hardest part is balancing everything else in my life since I tend to be an all or nothing kind of gal. When I do Crossfit (oh yeah, have I mentioned I have a home Crossfit gym?) I am all in and doing almost daily hour-long workouts that leave me feeling so good. But then I don’t train the dogs. When I’m training dogs I spend all my time that I’m not actually training reading about training or adding new books and toys to my Amazon wishlist. But then I don’t workout. Balance is hard.
So what are we doing? I have many great aspirations, but truth be told I just want well-behaved dogs. The catalyst for this resurgence is that I had become totally irritated with the poor manners of my own dogs and I realized that if they were Cane Corsi (a breed I had previously) this would have never been allowed to happen because it couldn’t happen. Bad behavior in small dogs is easier to make excuses for because it’s easy to physically remove them from a situation or just get used to it. If Wally weighed 150lb and was dragging me down the sidewalk, it would be a way different story. At one point I was gunning for Rally but I realized this was a leap too far. Instead we’re going to shoot for CGC titles!
Lately we’ve been working on…
- Loose leash walking with the Gentle Leader: this thing has saved my life and I chalk up a lot of my renewed interest to this device. I can enjoy walks again and we’re able to make faster progress in LLW. When I was showing Wally I didn’t want to use it because it wears on his facial hair (which is ever so important on a show dog) but now I don’t care. I’d rather have a dog I can happily walk than a dog with profuse facial hair.
- Automatic eye contact: I found this at ClickerTraining.com and can’t wait until we have achieved it!
- Disc game: This is with Fiona only, and is a lot like the 100 Things to Do with a Box game, which I did with Wally. That game is actually how I shaped Wally to Sit! She’s doing it with one of those inflatable balance discs since I didn’t have any boxes handy. You can even do it with a Solo cup!
- Lollipop Stick: this is a targeting exercise that I learned from Cathy, utilizing a racquetball that’s been impaled on the end of a dowel rod.
- Pop Sit: This is with Wally only and is something we were working on with Cathy. Basically I’m trying to retrain his sit into a forward-tuck instead of a rock-back. Look, I finally found an article that explains this!
Of course there are many, many other behaviors I want to train but you have to start somewhere. It’s so hard to focus on just a handful at a time when there’s an endless list, but the reality is that until we have these on cue and consistent, they aren’t really in our arsenal.