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Archive for March, 2012

Patience

Some days it seems the labrador has certain commands rock solid, and then the next it’s clear I’m speaking a foreign language to her. I think it’s her way of teaching me patience. It’s also teaching me to be more mindful of my environment and watch what I’m asking and what I’m rewarding.

In the beginning of this whole training process we were told in our puppy class that dogs do not generalize. This is why a well trained dog at home can often be an out of control dog at the park. The command sit, unless practiced in the park does not carry over. In the beginning if you teach sit in the kitchen, then sit means to sit when I’m on this floor, with the dishwasher at my side and the fridge in front of me. It does not mean sit when there is grass under my feet, or the wind is blowing or a leaf is floating by. This is why we are told to go out into the world and practice the command everywhere, and often to take a step or two backwards. If she can sit for a minute at home, she may only sit for 5 seconds at the park. Take this as a win.

After a year with the labrador I need to remember this. It’s only been a year. I cannot expect perfection even on commands I’ve started to feel she should have rock solid, because if I’m not looking that leaf might have just blown by I didn’t notice, and she’s just not sure sit means to sit when that happens.

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Sibling Rivalry

Tonight I went out into the back yard to work on training with the labrador. Despite the fact this was her very familiar back yard, and nothing had changed since the last time she was out in it, she was far more interested in everything besides me. My first command was half heartedly followed. The second was completely ignored. I was not a priority.

So, I figured if she didn’t want to play with me, I wouldn’t play with her! I called the beagle to come over, did a quick sit and down with her and suddenly the labrador was at my side eager to to show me she could do anything the beagle could do better — and definitely deserved any treats that were in the program more than her older sister!

Ah sibling rivalry. Making training easier in two dog households!

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Training

Training can be frustrating. Especially for someone like me. I seem to have an obsession with the concept of doing things “correctly.”

While intellectually I am aware that to get your dog to sit you could choose any word, sound or hand signal and pair it with the behavior so that your dog learns to associate said word or hand signal with the behavior. Emotionally I am tied to the word “sit” as being the “correct” command for that behavior.

There are two new behaviors I’ve begun working on. They are two Rally-O maneuvers – finish right, and finish left. I have not practiced these as much as I should have because I have not settled on a command for these actions. There is a part of me that wants to know what the “correct” commands are.

I’m not sure why I’ve gotten hung up here. I watched an Obedience trial today, Utility level and watched hand signals the handler gave her dog. There was a part of me that thought if I watched enough I’d learn the correct signals for the actions, as if to assume there is only one right way.

I think this obsession with “correct” is a fear of messing up — messing up my dog, my training, and not getting the right responses. My dog on the other hand likes to remind me in her own way that no matter what words, or signals I decide on, she’s going to screw it up sometimes, and can’t we just have fun?

Perhaps I should take her advice!

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Two Dog Travel

Normally when we travel we choose one dog to take with us and one to board. This past week we had an unexpected situation come up that led us to taking both dogs on an 8 hour drive, to spend a week at my parents.

Both of our dogs are crate trained. One is a 25 pound, 4 year old Beagle. The other a 55 pound, one year old Labrador. Both are fairly good in the car, though is it rare we travel anywhere with both of them. And never had we attempted an 8 hour drive.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did in the car for such distance. We’d packed more for them than for ourselves — toys, and bowls, food and crates — to make sure to keep them comfortable and happy on this unexpected trip. I actually commented once to the husband that they were being so good I’d almost forgotten we had both of them in the back seat.

While nervous about making the trip with both, I was pleased at the idea we’d be saving money on boarding. If only that were true.

The crate we have for travel for the Labrador is a NoztoNoz n2 Series Sof-Krate. We’d used it successfully on other trips. This trip however she decided to show us just how clever she was. We came home one night after honestly leaving them for too long in their crates to find her lounging happily on the couch, wagging her tail in greeting as we walked in.

She’d managed to push her way out, knocking the zipper off track. I feared that once having figured this out, we were doomed. She’d know now how to get out of the crate, but the next day with the crating time not being as long we came home to find her in the crate, calmly waiting for us to let her out.

I had hope that perhaps the one time was just a fluke, but no. This one year old Labrador was just playing with us, and happily greeted us on the bed on our next return. $130 later a nice, new metal travel crate from Petco was purchased. If she gets out of this I’m renaming her Houdini!

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