Monday, January 24, 2011

Training News: Shoulder Chips and Humble Pie

Tonight is Week Four of Basic Obedience training with Dewi - the halfway mark.  Do I feel like he's accomplished anything from this class?  Not really.  In fact, there have been plenty of times in class when I've sensed that his unrequieted desire to playfully fling himself into the face (and sometimes rear end) of (almost) every dog in the class - coupled with my treat offerings for his completing seemingly endless repetitions of basic commands that he already knows - is only instilling in him frustration and confusion.  

The Dewi Dance
Last class after a string of sit-stays, he looked up at me as if to say, "Can we please do something fun now?" and then proceeded to sit up on his haunches and "dance" (a trick that at home brings showers of lavish praise and treats from his big human sisters).  And there I stood wondering how the heck to get him back into a "sit" without completely knocking the wind out of his sails.  It must have been my uncontained giggling that compelled the instructor to walk over and remind me that Dewi should never be rewarded (including by laughter) for performing a "trick" unsolicited.  (Well, duh, I thought to myself.  Now, please share with me how to "correct" my dog for being completely adorable - as Dewi is still balancing up in his haunches waiting for his "reward.")  She showed me how to "gently" use my hand to guide him back into the sit position.  I don't remember what we did next.

Oh, and just in case you read my training post last week,  Dewi loved the Slim Jim, but still became distracted by other dogs who were "too" close.  I do have a glimmer of hope, however, that he'll do better at in-class heeling when we can practice through a course of cones (instead of in random clusters of owner/handlers about the room).

And now, the whining will cease.

Although I will not pretend that I don't get frustrated at this whole dog training thing, it means a great deal more to me to have a well-behaved and socialized dog who - for his own peace - knows that I'm in charge.  Do I think Dewi is bored in class?  Yes, sometimes.  Do I think training class should be treated like a big doggy playdate?  No.  Do I think training should be fun?  Yes, definitely.  Can I get on board with instructor constructive criticism?  Yes, but it's gonna be hard.  I like the taste of the chip on my shoulder much better than humble pie.  


  1. The trouble w/Cardis is that they are freakin' SMART. In a class setting, the trainer has to train to the lowest denomination - Cardis and their owners typically aren't it :) A Cardi does not enjoy endless repetitions of the same thing. If you try something more than 3x, you will get an expression that asks if YOU are the stupid one. My advice is to do each exercise twice, then do something different and fun - even if he didn't get the exercise right. Give him something he can succeed at first, then try the troublesome exercise. If YOU are bored w/doing the same thing a million times then he is too. And if your instructor gets after you for not following the lesson plan, then I'm not sure she's the best instructor for you and Dewi. Just my personal opinion.

  2. I have to say that I agree with RDM - maybe she's not a good fit. Maybe a group training setting isn't the best either for now? I am thinking the next go-round we're going to try a group class (which failed horribly for Rufus for various reasons) and if that doesn't work, get some private lessons. Or he/she will just train me like Rufus did. ;-)

  3. Thanks for the comments and the advice, y'all. I have seen Dewi flash me the "Are you stupid?" look a few times - especially during the first two basic classes. Last night was okay (except for way to much time spent on down-stay). I know Cardis are smart, but have no experience with breed-specific methods of training (and frankly wouldn't recognize if someone was training to a lab vs. a herder). Since most of the volunteer instructors at RDOC own goldens and labs, I'm thinking that's probably what I'm getting. Dewi is the only herding breed in the class. I'm definitely going to look into the Dude Ranch for our next run. Dewi (and JF) love the class setting, but need something more interesting to keep their brains and bodies occupied.

  4. Look into Rally for the boys. It builds on all the basic stuff you've learned in the regular classes but makes it a little more interesting. I wouldn't say my advice is "breed specific" training :) I've been very fortunate to have worked w/a lot of different trainers - many who have herding breeds - and that's the advice they've all given me. You have to keep it fun or the dog will shut down on you. Goldens and Labs are bred to do an owners' bidding. Herding breeds are meant to do that but also to be decision makers if the owner is too far away to give a command.

  5. Agree with everything RDM said, but will add that the heeling in and around the other dogs and people is one of the best things your dog can learn. Its so helpful in life, at the vet, at dog shows, even just walking in the park and going for a CGC or other training too. My previous class started heeling around the handlers and dogs to eventually having dogs be the posts for the figure 8 exercise. Dogs who can be the post(without the handler near) typically understand the stay. I wish I could again find a class that works this again.

  6. RDM - Clearly, I have much to learn about this topic - and dogs. I'm very thankful for your opinion and suggestions.

    Dawn - I agree that Dewi needs LOTS and LOTS of "real life" heeling practice. I wish I could find a group class on just heeling. My other dog, Jon, and I took a CGC class where all the heel work involved "real life" distractions - even a fair amount of no-leash heeling. Jon did great - but he's not the same dog as Dewi. I couldn't sign Dewi up for that class because he's - ironically - not good enough at heeling yet.


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