Our first few classes were spent working on clicker basics and the commands “sit”, “lie down”, “stay”, and “here”. Luke did very well with all of those. We had originally signed up for 3 classes and they gave us a 4th free, so we signed up for two additional classes because we knew there was more we wanted to learn and accomplish.
Our trainer Dave wanted to try what he called “shaping”, which I believe is similar to what they call “targeting”. This training is done in steps to reinforce a desired action such as going to a bed, ringing a bell to go out, opening doors, and fun things like getting a beer from the fridge (which my nephew’s dog can actually do!). We wanted to use it to get Luke to go to his bed, in the hopes we could get him to settle down when people come over (he barks at everyone), and I also wanted to keep him out of the kitchen when I’m cooking. Our beagle Kobi had always been under my feet when I was cooking, and though I knew it was a bad idea, I let him do it. Luke took that over and I probably encouraged it by giving him and the other dogs a nibble sometimes. I’ll write more next time about all the bad habits we had that we’ve had to learn to break!
We used a tool, seen to the left here, called a freestanding target. These are used in agility, and Dave used it because it was handy there! The idea is to get the dog to touch the target with his nose. This is done in steps; click & treat when he steps towards it, then click & treat when he looks at it, then when he actually touches the top with his nose. Each step is done a few times, and as you move on, you withhold the click and treat, trying to get them to try something else. My husband worked with Luke on this, with Dave instructing, and Luke caught on very quickly. In only a matter of a few minutes, he had Luke touching the base of the target instead of the top!
That was one time we saw Dave get really excited, and he said “Luke is really smart!” It makes a pet parent so proud to hear those words! We tried to move on from there with working towards getting Luke to lie down on a rug. This time I was doing the training, and it didn’t go nearly as well! I wasn’t quick enough to see him looking and we didn’t get far. Luke may have been getting tired by that point too, so we gave it up for that night.
At home my husband worked with Luke on targeting his bed (I tried too but didn’t do as well), and it didn’t take long before Luke was going to his bed and sitting or lying down on command, with just the word “bed”! The steps are walk towards the bed, look at it, touch it, put a paw on it, etc. until he got to sitting on it completely.
In the next class we worked on someone knocking at the door and getting him to stay in his bed until he was given a command we chose “say hi” and he could come greet the person and get a treat. We needed to work on this at home and then get people to come over to put it to the test. Our first trial run with “strangers” didn’t go nearly as well as we hoped. I will fill you in on that in Part 4. But I will say that it is working well at keeping him out of the kitchen. He isn’t perfect yet, but he’s getting better. There’s even been times where I’ve gone into the kitchen to do something and he’s gone right to his bed without me even telling him to (but the norm right now is that I need to send him back more than once)!
We’ve also been working on “heel” and loose leash walking, which is very challenging (more on that soon as well), but Luke and I just had a great walk yesterday where he did very well with that. I was so excited, and it helped me to feel better after our less than successful greeting test last week.
Parting thoughts and advice based on our experience. I’m not an expert – you should always consult a trainer for expert advice:
- There are a lot of highs and lows to training! We’ve had really good times and really bad. I need to remind myself that we need to be consistent and persistent, and not to get discouraged.
- Luke is still young and I think we need to remember that too. I believe we’re building some basics here that can only get better as he matures.
- Training can be fun and rewarding! There’s nothing like watching your dog think and figure things out, and hearing a professional say that your dog is smart!
In Part 4 I will tell you exactly how our unsuccessful greeting at the door session went, and about the challenges of breaking old bad habits!
Training is good for a dog’s mind and body, and helps their overall fitness. We’re happy to be joining the FitDog Friday blog hop. Thank you to our blog hop hosts SlimDoggy, To Dog With Love and MyGBGVLife. Please visit their sites and others through the links below to learn more about keeping your dogs fit and happy!