I always wanted one of those “bomb-proof” dogs. You know the ones I mean, that are perfectly behaved, come every time you call, or stay while you walk a mile away. Maybe you have one of those dogs! I never have. I wanted Luke to be that dog, and he certainly has the potential, if only I were a more consistent trainer.
Back when we had four dogs in the household, three puppies at the same time, my excuse was that training that many dogs was just too much! They weren’t bad dogs though, just a bit more independent. For us, that meant just having a big fenced-in yard for most of their exercise, and walking only one or two dogs at a time.
What I’ve found with Luke is that it wasn’t the time factor so much for me, it’s just that I’m an inconsistent dog trainer. I try, I really do, but sometimes I just lose interest in the repetitiveness of it all.
I mentioned a while ago that Luke and were taking an online class in recall and working on a new cue. I found a fun word to use:
I wanted something different, we had already used “come” and “here”, and those work a lot of the time. I’m not sure if I’m dating myself here, with the reference to the Speedy Gonzales cartoon. Speedy was “the fastest mouse in all Mexico” and his catch phrase was “Arriba, arriba, ándale, ándale!”. That loosely translates to “Get up! Let’s go!”. I often call Luke “Speedy G” when he’s pulling me when we’re out on a walk. “Slow down, Speedy G!” is my catch phrase, so I thought using ándale was perfect, after one of our readers had suggested using a foreign word when I was searching for the right one when starting our online recall class.
I wanted a new cue that was 100%, that would work even when Luke was distracted with his nose to the ground or nervous about something going on around him. In the end, we ended up with yet another cue that works MOST of the time, because I never followed through with the whole class we took. But I’ve learned enough along the way, that I at least won’t ruin this one by repeating it too much when he doesn’t respond. If he doesn’t, I either use a different word or just go get him. We do still work on this cue to keep reinforcing it, just not formally. I use it and reward him when we’re on walks mostly, or if he responds to it around the house.
The “Calling All Dogs” course we took through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, which I highly recommend, was excellent. We got to play some fun games as reinforcement, it was just that somewhere along the way I got more interested in doing other things, like working around the farm. Training doesn’t have to take long, just a few minutes per day, but I think I was just bored with it!
I’ve learned in my later years of life that I’m tired of fighting who I am and trying to change too much. As long as everyone is happy, healthy, and we’re getting along OK, then I say that’s good enough. I’m never going to be an intense dog trainer and I’m OK with that.
To an extent, Luke has taught me that as well. Luke has his quirks and issues, and we’ve learned to accept who he is and work around it. If he is safe and happy, then we are all content. The other day I was on a work phone call, and my cell phone only works at the front of the house by the road. On nice days I just go right outside for the best reception. I realized I needed to write something down and when I went in the house to do so, I accidentally left the front door open.
I panicked when I realized it and ran back to the door to see Luke outside. I called him back – don’t ask me which cue I used – and he immediately came right back into the house. So, maybe not bomb-proof, but pretty darn good, I’d say.
The wonderful thing about taking online classes at Fenzi for me is that not only can you do them at your own pace (if you “audit” it basically, which is the least expensive option), but as long as you take one course per year, you always have access to a library of all the classes you’ve taken. I can go back to any of them any time and pick up where I left off.
Maybe I’ll want to do that this late fall and winter when there’s not much to do on the farm. More likely though, I’ll probably take a different class, but this time we’ll do something more fun.
Luke has the obedient, people-pleasing characteristics of the Labrador retriever in his genes, he’s smart as a whip, but he also has the nose of a hound dog that makes up a smaller part of his genetic profile. His nose is amazing, and we’ve taken the beginner nose works class which we both loved. I’ve wanted to try tracking with him too, and I think that will be next on the agenda. On our recent walk Sunday, we were walking through the area where the Dadz had been cutting trees, and Luke went immediately to a glove hubby had dropped on the ground. I could even see him being a search and rescue dog if both of our personalities were different.
The one thing Luke enjoys most about our walks is getting to smell things. If the scents aren’t there, I think he gets bored sometimes. Lately he hasn’t wanted to go on any of the further trails we’ve finally been able to walk on. I’m not sure if it’s boredom, something making him nervous, or the heat and humidity (even though we walk fairly early in the morning). Either way, walks are for his exercise and enjoyment, so I’ll try to get him to go a certain way, but if he plants himself, then we turn around. It frustrates me, but there again I want Luke to be himself and happy. A new sport might be just what he needs. He may very well be just as bored with obedience training as I am! On the other hand, I wonder as I write this if he didn’t enjoy the training things we were doing when walking. It’s something to think about, and at the least, working on reinforcing cues while walking might be more interesting for both of us.
I’ll probably never have that 100% perfectly trained dog. I can accept that, to an extent I’d rather just let a dog be a dog anyway. I may not be the perfect trainer either, but that doesn’t mean we won’t still work at it – we just like to do it at our own pace.