Saturday, February 16, 2013

Training begins

Ready for bed after training class
It's long overdue, but we finally started obedience classes with the Newfies. Due to a lack of foresight on our part, the first class landed on Valentine's Day. Super romantic way to spend the evening. Anyhow, we finally admitted to ourselves that we've been letting way too much slide with the dogs the last few months. Boden especially. When we got Thatcher a couple of years ago, we spent countless hours working on training essentials like heeling, greeting people politely and coming when called (although he never quite mastered this one). He was an only child, and we spent a lot of our spare time working with him. Boden has been quite a different story. It's difficult to find time to work with just him, because Thatcher gets jealous and interrupts. So this has lead to having one basically untrained puppy, and one adult dog who gets away with more than he used to. Admitting the problem is the first step to success, no? Cuteness can only go so far.

We enrolled both dogs in a beginner obedience class. Thatcher won't be terribly challenged, but for the sake of consistency we thought it best to sign them both up. The training facility is in what used to be a commercial office space, and has several classes going on in different training rings simultaneously. From the moment we walked in the door, I felt stressed. Thatcher and Boden were nervous and excited by this new environment that was full of noise, people and dogs. I was holding Thatcher's leash while we checked in and J. had Boden. The dogs were both extremely anxious, and kept pulling and whining, making it difficult to focus on the required paperwork. After we signed in, the lady pointed us to the training ring we should head towards. As we were walking past the registration desk, a dog that was lying behind the counter by the lady lunged out and attacked Thatcher. The lady pulled the aggressive dog off of Thatcher quickly, but after those brief moments of thrashing and biting, my nerves were shot and my stress limit at capacity.

That incident passed and we headed over to our assigned training area. We had agreed beforehand that I would primarily handle Boden for our sessions, and J. would work with Thatcher. So we swapped leashes and I waited with Boden. In our normal daily routines, the dogs don't have many opportunities to act up. They're confident and well-behaved on our walks around the neighborhood, at home and at the dog park. But remove them from their regular environment, and they are like different dogs. Thatcher has always been cautious by nature and new situations tend to exacerbate this. He was a little nervous at training, but did pretty good with J. by his side. Boden was a nightmare. It took me about 3 seconds being in the facility to realize that he's officially stronger than I am. If I was even slightly distracted, he would literally drag me several yards in the blink of an eye, to try to get to another dog or person. It was extremely alarming and a really powerful wake up call. I can only imagine how much worse that feeling of helplessness will be if I don't buckle down on his training now.

After the excitement of being in a new place wore off a little, the class went pretty well. It was mainly just an introductory session, as the trainer talked about training equipment they use, the 8-week syllabus, etc. Then we worked on "sit" and "down" commands. This, of course, was a breeze for Thatcher. He even started showing off and doing his "army crawl" without even being told to. Boden knows "sit" really well, but does not consistently lay down on command. It usually takes a few times of us repeating "down" for him to sink to the ground in a painfully slow motion. We'll get there with some extra practice. The best part of that whole night was how soundly the dogs slept. The whole situation must have been too much stimulation for them, because they walked in the door at home, followed us upstairs, and fell asleep in a matter of seconds in their favorite positions - Thatcher guarding the doorway to our room, and Boden on the bed with us. Both snoring.

1 comment:

  1. Best of luck in your new class! Finn is the same in any new situation - it's all up for grabs, and anything goes - or so it seems!