Edie is the “demo dog” in her first training class

Eden started her first obedience class at Canine Campus this past week. Deven, the lead trainer, e-mailed me the day of and asked if Eden could come and be the “demo dog” for the first class. In the first class, the humans don’t bring their dogs and instead get to learn positive training techniques and clicker basics without the stress of managing their own pups for the first time. I think it’s a smart strategy. And I thought Eden would enjoy all of the attention and treats, so I said yes.

Puppy punk

(I wasn’t able to get any photos of the class, so this photo of the muddy-nosed pup will have to suffice.)

Eden got a little romp session with Fiona before we came to class, and I didn’t give her dinner, so she was arrived both a little exhausted and hungry. This class was the first time I have ever seen a fearful reaction from her. We’ve taken her to PetCo, to the busy pedestrian mall, on car trips, to various parks, the river, etc., and nothing has even slightly rattled her. But this class made her uncomfortable at first.

Specifically, she was uneasy about Deven taking her on the leash to go meet the other people, who were all sitting on chairs around the room, staring at her. She even jumped and let out a little bark when one person shifted in his seat. I was kind of astonished, and a little panicky-feeling, thinking, Oh my god. We adopted another shy dog; I had no idea. Deven, of course, realized this, and recognized that Eden was uncomfortable without me by her side. Edie immediately loosened up once I had the leash and was taking her around instead. “She just wanted to know that her mama was close,” Deven said. And this warmed my heart, because I haven’t previously felt that Eden was all that bonded to us. (In Eden’s defense, however, we’ve had her for only four weeks!)

As the class progressed, Eden shook off her anxieties and started to perform, throwing sits, jumping, and playing with a ball. She also was off the leash, and I could sense that that enabled her to feel more freedom. I saw her fears melt away, and was reminded that her now-happy behavior was nothing close to what Pyrrha could do in a similar situation (slink around and cower, even with meatball coercion). Edie ran up to people who initially made her a bit uncertain, and she soon thought Deven was her BFF 4 Life (owing to the meatballs and clicker practice work that Deven did with her). She got to play with a food toy and charm the other people sitting near us. She didn’t want to leave the room when class ended!

I was proud of her, and she responded beautifully to Deven’s cues. Much of which I can’t take credit for! She’s just smart, and she figures out what you want her to do very quickly, a lot more quickly than other dogs I’ve worked with. I had several people come up to me and ask if she was always that well behaved. I said that she wasn’t and that she was just grubbing for treats. 😉

Deven reassured me as we got ready to leave. “Don’t worry about her fearful reactions at the beginning of class,” she said. “She’s young, and she was just in a new and weird situation. Clearly, she was able to warm up.”

Regardless, it was a good reminder not to take our new, confident dog for granted. She still needs lots of socialization and encouragement too — like all dogs do, regardless of temperament.

We’re looking forward to this class and working with Edie! Guion plans to join me for future sessions, but he wasn’t able to make it for this first one. More class notes to come!

If you’ve taken obedience classes, what did they teach you about your dog that you had not previously noticed?

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11 thoughts on “Edie is the “demo dog” in her first training class

    1. No, I think her dogs were just unavailable to be the demo dogs this time around, and she already knew me, so she called to see if we’d be up for it. 🙂

      1. I see 🙂 I was just thinking that that method may be more encouraging to the other class participants to see a dog starting almost from scratch rather than an already well trained dog 🙂 Then they can all see the little things that seem to ‘go wrong’ and know its not just them!

      2. I think you are right, though! That certainly would make sense! I think it helped that Eden was somewhat “green” to some clicker training/some of the tasks Deven was asking her to do.

    1. She’s 6 months old, so I was wondering if that’s what it could be too (adolescent fear stage), as I’ve heard of that with other dogs, and especially shepherds.

  1. That’s awesome – sounds like it was a great, positive experience! She may have been a bit anxious at first, but clearly left on a high note, which can only help keep her confident in new situations! The comment above about the puppy development stages is also a good thought – could play a part.

  2. What a fun experience! I’m glad Eden enjoyed all that attention! 🙂 In addition to the development stage comment above, here was my thought… my rock-solid Emmett can go anywhere and stay calm, but he doesn’t like being handled by anyone but me (and John-ish). So, when he was a reading dog, for instance, he would behave perfectly, but if I left him with another competent person to run to the bathroom, he would becoming a maniac. I don’t know if it was a bonding thing or trust or what? Maybe Eden didn’t feel comfortable with someone new holding her leash so her behaviors were accordingly different?

  3. Glad that you were able to work Eden through her initial hesitation at the start of the class. I hope you can find some similar environments to get her used to ‘that kind’ of place. I really like her name, ‘Eden’, and hope she continues to excel in your care.

  4. Dogs need to be exposed to situations like these so they know to do handle them. Good to see that Eden was able to work through a situation like this. Eden is a beautiful dog and will do great.

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