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.
(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?