Eden at school: Week two

Guion came with me this week for Eden’s second time in obedience class. This week, we went over the distinctions between capturing, luring, and shaping, and largely practiced teaching her how to go to her mat/a place in class.

(And here are some bad photos of us working with her in class…)

Eden in class | Doggerel

She didn’t show any fear about being in class this time, but she was VERY excited that there were other dogs in the room. We set her up in a corridor behind an ex-pen with sheets over it, to block most of her view. She would still get distracted from time to time, but overall, I was proud of how she was able to maintain focus on us, particularly considering her adolescent stage. (The fact that she was desperately hungry also helped! Train on an empty stomach, people!)

I always love this second week of class, because you get to discover what kind of dogs everyone has (since dogs aren’t brought to the first session). There was Willow, a beautiful, smart little spaniel mix*; Tessa, a giant all-black mix, who really just looked like a very tall, leggy flat-coated retriever; a one-eyed all-white American bulldog; a coonhound in a Thundershirt; a wire-haired fox terrier; and an extremely vocal Wheaten/Great Pyrenees mix (crazy looking! But cool) who had a hard time calming down.

(*I felt especially charmed by Willow. She was only 20 lbs., and seemed so darling and responsive. Part of me was all, “OMG. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tiny dog??” Don’t tell the shepherds. Sometimes I have those thoughts.)

Eden in class | Doggerel
Guion loves working with Edie.

Eden also served as the demo dog for teaching a dog not to jump on people (one of her favorite hobbies whenever any human enters a room). The first dog that Erin, the instructor, chose for this exercise showed no inclinations to jump on her. I raised my hand. “We have a jumper!” I said. And Eden didn’t disappoint. But she also figured out the game pretty quickly, and within a few trials, she was sitting politely, even when Erin beckoned Eden to jump on her.

Eden in class | Doggerel
I’m trying to work with her on loose-leash walking in a tiny space. Not successful.

We have lots to practice this week for homework, but Eden loves interacting with us (and truthfully, the food) and learning new things, so she’s a joy to work with. The tricky part now has just been keeping Pyrrha sufficiently distracted in the yard or in another room. It can be hard to work with Eden without Pyrrha getting agitated/upset that she can’t play the training games too.

Multi-dog people: What are some of your favorite tactics for training one dog when you have other dogs in the house? How do you keep the other dogs from getting antsy?

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?