Our obedience school graduate

(I feel like “obedience school” is kind of a harsh, traditional word for it, but I’m not sure what the appropriate synonym is. Training class? Whatever.)

Our little obedience school graduate. Still acts like a psycho. #germanshepherd #soproudofguion

Little Edie graduated from her basic obedience class last night!

It was fun taking this class with a different dog; we took it with Pyrrha a few weeks after we got her, and the class was a struggle for poor, shy Pyr. We had to spend the whole class behind a door, as she just couldn’t handle the room full of other dogs. Just getting Pyrrha into a calm mindset to actually train was challenge enough; some weeks, she couldn’t get there, and we’d just focus on helping her relax in the classroom.

Eden, however, has been a different story; she’s gregarious, eager to work, and such a quick learner. She may have been the craziest dog in class, but I of course think she was also the smartest. Ha! It helps that she is extremely food motivated, and we always brought her to class without having had dinner. In class, she’s willing to do anything — I’ll do back-flips! Speak Portuguese! Solve a differential equation! — to get that treat.

She’s learned a number of commands in class, but we need to be better about generalizing those behaviors and practicing them at home. Training with a partner makes this easier; I can go work with Pyrrha, and Guion can work with Eden in a different room. Training solo has been a bit harder, because the exiled dog always seems to know what’s up (Someone is getting treats in there, and it’s not me!).

Things we learned in class that I’d like to keep working on:

  • Not jumping on people. She still goes WILD whenever we have guests over, and this has been a hard one to teach. Because even if we instruct people to turn their backs to her and not look at her, they still get mauled. Eden is able to throw out a sit during these greetings, but it’s certainly not her first reaction still. I don’t even need a sit; I’m fine so long as all four paws are on the ground. But we need to take charge of this, because it’s a nuisance.
  • Go to your mat. I think we need another mat in the house, because right now, we’re training this on the same mat, and I know Pyrrha wouldn’t like sharing it with Edie.
  • Stay. She’s definitely figuring this one out, but we need to practice a whole lot more before this is rock-solid.
  • Leave it. Eden has shown incredible self-control with this command in class, but it’s a harder thing to practice at home or on walks, so we need to be more vigilant about that.
  • Bravo! Teaching her to offer a bow. Just a cute trick, and I think she could learn it. Luring is most useful with this command, but I know capturing is preferable, so I need to remember to have treats on hand when they get let out of their crates to do their morning stretches.

Being in a class is always so motivating to me. I wish we had the funds to take them year-round. Eden really thrives in a classroom environment, so I think we’d like to take another class with her. Intermediate obedience or agility could be really fun with her. I don’t think she’ll ever be an agility star (she doesn’t have that border collie quickness), but I think she’d really enjoy it.

Have you taken your dogs to obedience classes? How did they go?

Pyrrha is going to school

In the front yard

This past week, I decided that it was time for our shy princess to go to obedience school. We have signed her up for a 6-week basic obedience course at Canine Campus, a local training facility.

I feel confident about the head trainer, who is certified with several training organizations and has trained with Pat Miller, who wrote one of my favorite step-by-step training books. I e-mailed with her about what she thought about Pyrrha’s suitability for the group class, since Pyrrha’s history with strange dogs is not a good one. She assured me that the dogs aren’t supposed to interact with one another, and a portion of the class is just teaching the dog to focus on you and not the rest of the room. Alternately, she said that if the group class turns out to be too overwhelming for her, we can funnel our payment for the class into either private lessons or another class. She said that shy dogs have often done well in her nose-work class.

I expected that I’d take more initiative training her at home, but I have been so busy lately in the evenings that I haven’t put in nearly as much time as I have wanted to. Pyrrha knows her name, “come,” “sit,” and “down,” but that’s it–and she really only responds to me; she won’t take any commands from Guion, unless it’s clear that he has something delicious in his hand.

That said, here are my basic goals for these next six weeks of training class:

  1. For Pyrrha and Guion to build a better relationship and for her fear of him to be mostly eliminated. (Guion will be coming to as many training classes as he can.)
  2. To jump-start my incentive to train with her on a more regular basis.
  3. For Pyrrha to be able to interact in a room with distractions, other dogs, new people and be able to focus on me.
  4. For Pyrrha to gain confidence.

Our first class starts next week, so you’ll be sure to hear lots from me on how that goes!

Has your dog gone to school? What was your experience like?