This week we finally worked on leash walking...which I was looking forward to as I don't like being dragged around by the dogs at adoption sites. The basic concept is to allow a loose leash and to change direction whenever the dog starts pulling. It sounds simple, though it required the trainer to pretend I was the dog at first and to show me what happened if I walked too far ahead of him. What I realized is that the dog really doesn't have a choice but to follow your direction. It made a huge difference once I practiced this technique with Metric.
We also had a graduation ceremony, which allowed us to demonstrate all we learned. We showed the trainer sit, lay down, sit and stay, lay down and stay. We also showed the trainer that we could entice the dog with treats, run a distance, and call the dog to us. We did this both facing the dog and with our backs to the dog. All of the dogs in the class passed with flying colors. The purpose of the graduation ceremony was not to show that we were perfect, but that we knew what we were doing as we continue to work with our dogs.
We played a game using cones where we would move from cone to cone, progressively moving the cones together, with another dog at an opposite end. You would expect your dog to be distracted by the other dog, though I found that Metric only had eyes for me (or perhaps the treats I kept feeding him).
I learned a lot in this class, though the most important lesson is that the dog's behavior has more to do with me than with the dog. I have found that dogs are greatly influenced by our energy and generally want to please us, though they don't know how to do so. Chris, the trainer, said multiple times that giving any attention to the dog, whether looking at him, talking to him, or petting him, gives the dog encouragement. Thus, me screaming "no" as a dog jumps on me doesn't really translate. I have instead learned how to redirect my interactions to produce a more successful, harmonious relationship with the dogs I am working with when I volunteer on the weekends. I am so very thankful to Chris and the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Behavior for the fantastic class. I am also thankful for Metric's new mommy, who graciously allowed me to work with him even after she adopted him. Last, but certainly not least, I am thankful for METRIC! He is such a wonderful, beautiful dog and he found such a great home.
I recommend training to everyone, as it's more like a language class than a training...you learn how to communicate with your dog and new best friend. Thanks for reading each week!!!! I still have a lot to learn, so watch out for new blogs.