Train Your Dog Month Challenge 2014 – What I Learned

What a triumph!

For Train Your Dog Month, I taught Honey to climb a steep companionway ladder, to jump from a moving boat onto a dock with a line in her mouth, and to tie a perfect cleat hitch.

Honey's Train the Dog Month Challenge was to learn sailing skills.

Wait a minute. You expect me to work on the boat? I thought my job was to look pretty in my life jacket.

No, not really.

Because the month that was supposed to be dedicated to training my dog and building our bond, instead found me spraining my ankle, working twice my normal work hours, sick for two weeks with a respiratory bug, and entertaining two delightful but deal-changing furry house guests.

Oh, did I forget to mention the subfreezing temperatures that made every trip outdoors an adventure in layering? I had to lose five pounds just to fit enough underwear and socks under my regular clothing.

So if you’re looking for an inspirational story about a dog learning something fun and new, visit Alfie the Entlebucher, Sugar the Golden Retriever (who met her goal on top of having surgery) and our new friend, Kes. As well as all the other great teams you’ll find in the links below.

All my excuses don’t mean that Honey and I did nothing this month. But we were flexible. We took advantage of the opportunities in front of us while we let go of things that were too hard under the circumstances.

Honey the Golden Retriever is training new sailing skills.

Modeling life jackets is such hard work I couldn’t lift my head with a winch. Whatever that means.

Here’s what I learned:

Having More Than One Dog Transforms Training

In the past, when I wanted to train Honey with visiting pups in the house, we’d work on the back porch, letting the other dogs watch us from the kitchen. No way could we do that in the arctic winds and below freezing temps we had this month. And I’ve found baby gates in doorways just didn’t work.

So I’ve tried training three dogs at once. It’s a great chance to practice behaviors in a distracting environment.

Honey and our visitors, Lil’ Punkin Butt and Mr. Handsome (names are changed to protect the innocent), have gotten good at responding to cues only when I call their names. But even soft-mouthed Mr. Handsome and Honey become a little grabby with their teeth in a crowd. They definitely feel competitive over the treats.

Lil Punkin Butt offers up a Train Your Dog Month challenge.

Mike has an interesting response to jumping dogs. I think it’s called surrender.

Training Happens Everywhere

Dogs are always learning from us. So I decided to take advantage of that. Instead of planning elaborate training sessions, I worked with real life. And I decided to teach MH and LPB not to jump on me when I came home.

They’re very smart.

All I had to do was turn around and leave again if they jumped. They settled down fairly quickly. And if they forget, I remind them that jumping doesn’t get them again attention by going back out the door.

Unfortunately, that leads to my next lesson.

Dogs Really Don’t Generalize Well

Trainers always say it. Dogs don’t generalize well. If they know a behavior in the house, they’ll have to relearn it outdoors.

I know this. And yet I was still hoping that my work with the dogs would keep them from jumping on their person when she came to pick them up.

But I’ve had a stunning demonstration of how poorly dogs generalize when Mike comes home from work and I hear the shouts, “Down, get down. No. Down.”

And I can’t stop Honey from jumping on strangers because she never jumps on me.

I need a string of strangers to visit so we can work on Honey’s training. Any volunteers planning a vacation to the Finger Lakes?

Honey the golden retriever wants to do some training at the park.

Let’s do some training at the playground. What do you mean my feet would freeze to the equipment?

Train Your Dog For Life

I’m glad the Association of Pet Dog Trainers came up with Train Your Dog Month. Encouraging people to build their bond with their dog through training is fabulous!

And I understand picking January. It is a time when many people think of starting new habits.

Personally, January is usually a terrible month for me to start anything new. It’s a low-energy time. One that leaves me wanting to hibernate more than anything.

Luckily, training our dogs isn’t a one month activity. Or something we only do when we need to meet a goal or solve a behavioral problem. It’s a way of life. It’s a great excuse to work together on something. And it builds our relationship.

So whether you used this month to do something ambitious (like Kristine teaching Shiva to retrieve) or strengthening core behaviors (like Baillie in My BVBG Life), I hope it’s only the first step in a lifetime of having fun training with your dog.

How Did You Meet the Train Your Dog Challenge

Train Your Dog Month ChallengeI know there are lots more of you working on cool things with your dogs than the folks I mentioned above. Use the linky tool below to share the post where you’ve written about it.

Not a blogger? That’s cool. You can use the linky tool to link to a FB picture or status or a Pinterest board as well. Anything with a URL.

And if you want to share something but none of those work for you, paste your write-up into an email to me. I’ll post it right here on Something Wagging This Way Comes.

Why should you go to so much trouble?

  • so we can share in your success
  • to encourage each other
  • and to enter for your chance to win a $25 donation to your favorite pet charity and a prize pack for you and your dog (I reserve the right to substitute an Amazon gift card for the prize pack if the winner is outside North America).

So hurry. The linky is only open for one week. And don’t forget to stop by to say hello to my wonderful co-hosts at Alfie’s Blog and Rescued Insanity.

Your Turn: What’s one lesson you’ve learned about dog training?


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  1. I can so relate to the training multiple dogs. Actually, having Jack around to help train Maggie has served two purposes: 1. helped her learn the commands, 2. helped her get over her fears. Big brother, the protector allowed her to do things she would not do on her own.

  2. I’m actually feeling pretty proud of myself over this month’s challenge. Bunny ended up doing a lot better than I thought she would. Or maybe I should say, she ended up progressing a lot further than I hoped for during the first month of our new behavior. She may get a chance to test it out in a new situation later today.

    I had to laugh about your comments about training multiple dogs! Hubby usually looks like he’s operating a well-oiled three ring circus when he starts training the girls. It’s definitely a lot different than one on one!

  3. My training month went somewhat along the same lines. Didn’t feel good, too many things going on and January is always my worse month with the season.

    So I think we should both feel proud that we did so well and were able to just be with our dogs. Isn’t that what it is really all about?

    Happy February Pamela! Only 7 weeks til spring! :)

  4. Jumping up is a tough one at our house because Mom likes us to jump up and hug her whenever she comes home and since we don’t know the difference between that and strangers it is rough. For Bailie to pass her class she has to be approached by a stranger and remain seated while that person pets her. Mom goes to the office and pet stores to train this and it works pretty well. Especially at pet stores everyone wants to pet your dog, so she tells them they can but they need to wait for Bailie to sit and stay and if she gets up they have to stop. Bailie is doing really well but it is super hard for her.

  5. Oops, forgot, thanks for mentioning my blog in your post 😉

  6. Back in November, I delivered a Prison trained dog to her new family. She did really well, sat and stayed in the living room perfectly. I told her mom, who is in charge of their 3 daughters, to work diligently on sit/stay everywhere, that dogs don’t generalize, and she wants a solid stay in case she needs to leave Roxie and work with her daughter.

    January training didn’t happen here. We are in a new normal. Sophie Tucker Beagle died on the highway this past week. She was a dedicated hunter Beagle who I thought was in the house. I’d been hand walking her to keep her safe but any crack in my home defense, and she was out and running. Now, the other escapees’s (3) daily routines are curtailed and adjusted for their safety and in honor of Sophie Tucker.

  7. It sounds like a rough month that you turned around! Thanks for doing this!

    All our best, Terry (human), Kes and Livvie (rescued rat terriers)
    from, in honor of Matilda the greyhound angel

  8. I did you did a great job on this post and I hope the next month is better for you.

  9. Colds, working late, snow and achy ankles are no fun but sounds like you’ve had a pawsome ‘pack’ to keep you company! Funny you should mention that dogs don’t generalise well – in our house Alfie takes every opportunity to beg my husband, or any poor house guest we might have, for a game of fetch or tug. He knows I won’t play if he pushes the toy in my hand, but he is an opportunist and will play with anyone who gives in. I always looked at it as him being smart, testing what he can get away with rather than being bad at generalising! :-)

  10. So true about Training Happens Everywhere. It’s a continuos learning and bonding experience. Creating “creative’ activities with Sugar is very challenging. Even though Sugar is a senior, she is active. We think her 2 surgeries provided her more energy :-) Since she is a senior, been doing lots of “mind” stimulating (calming) activities with her. I did a post on the puzzle treat game. I posted several “homemade games” videos on our IG account (I re-posted 2 on our FB Page. We are happy to participate again on your hop again. Golden Woofs

  11. So true about the generalization! Maya is exactly like Honey in that she knows not to jump on me but doesn’t understand she’s not supposed to jump on other people either. It has been difficult to teach her this because she can learn not to jump on certain people, but whenever we meet someone new I have to re-teach her!

    I get what you’re saying about training more than one dog at a time. I sometimes have to train Maya and Pierson separately, especially when it comes to walking and dealing with their leash reactive behavior. It does help, however, to trick train them both together because they learn from one another.

  12. I’d volunteer in a second!

    It sounds to me like you really challengedo yourself and Honey this month, with training in different environments and even bringing in other dogs. It is interesting that Honey also have behaviours she only practices with your husband and others. But if Shiva can learn not to jump on strangers, Honey can too. After all, only one of these dogs has her CGC and it isn’t the spotted one.

    Thanks for running this great challenge once more. I needed the inspiration!

  13. My hat is off to you for training three dogs. I have a hard time training two. No matter whose name I call, they both come and heaven help me if I pull out a treat, because no matter who it is intended for, the treat is Delilah’s.

    When I tried to do a little scent work training on one of the super cold days, I had to lock them both in the bedroom and let them out one at a time. Even then at the end Delilah busted the gate down and ran on to the course. :-)

  14. Thank you so much for hosting this. I’m going to enjoy clicking through everyone else’s because we didn’t even come close to completing our goals so don’t have a good follow-up to share. Sigh. But I love your point that training happens everywhere. I try to apply that to our everyday life, and I do believe it makes a difference. Here’s to a more successful February…


  1. […] have accomplished and you can see what everyone has been up to by checking on the blog hop links on Something Wagging this Way Comes. Thanks so much to all of our hosts for this great training month […]

  2. […] week. While you are there, make sure to read about the challenges faced by my talented co-hosts at Something Wagging This Way Comes and  Alfie’s Blog, as well as by all the other participants. You may be newly inspired to join […]

  3. […] my main goal – and what I wanted to accomplish for the Train Your Dog Month Challenge – was to go through the Relaxation Protocol with both Cooper and […]