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