Thursday, February 9, 2012
Sit Ubu, Sit! Good Dog.
Tonight began week three of obedience training with Belle. The first week was just for the humans. We did not get treats. It was a little disappointing. Last week was the first week with Belle. It was a crazy week, and I wasn't feeling especially patient after having to drive home midweek during a stressful four days of blood drives in Rolla. We muddled through.
My first obstacle was how I was going to keep Belle from pinging around the inside of my car like a furry pinball. I stopped by the pet store and found a seat belt harness for her. Of course I bought the wrong size. It was way too big. The next day, I went back and bought the medium but kept the large because she's just going to keep growing.
Just getting the harness on her was a lesson in perseverance. She hated it and tried to chew the thing off. I finally got her into the car and buckled in, and we were off with my fanny pack full of tiny cut up hot dog bits. I made it to Marshfield, and she was out of the harness and free to roam about the cabin.
I pulled over in the funeral home parking lot under the big lights and proceeded to restrain her again. That's when I realized I had missed buckling a vital piece of the harness across her back. Snapped in, but neither of us all that happy, we were off again. I spent the rest of the car ride to and from praying she didn't chew a hole in my leather seats.
The next stressful thing was the meet and greet with all of the other dogs. I don't know how much Belle weighs right now, but she's big. You can see how she's laid out across my back seat. She takes up most of the couch now, and we have to raise her head up and scoot her over to sit down ourselves. I can hold her on the leash but barely. If she's motivated, it's a struggle.
She was very motivated to meet and greet.
The first night was a whole lot of wanting to sniff other dogs. Mercifully, she didn't pee or growl or snap at anyone or any other dogs so all and all it was at least a social success. Neither of us got banned. The instructors showed us the behaviors we were to work on by demonstrating their already trained dogs. One dog was a real pro. The other dog was supposedly just recently trained.
The instructor was demonstrating down (lay down) and suggested we all try it. I suggested there was no way Belle would do it. She took the challenge and called Belle up to the front of the class. She huffed and puffed and struggled with Belle for ten minutes trying to get her to go down. Every other dog in the class did it. Not Belle.
It was both a little satisfying that even she couldn't achieve it with Belle and also supremely frustrating. She suggested perhaps Belle just needed a calmer setting. Uh, sure, that will work.
I left not feeling too confident in ever getting her do the down. Honestly, I just want her to quit jumping and chewing on me aggressively, and I want her to come when I call her. Every time. I'm not expecting her to start bringing me beverages from the fridge or vacuuming the house. I don't think I'm asking too much.
Belle is pretty solid on the sit and does come to the whistle now almost every time. But she's still got some really bad behaviors we need to overcome. It's difficult not to compare her to Briar (our old black lab who lived to twelve) and Daisy (our yellow lab who also lived to twelve). Briar was the most stubborn dog I have ever known. He would not come to me outside if I called for him, and he didn't want to. Bryon had whistle trained him from a very young age though and that was my saving grace with him. He was bomb proof on the whistle because he didn't know who was blowing it. You could see the disappointment on his face when he rounded the corner and saw he'd been tricked by me into coming.
Daisy was a saint. She was just about the perfect dog. She was bomb proof. Together they made great pets and got along so well. It was really difficult when they passed, even though they passed three years apart. I can't tell you how many times I think that Belle is just Briar reincarnated as a bitch. Be careful what you wish for.
I didn't get to work with Belle too much this week but Sunday I found a good spot between the chair and the wall and worked on the down command with her. By golly, she finally got it. Now she'll do it every time ... as long as I have a hotdog. No hotdog and forget about it. Still, it felt good to show off her awesome trick tonight at the training class. She was a rock star.
This week we are working on doing the tricks without treats.
Neither of us is going to like that.