Obedience Class Photos!
Learning a Finish
Obedience Class Photos!
Learning a Finish
I’m so proud of Callie. She taught me a valuable lesson last week, and together we informed our obedience instructor of a new piece of information to add to her large knowledge base.
After the dragging required by our instructor last week (when Callie would stop walking… read more here) Callie was totally afraid of the word heel and would pull back immediately if she hit the end of the leash, as if in preparation for being dragged. She was also a little more fearful of me.
So, I started over. First, I rid the word heel from my vocabulary. Then I refused to drag her along as I walked. For the first couple of days, I would stop when she did, give her leash a quick tug, saying, “come on,” or “let’s walk” show her a treat and call her along. Then I moved to pulling her along for two steps, stopping, calling to her and usually she would start walking so she would get a treat.
I did go get a martingale collar and a much lighter leash to which she responded very well.
Finally, on the day before class, I began reintroducing the word “heel” on occasion, interspersed with the other commands I had been giving. She would stop at first but grew more comfortable as we went along.
Tuesday came, and it was time for class. I spoke to the instructor ahead of time. I tried to explain about puppy mill dogs and how they are only ever grabbed by their scruffs, why that might make Callie react the way she does when pulled on the leash. The instructor listened to me, although I am not sure she fully paid attention to what I was trying to tell her until class began.
Beforehand, I had been smart and stopped for some smoked cheese. I broke it up into little bits in my treat bag and mixed it with her regular Zukes treats so those would be coated with cheese too.
We began class with heeling around the room, Callie started with a pause, a little nervous and reactionary after the week before. Who could blame her? But I got out a little cheese. Suddenly, I had a dog who was heeling perfectly around the room. A few pieces of cheese kept her going, but she was passing other dogs who weren’t behaving quite as well. The instructor’s jaw was nearly on the floor.
We worked on heeling turns next. Callie seems to get really frustrated when she doesn’t know what I want from her, so I had to help her a lot with this, keeping her in place while trying to turn, LOL.
We heeled around the room again, stopping to do heeling turns. Callie did great, especially with the cheese as an incentive, but finally, she hit her limit and sat, refusing to move. I recognized that she needed a break, so I just sat in the middle of the floor with her while all the other dogs went around us.
The last thing we did in class was begin work on recall with the instructor holding the leash and us across the room. Not only did Callie do a beautiful sit-stay while I walked across the room from her, but she ran to me with excellent speed and intent.
Callie was the star student last week. Now let’s see if we can keep it up tomorrow. All I know is that learning with Callie is often following along blindly and stumbling our way through each moment.
Jess and I took Callie to the park this weekend. She made a new best friend, the flying turtle! Plus she practiced her obedience work outside with kids around. My brilliant dog 😊.
Guess what else! This morning I got my first semblance of a doggie smile while giving Callie some scratchies 💖
Oh, Callie. There were a couple of stressful events in her life last week.
Last Monday an excellent traveling groomer came to our house to give Callie her first groom since the one she got when she left the puppy mill – aside from a few terrible hack jobs by me on her feet and ears.
I chose to have a groomer come here rather than take her to one because I could only imagine the stress she would experience. The groomer, Dirk, was fantastic. He spent about 15 minutes on the floor with her first, just talking to her and letting her sniff him, his equipment, etc.
When I put her on the table, she didn’t freak out or try to get away, that’s not Callie’s m.o. anyway. She sat, stoically, or stood, depending on what he needed, for a long time. I never left the room, he and I chatted the whole time – either to each other or to her – and she took it in stride for a while. Then she decided she was done.
When Callie is done, she is DONE. She sits and won’t move. You can pick her up, but she won’t move her body out of the sitting position. You can offer her all the treats in the world, she’ll eat them, but she sure won’t change her mind.
Dirk, having worked with animals for years in different settings, recognized this immediately. He tried a couple of his own tricks and when they didn’t work either, “we” decided the grooming was over.
He did a fantastic first job on Callie. I was impressed with his ability to recognize what was too hard for her and stay away from it. Did she end up with the full cut she needed? Not quite, but he listened to her instead which was far more important to me. And she looks great!
The attitude she gives when she is done with something – that’s Cavitude. Cavaliers are sweet, loving, easy-going dogs who are relatively well-behaved and usually easy to train, except every now and then a little ‘tude sneaks in, and you get Cavitude.
Previously, Callie has decided that she is DONE when I am in the middle of a store, like the pet store, and will sit down and refuse to move. Public Displays of Cavitude. The easiest solution for me is to pick her up and move her to wherever I need her to be, but now that has gotten me into a lot of trouble.
Tuesday, Callie and I had our first obedience class. Given that I am relatively dog experienced and that she is a rescue, I wanted to give her time to let down and bond before we moved into classes. We’ve done home training up until this point.
Callie knows to sit and wait to be released for her food. She’s working on stay, come, down, and still, her biggest fear – going down flights of stairs.
I tried to remind myself of how good she is, how she follows me, etc., as I went into class, and I started to feel pretty confident. Shoulda just smeared dog poop on my face right then. #Cavitude.
After being given some time to investigate, we started with heeling around the room. Apparently, Callie thought the floor was so much more exciting than walking with me that she continued to stop every few feet.
I got in trouble for letting my dog teach me to stop whenever she wanted. So the trainer made me keep walking when Callie stopped, as in drag her. Nobody could believe just how stubborn Callie was being about walking, refusing to get up. My treats weren’t tasty enough, though thankfully we located some cheese which helped the situation immensely.
The whole time I was there I felt embarrassed about my skills as a dog trainer but, afterward, I wondered whether she was really right. Whether it was just stubbornness. While she’s correct to an extent and I can’t just let Callie stop me whenever she wants, I also think it’s detrimental to continue to drag her if she continues to refuse. And it goes against all my positive training methods.
I don’t think this woman understands the mindset of puppy mill rescues – if it gets scary, most dogs will run away or bite or do something whereas for many puppy mill rescues, specifically, if something gets scary, their first instinct is to hunker down and not move. I forgot that too, knowing Callie as I do.
How much of Callie’s refusal to walk part of the time – we did get her walking – was caused by her stubborn personality I have come to know, and how much was caused by her natural fear reaction? I don’t know. But I think the instructor and I are going to have a talk about how I am going to get Callie prepared for the “heeling” part of the obedience class. Without being stopped every 3 feet or dragging her.
By the way, Vermont played an April Fool’s joke this year. It was super funny:
I don’t usually respond to the daily prompts, but I was inspired by today’s, “doubt.”
Rescuing a dog isn’t easy. Rescuing a dog who is middle-aged and doesn’t have a clue about the outside world has presented its own set of difficulties.
And the doubt that comes with the experience can be painful.
In those moments of doubt, I try and remember how far we have come.
AND – she’s learning to be silly 🙂
I still have plenty of doubts. All the time. But if I remember the good moments during the frustrating ones, it helps to know we are still moving forward.
Before we adopted Callie, we had another puppy named Tucker.
I’m about to admit a lot of stuff that I am not proud of, but I think this is a post that is important to share. We talk about getting the right dog, we talk about the dogs that end up in rescues, we write about the dogs we have and the ones we have rescued. But it is difficult for a dog owner, one that cares so deeply about animals, one that rescued her own puppy mill mama and is working hard to introduce her to everything, to retrain her, to admit that they once out-dogged themselves. But it happens. And in our instance, we got lucky.
I should back up to the beginning.
We decided to get a dog, and I had lived with several different bully breeds/mixes and loved them dearly. I previously had a lab too. I was watching Petfinder all the time, but I also did something stupid, I went on Craiglist pets and found an adorable “pit/lab” mix who was 12 wks old. The owners were getting rid of him because he was already too much for them.
It was instant love, and off we went to meet him/get him.
He’s pretty darn adorable, right?
Life with Tucker started out fantastic. He was fun, sweet, easy to train. He loved to play in the most entertaining ways. He stole the bottom of the cat tower…
As Tuck grew, he began to get wild. Puppy wild of course, but intensely so. I became friends with a woman named Erin who has a southern rescue boxer mix named Eos, a tiny chihuahua, and a huge field with a river running alongside it.
We met about 3 days a week and walked in that area where Tucker could run off leash and swim in the warmer months. Even after an hour or so of that, he was still wound up.
There were several factors my wife and I didn’t consider when we chose a dog. I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, she works full-time and is more of a cat person than a dog one, although she loves dogs. My fibro began to get worse as the added stress of having Tucker grew, and I kept trying to convince myself that everything was all right. Nobody was really happy. The cats hated him, Tuck wasn’t happy, we were stressed, it was hard.
We began to notice something else, too. When we got Tuck, he had these adorable speckles on his nose. One day my wife looked down at him and said to me, “Where did his speckles go? His nose is just black!”
I took one long look at his face and said, “No, his speckles have just moved back as he has grown.” Along with his snout. He still had a bully head, but not a lab face, and I realized he had to be part Border Collie. That explained the obnoxious herding behavior. It also helped explain the strong reactivity combined with this anxious need to not react badly. Particularly in a dog that was probably an accidental mix.
Erin – the owner of Eos – and I became very close friends, and she began to fall in love with Tucker. Her whole family did, really.
Jess and I struggled with the reality of life with Tucker, but also what it might do to our daughter if we couldn’t keep him. We also agreed that we were committed to Tucker, no matter what he would never end up in a rescue.
Slowly, over the course of a month or so, Erin and her husband, along with Jess and I began to seriously talk about giving Tucker to them. It started as a joke one day. Erin loves animals and always talks about wanting to run a sanctuary, or perhaps doggie daycare. We joked that Tuck should stay with them half the week and with us the other. Not really that funny, but it was our reality at the time.
Finally, we all agreed that it really would be best if Tucker went to live with them. He would be 5 minutes away from us, we would see him all the time, and he would get to run in the field with another big dog several times a day.
It hurt to admit that I couldn’t do it. That I had out-dogged myself. I failed.
Tucker, however, ended up where he needed to be. His dad is his favorite person on earth, his best friend, he still has two kids to play with, and when I come over, and someone says, “Mommy,” if I’m sitting down, he will still climb in my lap. Tuck loves all three mommies. Like any good bully breed – he has a neverending supply of heart.
He’s a much happier dog now.
We would have kept trying, but it would not have been great for anyone. As much as it hurts to admit, I out-dogged myself, and the best thing I ever did for Tucker was give him away.
It took our family almost a year to be ready to even talk about another dog.
So, one very long post later, I have admitted some things I am definitely not proud of, but are part of a discussion that needs to happen. Even those of us who know a lot about dogs, who have a lot of experience and think they know what they are doing, can get way in over their heads. At least I did.