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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Training wheels

Back in June, I wrote about Gimli's misbehaving ways on Father's Day.  See the post here - Dr. Corgyl & Mr. Hyde.

That Monday, I happened to find an Obedience school, Bold Canine.  I conversed with Amber and she recommended the Dog-Tastic class because Gimli was social but he had some issues that needed work.  Our first class was that Saturday.

Contrary to our classes at Petsmart when Gimli was a puppy, no treats were used.  The class was all about building up your leadership in the dog's eyes.  We were taught about "cycling", which is a tool used to focus the dog's attention on you.  We were to walk and whenever the dog strayed or turned his head, we had to jerk the leash and change direction sharply.  After a few days of practice, Gimli slowly started to understand.  Although, he was not happy about the changes and he did rebel a great deal in the first couple weeks.

(Foolish mortal, I am Lord Gimli.  Bow before me!)

We've been working toward what I call the Big 4:
  • Toy/item possessiveness
  • Barking in general
  • Focus on me/Mike when walking
  • Stay with distractions

We have 2 classes left in this session and I can see already the following changes in Gimli:

  • I am most proud of his change towards me.  Its going to take time and practice and consistency, but I'm glad he's starting to recognize and act when I give him commands.
  • He's getting better on walks.  He's not completely oblivious to other dogs, however when dealing with calm dogs, he's fine.  If the dog he comes across is hyper, then he reverts to his old behavior.  This we need to work on.
  • We've started using the phrase, 'no bark', with him.  Gimli barks at anything and everything that stirs outside.  While this is a good practice, we need a way to silence him after a few barks.  I've found that if I calmly walk up to him, say 'no bark' and then move him away from the door, he quiets down much faster.  This is still a work in progress in that I cannot give the command on its own, but that's a level for us to achieve.
  • I've been practicing with him in the park across the street from our house and making him stay while I walk away or jump up and down or provide some sort of distraction.  I also did some practice with him sitting about 15 feet away from a dog, as well as close to children and the volleyball players.  He's getting better, although I feel we need to up the ante a bit.
  • The toy possessiveness continues to be a work in progress.  We are not where I want him to be, but we have moved past the crazy obsessed dog.  He still goes after toys if he "feels" you are going after them, but we are quick to stop this behavior.  I feel the biggest challenge to overcome will be telling the rest of the humans in Gimli's life that the tug of war and possessiveness he used to show is not a game and should not be treated like a game.

I can see the following changes in me:

  • I realized by accident one day that if I make eye contact with him and maintain it, he is more likely to succeed and follow my commands.  This is great and I'm going to use it to my advantage wherever possible.
  • Now that Gimli has made some strides, I feel more confident because I know Gimli and I can work together.  This in turn raises my self-confidence and so I'm less likely to become frustrated and annoyed when Gimli backslides a bit.  I remain calm and restate the command.  This state coupled with the eye contact works wonders.

Based on where we were and the tools we now have at our disposal, I'm confident we can get Gimli to a higher level of behavior.

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