Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Back to Obedience School -

I recently put myself and my two year old black Lab Chuy back through obedience school (more for my benefit than his).

A little bit of first adopted rescue Nikki was a handful. She needed to learn social skills to deal with people and dogs. Our first walks together became super stressful because she would react to every dog and every person she saw. I knew we needed guidance from professionals. We were lucky enough to take a few classes with the late Lee Mannix. He jokingly called my yellow Lab "Blondie" and said she was super smart; she just needed a job. We diligently followed through with the steps of the program and become a human "pack leaders". Nikki responded beautifully. She went from the "worst in the class" (always in timeout) to top of the class. She learned to look to us for guidance rather than react to all situations. Today, we accept the fact that she will never be perfect, but she has come a long way. For the most part her public behavior is acceptable (we can proudly take her to Petsmart and only on rare occasions will she decide to have a melt down and bark at a dog that looks at her wrong). She will always be shy and a little reticent to meet strangers but I know she now has coping mechanisms.

Having been through extensive training with Nikki, you would think when we adopted eight month old Chuy we would have used the tried and true approach with his training. Not so. Chuy is the opposite of Nikki; friendly and outgoing with all humans and dogs. We spoiled him rotten. When he turned two we realized we had created a monster. He knew the basic commands, but was very stubborn about whether or not he would obey them. He did not see us as "pack leader" but saw himself as center of the universe (my interpretation). I decided that the best thing for Chuy was for "me" to go back to obedience school. I won't say that Chuy was the most improved in the class, because he started out in a pretty good place, but he has improved immensely. I needed to re-learn what I should have been doing. I also have a new fresh perspective that training should be on-going and fun for both you and your dog.

Written by: P. Miner - Heart of Texas Lab Rescue Volunteer Coordinator, adopter of two rescues.

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