The sun is blazing out here in the Front Range, so we had Puppy Training Class inside the mall this past weekend. Nice and cool for the doggies, with plenty of added distraction. Makes for great training opportunities.
Upon arrival, my dog, The Mayor (first-born of the litter and official pot-stirrer), feels it's her duty to greet every pup. Nope, sorry Ruby, it's class time! I corralled my little bronco in our place at the end of the line, behind the cell phone sign.
We reviewed some of the basics, such as "Leave," and the dogs did fantastically well. Here's Ruby's sister, Reese, responding to "Leave" and completely ignoring the treat on the floor. (Doesn't she look just like our Roo?)
I've been asked why our cue is "Leave" rather than "Leave it." When we are with our dogs in public, some people take offense to the pronoun "it" when used in regard to interaction with humans. For this reason, we train our dogs to respond to the simple word, "leave" in order not to offend any person by the word, "it."
When Canine Partners of the Rockies' dogs have moved on from their puppy raisers and successfully complete Advanced Training, they will need to pass a Public Access Test prior to graduation. Passing this test grants the dog full public access in partnership with a mobility-limited individual. In class this week, we practiced some of the commands/behaviors expected of our dogs in order to pass the test. Our dogs need to be calm, cool, and collected in any situation while they are out in public, so part of the test is for the dog to lie still while a stranger steps over her/him. Ruby and her brother, Romeo, demonstrate:
We also need our dogs to have a very reliable recall in public. A busy mall is the perfect place to practice this important skill. In this exercise, we walk them to the middle of the aisle, drop the leash, we return to the wall alone, and call them. Can you pick out Roo? Hint: I'm the guy behind the sign!
Ruby did really well on this one, but not quite as well on a later exercise where I had to turn my back on her. But we're working on it!
The thing that made this class a benchmark for me was Ruby's progress with her greatest challenge: ignoring other dogs. After that initial excitement over her brothers and sisters, she gained her focus pretty quickly and ultimately behaved extremely well in an exercise that's very difficult for her, weaving among the other dogs on a loose leash walk. Her eye contact with me was excellent, she only gave away a few glances, and she didn't try to out-and-out mix it up with her pals as she always has in the past.
I know we have a way to go before this is a reliable behavior, a lot of practice ahead, but we've worked so diligently to get to this point, it was really encouraging. I witnessed a new confidence and maturity in her, a conscious effort to make the calm choice. She saw the temptation, but knew what she had to do.
As a puppy raiser, my progress with Ruby may be incremental, but each step is so gratifying.