August 16, 2010

Puppy Training Class: Progress

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.


Lori Jablons said...

You guys are such an amazing team! Ruby looks at you with complete love, and it's so beautiful to see. Keep up the good work.

Re: Bloomies--how about I meet you there? Have a swell time in NYC! :)

Kari in WeHo said...

Ruby is truly and amazing pup!

Don't forget, we moved to

Erin said...

Wow, that looks like fun. I am interested in how your program differs from mine with Guide Dogs for the Blind. Would your puppy raising club mind having a visitor during one of your training meetings?

Ruby's Raiser said...

Hi Erin - Checked your profile, but could not find an email address, can you send it to me?

♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ said...

Good to see her doing so well - congrats, you do wonderful things with and for her. Thunder would pass the part of the test for allowing a human to walk over him with flying colors. He is like a big lump on the floor and doesn't even flinch when someone walks over him:)

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

1000 Goldens said...

That's my girl Roo-Roo. So proud of you!!

Carly Findlay said...

I love how Ruby looks at you - she adores you and always has a smile on her face. Well done to you and her on her achievements.

Heather and Kelly said...

WOW--all her siblings look just like her! But well done, Roo!

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

That's so terrific. It always makes me laugh when people get upset about the use of Leave IT.

I would love to come watch you work sometime, maybe help out. Maybe we can meet up at some point.

Sierra Rose said...

Yay yay yay!!! Amazing work, both of you! So much practice, yet so gratifying!
Just got a call from a friend to come to the park this morning to be a 'distraction' while they practice obedience drills. Last time, I did a good job, as I got away from mom, and ran all over the field chasing swallows...just behind their practice area :)

Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
Sierra Rose

Susan Gallacher-Turner and Michael Turner said...

Good job to you and Ruby! I know how hard it is but your dedication and Ruby's trust here is so evident. I do admit, I love seeing all those beautiful labs doing so well, though I'm not prejudiced am I?

Erin said...

Thanks so much for commenting on my post "Remembering Honee". Sounds like your making great progress and Ruby will be a credit to this noble profession. Proud to know you Ruby!
Hugs Erin & Mom