Doggie Academia: Week 4 Recap – Making Progress

This week we came armed and ready with our hot dogs, clicker and an understanding that Mara’s attention span was minimal. As soon as we got in we got to our spot and started playing the basic games with her that we learned in previous weeks. She was nailing the name game, downs, sits, cookies in the corner, hand targets and all of the other things we learned. We were so excited! I was incredibly impressed that her focus and attention was much better this week. I am not sure if she was getting used to being at this new place and the smells were starting to become familiar, but I’ll take it. We were also down a dog in the class since they were referred to private training lessons. They were an elderly couple who had difficulties following the trainer’s directions and asked so many random questions they ate up all of the class time. It was actually really nice without them this week, as we seemed to have accomplished a lot more. They just needed more one on one attention so it was definitely best for everyone.

The one issue I did have this week was with the one lady who brings her young children. Usually her husband takes the youngest one and leaves at the start of class, but this time all four of them decided to stay. The older one, who is 7 years old, can sort of behave when it is just him and his mother. He fidgets a bit but isn’t disruptive. This time he has a partner in crime, who I would suspect to be about 5 years old, so they were climbing all over the chairs like a jungle gym, running to the bathroom every five minutes, talking while the instructor was trying to talk, running out onto the floor interfering with other dogs and just being pains in the asses. Of course we were right next to the bathroom so keeping Mara’s attention to start is a chore, but having a kid running by to the bathroom every five minutes made it more difficult. The point of her training is to learn to listen around big distractions such as this but the trainer said we need to minimize them in the beginning to give her the basic understanding of what he needs to do. Slowly adding in the distractions will be next steps. Given her issues focusing already, he said she has a lot of work to do before adding in anything else so having the kids disrupting us was getting tiresome. The new place and other dogs was more than enough for her to handle without them. Since this was also dad’s first week he kept walking their dog too close to Mara, into our space and the trainer kept having to make him move back. I could see the trainer was even getting irritated.

Despite the family being a nuisance, Mara was still doing really well. I am also really proud of Josh and how much he has also learned from all of this. The new exercises we learned this time were to help with impulse control. We would hold out a hand of treats and as soon as she stopped trying to take them out of our hand it would be a click and a treat. She actually did really well with this considering she likes to steal the ice cubes from my water on the end table as soon as I walk into the other room. Once she got the handle on the hand, we moved to leaving the treats on the floor. She did even better with that.

Once she started checking out the trainer brought her some water and told us to give her a break. Stop the commands. He compared an hour of training for a dog to a three hour advanced calculus class for a human. Eventually your brain is just fried and you check out. Dogs best learn when training for only a few minutes at a time and then breaking. The trainer said a good idea is to train during a commercial break while watching TV. This is especially true for Mara.  We worked a little more on the loose leash walking and she did much better than she did last week. She is better understanding what she needs to do. A couple of times during that she stopped to check in with the other dogs and inventory her surroundings, but otherwise she did really well. She is my little social butterfly so any chance to play she will take it.

We sat out the sit/stay exercises since we needed a long break, so she entertained the other dog parents by laying in our laps on her back getting belly rubs. She is such a spoiled little dog and a total cuddle bug. We love her to the moon and back.

Overall this was an extremely positive session and Mara rocked it. We celebrated with a doggie ice cream at home and some snuggles in bed. For the first time, I am actually looking forward to next class to see how much more progress she can make.

-AB

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