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Training Toby is moving!

Training Toby is moving to Terra Toby. Come and visit!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Toby and I Start Our First Lessons

When Toby was about 12 weeks old, and we'd gotten through the first month with a few intact shoes left, the time seemed right to look around for obedience classes. I started searching the Internet and making phone calls. Most trainers were prompt in returning my call but didn't have any new classes starting for several weeks. Finally I called the trainer that SEVA GRREAT's vet recommended. I was a bit surprised when Mr. D. answered the phone - I was expecting to get his voice mail. He asked a few questions about Toby - age, breed, were there any special behavior problems? I told him that it was just usual puppy stuff. "We want to avoid bad habits and get things off to a good start," I said. I didn't want him to think Toby was a bad dog, although he was a little young to be needing obedience training. We chatted about Toby for a few more minutes and I finally 'fessed up: the real issue was that Toby seemed to imagine that he might dominate me someday.

"Well, this is lucky!" Mr. Dean said happily. " I have a beginner class starting tonight!" 
I was a little taken aback, but the thought of being nipped every morning ...
"Great! What time?  We'll be there!"

My next surprise was that only owners attend the first lesson. I have since come to appreciate the value of an orientation class without the distraction of maintaining control of an excited dog. Mr. D. explained his training philosophy, what would happen in classes, and the importance of practice to a roomful of nervous dog owners. (It was pretty obvious which end of the leash he believed would be getting trained.) He instructed us on how to buy a "choke" collar and what kind of leash (plain, 6 ft. long) and treats (soft, broken to bits) to bring to class. 

Not everyone shares Mr. D.'s philosophy, but for me and Ted  it was just what we needed to make a great pet of  Toby. Mr. D believed in positive rewards like praise, treats, and play. He demonstrated the enthusiasm and joy of the praise that should be given, clapping his hands, dancing his feet, even making "kissy" noises. Some of us chuckled, but most of us were simultaneously imagining how funny we were going to look soon.  He recommended purchasing a special toy that would only be offered as a  reward at the end of training sessions. You don't just give it to Fido. You play with him for a few minutes. Your attention is the real reward.

What's not to like about that? The controversial part is that wrong or bad behavior is corrected. There is another valid philosophy of dog training that is based only on positive feedback. You'll be hearing more about that on this blog as the saga of training Toby continues.

Mr. D. said over and over again, "WE DON'T CHOKE THE DOG!" Now, if you are like me, you thought that was the whole idea behind a choke collar. But Mr. Dean demonstrated the quick, not-too-hard snap on the leash that causes the collar to make a noise as the metal rings slide across each other. Dogs find that scratchy sound right behind their ears as unpleasant as fingernails on a blackboard are for us, and will quickly comply with a command or stop their misbehavior. 

Mr. D. emphasized that obedience training is the key to good behavior in day-to-day family life. He used the example of asking the puppy to sit before he gets his dinner. Having yummy kibble resulting from obedience leads to the puppy thinking at other times, "Hmm, obeying that lady gets me dinner. I think I'll get off the couch since she told me to."  In my situation, that sounded pretty darned fantastic - really, as in a fantasy! I looked around and saw a kind of wistful disbelief on the other owners' faces too. 

A fuzzy blur in perpetual motion!

But, hey. Mr. D.'s own dog, Dixie, had been lying on a grass berm next to the parking lot, attentive, but motionless, when I arrived. Mr. D. himself was in the building. He was that confident that Dixie would stay where he told her to until he called her. I couldn't imagine ever having a dog that would do that. Dixie's performance was the testimony I needed that Mr. D. knew his business. So I wrote my check, picked up my first week's instructions, and headed home to love on my puppy.

1 comment :

Lauren said...

I can't imagine a dog that would sit out front a pet store and not move the whole time either! That's crazy!!! Toby sure has come a long way! haha

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