Sunday, May 15, 2011

Who's Training Who?

The day of our Spring Cleaning Party it was snowing.  We need the precipitation badly but I was really bummed that it was snowing on the day we were to welcome in Spring!  Phooey.  The bad weather kept a few guests away but the rest of us had a great time "cleaning" and playing board games.  We wrapped things up about 11 p.m. and then this morning Drake had a training appointment.

I am so thrilled with Drake's trainer Christine, and with him!  He is such a fast learner that we are convinced that he's had previous training.  So now we are giving him a refresher, letting him know that the rules still apply and how to deal with the new distractions that are unique to our home, i.e. cats, deer, etc.

The first training appt. we reviewed the basics: sit, down, stay, come.  She also taught him how to "leave it."  This is a fun game that we can build on to manage bigger issues.  We do this by putting super yummy treats in my hand.  With my hand closed in front of him I tell Drake, "leave it" and then slowly open my hand to reveal the treats.  If Drake tries to eat them I quickly close my hand saying "uh-oh!  Leave it."  Then repeat until he can sit with the treats presented in his face with out him even nosing them.  He mastered this after about 4 tries. 

We also learned some signs/commands to help him calm down when overly excited which lead to calmly "getting dressed" (leashed up) for a walk.  His biggest obstacle to overcome this week was after being leashed, staying in a "sit-stay" even when the door was open, until I released him.  We almost got that one.

Today our trainer ('cause let's face it, Drake is not the only one being trained...) wanted to up the ante on "leave it" by seeing if Drake, when laying down, could ignore the food when it was placed on the floor right between his front paws.  We also addressed his rough play.  Drake sometimes grabs our sleeves or the edge of our shirts when playing with the kids.  This is reinforced by the Super Wrestling time he has with Aaron.  When he wrestles with Aaron he grabs Aaron's arm.  Realistically, Drake could rip that arm off but he knows his limits with Aaron, tones down his play with the boys and even more so with me.  Drake needs to learn to stop the play when we are finished.  So this will be Aaron's homework this week.  It's kind of fun homework!  Wrestle with Drake and then use "leave it" to have him release your arm and then "sit-stay" followed by lots of praise to signal that play time is over.  We also practiced getting up and off of the couch.  Drake is allowed on the furniture downstairs only upon INVITATION.  He loved this game!

Drake playing "lap-dog" with Aaron prior to training.
 Today's biggest achievement was taking Drake on an actual walk!  Our previous walks have been wrought with adventure, to put a positive spin on it.  Christine was undaunted by my tale of being dragged down a gravel road while Drake danced around the hooves of an agitated horse.  The weather was cold and foggy.  Perfect weather for deer.  After working hard with Drake to wait before plowing through the door or gate we ventured out down the driveway.  Right away we spotted deer up behind one of my neighbors house.  Drake did not seem to notice as they were heavily veiled by the fog.  The walk down the drive was spent getting him to "heel."  He got this pretty quickly, even before we got all the way down the driveway.  This further confirmed to us that he has had previous training.  She said that she's had Service Dogs that she's trained that have spent weeks on "heel" and Drake nearly had it perfected in minutes.

We kept the walk between the two house on our road that have horses.  Christine demonstrated to me how to distract Drake when he became excited or anxious about the horses and then had me walk him at a "heel" and practice redirecting him from the distractions on our walk.  Then came the deer....

Christine had Drake at this point (thank God!)  Drake was not as easy to refocus once the deer were in his sight and took Christine on a little ski-pull down the hill but it was short lived.  She has fabulous composure and control of the dog.  It shook her up a bit though as this was her first taste/demo of Drake's strength and determination.  She walked him up the hill and away from the deer to practice redirection with something less intriguing like the horses.  Then we went back down for more teasing with the deer.  Again, he took her down the road a bit but not as much as the first time.

She had me practice walking him some more and then we took him back up to the house.  The deer were very close to the house at this point so Christine took the leash again.  This time the deer were probably less then 20 feet away.  Drake was very interested, cried and quivered a bit but demonstrated amazing self-control by not even pulling toward them.  He stayed at a "heel" all the way up the hill.  Even after we got in the fenced yard, Christine would not let him off the hook.  She made Drake wait and wait before letting him go.  He had to do several focus tricks before she finally let him go and then....

"Jesus!" gasped Christine at the sight of Drake tearing down the hill to the deer on the other side of our fence.  Mud flew, muscles rippled as he kicked up his haunches at full speed and the deer scattered! 

"Well, I have a much better idea of what you are contending with now.  That dog's a machine!"  I think it speaks volumes that Drake's intense power and physique impresses people like vets and trainers; people who work with dogs all the time.

After Drake got the run out of him we brought him in and I cleaned all of the wet mud from him.  I tried not to cry.  At the start of the walk I was fine but every time the leash came into my hands I felt my anxiety rise.  With each encounter with the deer in the horses I got more and more nervous.  Christine went on and on about how amazing Drake was.  He will succeed but the work is only about 20% Drake's.  The rest is on me.  She gave me so much information and instruction...I'm trying not to feel overwhelmed but I realize how much of the responsibility is mine.  I have to train my emotions and tell my spirit to release it's grip on those nerves.  Leave it.

After we got Drake cleaned up, Christine and I spent some time reviewing everything she had showed me today.  She wrote some things down for me to help me with recall during the week.  She assured me that I was doing great and that if I ever get frustrated while working with him during the week, to take a break and come back to it later.  I love her!

Drake has been sleeping on the floor since she left about 2 hours ago.  In fact he's laying next to me right now, softly snoring.  Good job Pony Boy!


  1. Sooo… I loved this! We have a Pit Bull/American Bull Dog, 85lb lap dog. He is a three time doggy school drop out! The last time the trainer simply said there was no use bringing him back. We tried three different schools and he flunked out of all three. he would do this comatose thing where he would do NOTHING! He would not eat anything for a treat and if by chance he would take something in his mouth he would just drop it out on the floor. He is the sweetest dog… and adores people and other dogs… he just has NO manners! We were the ones trained in our session along with the trainers! Okay, that was a super long post but it just flooded back memories! Happy Monday!

  2. Last weighed, Drake ways 80lbs. He's Lab/Rotweiler. He is also just an ill mannered love bug! He is doing really great though he is still stubborn about some things. He won't go outside when I tell him. I walked him up and down the driveway today and he as so crazy! It took forever to just do that walk. He is much more behaved for Christine. *sigh* I wish she could come every day.