Luke passed his Basic Obedience class without a problem. He was the youngest in his class at 6 months old and even though he wasn’t perfect, he did quite well. He’s always seemed to be a quick learner – I taught him to lie down in about five minutes in our kitchen, before they even worked on that in school. Once he graduated, we decided to take a couple of months off before taking the next step. We weren’t sure that we wanted to take him to the same school because their class times for the next level weren’t the best for our schedule.
When my hubby and I took a “staycation” over the summer, we went out for a drive one day and to run some errands. We passed a place that I had seen when researching obedience schools on line, but it was a little further from our house than we wanted to travel for school. After traveling a few more miles to the next town, we saw that this same school, White Mountain College for Pets, had another location that was a few miles closer to our home. We stopped to talk to the owner, and liked what we saw and heard.
We decided to sign Luke up for three private lessons. The main reason we did this was because I am a shy introvert and I don’t like going to classes where there are many people there watching what I’m doing. My hubby had taken Luke to basic obedience, but we weren’t good about following up on what he had learned at home, so I knew I really needed to go myself. We are lucky that we could afford the extra expense. As it turned out, I feel like we got so much more for our money with the private attention that it was definitely worth it.
I had been concerned with the fact that Luke had growled at some other dogs at our vet’s office (one was acting up but the other wasn’t) and that he was barking at people coming to our house. We learned a few days after signing up for classes that we needed it even more than we thought. I will tell you more about that in my next post in this series.
This school will send their trainers to your home, but we opted to do it at their location. However, some wires got crossed and there was miscommunication, and the trainer ended up being 45 minutes late for our first appointment! We were in touch with the owner so knew what was going on though, so we waited. Not only did we go past our allotted one hour session that night, and most other nights, after our third session they offered us another one free of charge to make up for that mishap, which we thought was great.
We liked the trainer Dave immediately. The first session involved a lot of talking about Luke to see what it was we were looking for. Dave is great, he tells a lot of stories, but they always pertain to the subject at hand. He is former military, currently a police chief in a small NH town, and he has trained service, police, military, and every day dogs. He will be retiring from the police force to train dogs full time. I had been reading a lot about clicker training and was interested in trying it, and he was excited that we wanted to.
He ran through some basics to see if he thought Luke would be responsive to clicker training. There was a little bit of an issue with the clicking noise making Luke nervous, so we initially had to muffle it a bit (in time he got over that). You start out by just having treats in hand and clicking and treating any desired behaviors. Luke responded well to it, and we could all see him trying to figure out what it was we wanted. He quickly started sitting to get a click and treat, and then lying down. We left that first class feeling very optimistic.
Our homework was for my hubby and me to each work on the basics with Luke for 10 minutes per day, to cut it shorter if it didn’t go well, and to always end on a positive note. We had a bad week. Luke wasn’t responding well to us at home. All the optimism was gone, and we were feeling frustrated by the time we went back for our second class. Dave was surprised, so we worked some more with Luke, and by the end of that second session, Dave still felt like this training would work for Luke. The conclusion we came to was that the treats we were using were not high value enough. In our first class, we had some freeze dried liver treats and Luke loved those. But we had run out of them and used something else, which probably wasn’t as attractive to him. Dave suggested other things to try, I bought some more freeze dried treats, and from there on out things went much better.
For this first post in my series I want to leave with these thoughts and advice based on our experience. I’m not an expert – you should always consult a trainer for expert advice.
- If you are thinking of trying clicker training with your dog, I highly recommend it! I’m so happy we decided to take this route with Luke.
- If you can afford private lessons, do it! It is well worth the extra money, especially if your dog has special needs.
- Don’t give up, even if things don’t go well initially!
- Don’t underestimate the value of the treats you use. We now mix things up….some higher value and some lower value. We learned that the anticipation of what treat might come next can motivate your dog.
Next Thursday, November 13th, is our WOOF (Working Out Our Fears) Support quarterly blog hop, and that is going to tie in well with this series I plan to write about our experiences with clicker training. If you have a story to tell about your fearful or reactive dog, please join us! This hop’s theme is “Hopes and Challenges This Holiday”. Will the upcoming holidays be a challenging or hopeful time for you and your reactive dog? Maybe it will be a little bit of both.
We are excited that we will be having a giveaway for this hop as well! One winner will receive a Training Package that includes a Clicker, a Treat Pouch & a Lickety Stik dog training treat courtesy of PetSafe. We hope that you will join us and our co-host Oz the Terrier. The hop code will be open from 12:01 AM on Thursday, November 13 through 11:59 PM on Sunday, November 16 on both host blogs. Everyone is welcome to join the hop and/or the discussion on each post. You do not have to enter a blog post in the hop to participate in the giveaway, however, you will need to comment on one of the host blog posts to qualify. See you there!
Training is good for a dog’s mind and body, and helps their overall fitness. We’re happy to be joining the FitDog Friday blog hop. Thank you to our blog hop hosts SlimDoggy, To Dog With Love and MyGBGVLife. Please visit their sites and others through the links below to learn more about keeping your dogs fit and happy!