Training Tales - A Progress Report for Shana
by Tim Wheeler, LDDR volunteer
Before the training session I approached Megan V to get an idea of which dogs would be in class. Shana seemed to be the best choice to work with me but, because she has a hard time with all the activity in the training room I suggested taking Shana out for a training walk. Wait, a training walk? What is that exactly? It is nothing complicated, just incorporating whatever training principles I can while spending time with Shana. Specifically, I wanted to reliably redirect her attention while she was in a calm state. You can think of that like having a bank account and making regular deposits. The more you put in, hopefully, the balance of trust will grow.
We start out on our journey circling around Healthy Paws walking counter-clockwise, heading for Executive Drive and then north. What does Shana have to teach me today? From Shana "THIS IS SO EXCITING! I'M OUTSIDE WITH SOMEONE I KNOW. THERE ARE SO MANY SMELLS!" Yes, Shana, we're going for a walk, could you stop pulling on the leash at every step? "SMELLS! MUST.ROLL.IN.SMELLS!" Okay, take your time, we have about an hour. Shana is writhing in the grass with abandon, jaw aquiver, eyes rolling; she is in ecstasy in my estimation. There is something about this that makes me happy, knowing that I have enabled the opportunity to make a difference and it worked out as intended. I am waiting and watching. Shana is very happy. After a little while, "okay Shana, let's go." And away we go. Good girl Shana, how about some hot dogs? "I LOVE HOT DOGS! WELL, sometimes I do." Sometimes? That is, when Shana is not preoccupied with watching something or someone she may not trust, she can eat training treats. She remembers me and will gladly take hot dogs. Life is good.
We proceed on our walk and Shana does her dog stuff, sniff, sniff, sniffing and otherwise investigating our changing environment. Slowly she is coming down from her "living at the kennel with other dogs" state of existence. As you can imagine, life can be pretty tough living with so many other animals. It is often overwhelming for many dogs, so many sights, smells, and sounds and that is almost 24/7. Getting out of the kennel for a walk or training time is something to get very excited about. So I try to be understanding of Shana's needs.
We wind our way down and hit the forty minute point of our session. It is time to meander back to the kennel. Now is the time when I start asking for things from Shana. At every point where Shana wants to tug relentlessly forward, I stop. Shana turning, "WHY STOP?" But I am ready for this; I extend my flattened left hand down to her nose level by my side, hot dog concealed behind my thumb. "HAND? SHOULD I SNIFF?" She walks back to me, where I would prefer her to be walking instead of at the end of the leash and tugging. She easily sniffs and gently takes the hot dogs from behind my thumb. "MMM, HOT DOG, CAN WE GO NOW?" We take a few steps, Shana is tugging forward, and we stop again. "IS THIS A GAME?" Yes Shana, it is, it's called walking nicely on a leash. Should we keep playing Shana? "WELL, OKAY." We continue with the game and Shana is happy when she comes back to my hand. She is enjoying the game and gets a little bouncy in her steps, almost prancing. This is perfect Shana, you are doing great!