Training, Sasha-Style

Dog training real and imagined

If you’ve been following the blog you might remember that I enrolled Sasha (my Sheltie rescue) in Basic Obedience.  She already knows the commands of sit, down, stay, come, etc. and the class was intended as socialization time to help her acclimate to both people and dogs. The basic class turned out to be a great learning experience for both of us. We’ve discovered, for example, that she reacts fearfully toward clickers—which made being in a room with a dozen people clicking endlessly quite a challenge! I resolved that by moving her away from the rest, just far enough that she could relax and focus on me.

I also learned her patience has definite limits. She’ll willingly repeat an exercise three times. If I push for a fourth attempt she looks downright exasperated by what she apparently thinks is my inability to learn something! So while everyone else was doing (seemingly) endless repetitions of one exercise, we practiced a variety of commands on the leash.

Another learning moment for me: this dog gets downright cranky when she’s tired or hungry. The trainer recommended we don’t feed the dogs before coming to class, suggesting that a hungry dog will be eager for treats and consequently eager to learn. That meant Sasha didn’t get her evening meal on training night. Instead, I filled the treat pouch with her favorite yummy treats and some cheddar cheese, which she loves. That should have worked, right? Not with Sasha, who was clearly uninterested in any of the exercises that night. And she wasn’t pleased when other dogs, drawn no doubt by the alluring scent of cheddar, edged close to me—far too close, apparently, from her point of view.

In the past month I’ve learned (the hard way, of course) that I have a dog unwilling to train when hungry, disinterested in multiple repetitions even when offered cheese or tasty salmon bits, and definitely not the kind who’s up for an evening  out. We’re an “early to bed, early to rise” household, and Sasha tends to head toward the exit near the end of class when we’re practicing loose-leash walking around the training arena.

I’m taking all that into consideration as we move into Intermediate Obedience. Due to a quirky schedule, we’re actually starting Intermediate before our final basic class session. I chose a Saturday noon class so she has time to enjoy her morning meal and a neighborhood walk before we dive into training activities. We’ll continue to use the “three times and move on to something different” strategy for training. And thankfully, the trainer for the Intermediate class is shifting folks away from clickers in favor of verbal reinforcements, which will please Sasha (and me, too).

Next on our training agenda: object differentiation, which means Sasha needs to understand that fetch means more than looking at an object. And in between frequent short bursts of training time, Sasha is enjoying a happy life with a family who loves her (even the cat).

Sasha 3-20-16 posing for spring

 

3 thoughts on “Training, Sasha-Style

  1. You are learning good, don’t let anyone tell you that he need to follow the rules. I am dismay about your comments on clicker training. It wasn’t around when I was training our shorthairs, but I tried working our cat, Once the animal learns to respond to point to the mat you cut back on the clicking. Kato still knows that a click means a treat.
    I like your picture you posed Shasta so you eye goes immediately to her.

    • Bettylouise, thank you for your comment. I must confess that Sasha posed herself, though! In that photo she was looking at Buddy the Cat, and waiting for me to move so they could chase each other around the yard.

      I know that many folks love the clicker training method, and I was certainly willing to give it a try. Sasha’s strong aversion, however, had me rethinking my options. She clearly associates it with something punitive, so I gave away the clickers and am concentrating on verbal reinforcements with plenty of treats along the way!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s