Bowie has been slowly chugging along in his weekly educational classes at the training center Good Dog Rising. Each class is 7 weeks long and is a good place for dogs to practice working around distractions (people, dogs, TREATS). Bowie is incredibly social and while he proved to be an Einstein at home, he often struggled working around tempting distractions. Thankfully for us, Bowie loves learning new things as well as food, so he was very receptive to getting some classes under his puppy belt.
Bowie completed Basic Manners and is now half-way through Advanced Manners. He understands food as well as getting a "click" from a tool that makes a snapping sound, as forms of reward. In Basic Manners we learned about "leaving it", "it" being a person, a dog, or food, or similar. We also learned about using a treat station for teaching the dog to work for a person who does not have treats. Once the dog does something you like you verbally reward them and then travel with the dog to the place where the treat station is located and then give them a food reward. We also practiced working on a loose leash walking so that our 84 lb little steam roller would refrain from dragging us down the neighborhood streets.
Bowie also benefited by learning several different attention work exercises. As a puppy he was especially spacey and these exercises encourage him to give us eye contact and stay involved in the task at hand. This type of behavior is especially handy when we are out on the trail and I need Bowie to pay enough attention to "come" under very intense distractions (such as an approaching dog or bear).
We practiced self control and patience and learned about how to teach our dog to give space around food. Both Chase and Bowie are very food motivated and used to do just about anything to steal some food off of our plates or the counter. One of the exercises involves covering a pile of treats with your hand if your dog nears it, and then removing your hand when they move further away from the treats. To reward the dog, you use your other hand (the hand that does not cover the food) and grab a piece of food and if the dog continues to stay away, you reward them with the food. If you search "It's yer choice" you can find more information on this type of exercise online.
Also involved in patience behaviors is teaching the dog a "waiting" behavior. It is not an asked behavior, meaning that we would not ask Bowie for a "sit" or a "down" but it is more implied. Waiting behaviors are useful when at the vet's office, when sitting on a bench at the park, or when talking to a friend.. etc. When the dog sits, or lays down, stands, or generally exhibits calmness they get a treat. It is different from a "stay" because "stay" implies that the dog holds a specific behavior and does not move. Waiting behavior can be a variety of behaviors that generally involve staying close-by and being patient and calm.
Bowie waiting at our local coffee shop
Our trainer also briefly covered dog social behaviors and how to do a proper on-leash greeting. Dogs prefer to greet each other in a "T" shape where they come together perpendicularly, or in an "O" shape where they circle each other. Both positions involve a lot of sniffing. Greeting another dog face to face is considered rude and often causes the dogs quite a bit of stress. Taking a walk side by side is also another great way for two dogs to casually meet. Chase prefers this method of greeting and gets incredibly anxious with big "to-do's".
Bowie GRADUATED Basic Manners and has now moved on to Advanced Manners at the same school. Advanced Manners will gradually increase the duration and intensity of the distractions that he has to work around. It will also introduce us to several different "jobs" or sports that he might like to pursue. For this reason, several of the instructors call this class the Canine Job Fair. We have discovered Rally Obedience which involves asking the dog for certain behaviors (sit, lay down, 360 degree turn) at very specific spots. Dogs who join this sport are judged and of course try to get a flawless routine.
Bowie's school is moving to a new facility and next week will be our first lesson there. The new facility is supposed to be larger and most of the instructors are offering more classes. We are looking forward to trying some additional sports like Agility and Flyball. Stay tuned for updates :)