Have you ever had a training day where absolutely everything went right? Where you wished every person who’d ever said an unkind thing about you could be there to watch? Where you ended the work completely bubbling over inside with the excitement that comes with an amazing training session?
Today wasn’t that day.
Everything went wrong, all because a perfectly well behaved Labrador was playing ball on the very far end of the park – a speck in the distance. Lyra stood on her hind legs and screamed. I tried waiting her out. I tried engaging her with a toy. I tried crating her and returning a few minutes later. And when I realized I was getting angry, I stopped, and we went home.
On the drive back to the house, I acknowledged to myself that I hadn’t worked Lyra in a public space for a couple of weeks. I know that Lyra is highly environmental – training at home isn’t enough. Most important, I know that she needs to get out a few times a week, and that at seven months of age, my expectations for “work” need to be scaled way back when we are in public.
Still, I was dissapointed. More in myself than in her, though in the minutes that she stood there and screamed I had some trouble remembering who needed to take responsibility.
We’re back home and she’s taking a nap under the desk. Now I’m going to pick my son up from school. Tomorrow we’ll try again, with more fair expectations. I won’t bring any working equipment at all; just a few toys and Lyra. Hopefully we’ll have one of those days where everything goes right; where you wish every person who’d ever said an unkind thing about you could be there to watch, and where you end the work bursting inside with the excitement and happiness that comes with an amazing training session.
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Thanks, I needed that. After a winter of much less training at all, much less in new places, my year old Aussie puppy is much less enthusiastic about work, much more distractible, and disconnects after just a few minutes. Time for me to make some adjustments and have more realistic expectations of her as we ramp up the training.
These are what I call, “I’m going to truck-driving school” days. 😉 I originally implemented the term (a reference to a favorite scene in the movie “Top Gun,”) when I’d find myself coming home from an especially challenging pet-dog lesson with a client. But I’ve had them working my own dogs for sports, too. One of those “tomorrows” will definitely be the day.
Oh yes, I know EXACTLY what you mean.! 10 years ago when I first got involved in competition Obedience, my very small English/American cross Sheltie girl was at the top of her classes every single time and worked beautifully with me at home. Though just 10 months old, she was looking like a rock star so early on. So my wise instructor suggested I start coming to our club’s weekly park practices with her that they hold on a weekend day at local parks. She warned me to only expect 50 % exercise proficiency at these new places at first, and I didn’t believe her.. Well, we barely achieved 30 % proficiency for a several weeks!!! I was in total SHOCK. and rarely missed a single one after that little “lesson”. Being one of the most valuable learning experiences of my life, for the past 6 years, I became one of our club’s co-coordinators for these weekend buddy training sessions. That’s how important I have learned that these sessions are! We now also encourage folks with young pups to come for socialization, play drive work and to do baby go-outs to the gates, environmental investigation, recalls on long lines etc———–as soon as their vaccinations are complete. It’s great fun helping one another and just being together with friends who love dogs and their training just as much as we do. Sometimes we even bring food to share, especially in the summertime.
Was it the movement of the dog that caused her to do that, or was it because he was playing with a BALL? jacky
in this case it was the dog; she started it before they began playing ball.
I dont fully understand why Lyra did that. Would it be from arousal triggered by movement of the other dog in the distance, and instinctive desire to go towards it, and frustration at not being able to go towards it? Or something else?
I have a working line GSD, who will get quite aroused and bark if she sees something in the distance if she is on-leash or behind a window or fence. If she was off leash and was free to go check it out it she would be much calmer. So this is something I think about a lot. I think it is barrier frustration arousal in my dog’s case, but I still don’t feel that I quite understand it.
Your blog is fascinating to me, and I cant wait to see how Lyra gets along next time.
Lyra simply wanted to visit the dog. Lyra loves dogs. She wants to run and play with them, and it’s very frustrating to her to think someone else is having fun that she is not a part of. If I had let her visit the dog, she would have been thrilled (and very friendly). And there would have been no way to get her to want to come back. Then in the future, every time she saw a dog she’d be excited to go and play with it, which is why I will not let her find out just how nice it would be to visit new dogs. She has the same issue with people at my house – if I’m training in my home field and someone shows up, she’ll leave me and visit. but since they never interact with her, she’s starting to learn that her best interest is to stay with me and work, because the alternative is that I’ll return her to the house. In Lyra’s case, the leash tightening does not bring out aggression, only frustration. If she were getting angry then I’d be making a detailed plan for how I would work on it. This is just a puppy having a bad day because her owner neglected to keep her out in public.
All of my dogs have had challenges in training – Lrya’s are about the environment.
When I have a minute I’ll write another blog going through the options that I had under the circumstances. That should make it more clear.
Some days are better than others but I wanted to ask if you ever thought to bring her over to the dog? That way she would get to see him and or even greet him. Not a good thing?
I had aGSD that I did that with and it really helped her.
I would not do that for several reasons not the least of which she’ll never be able to meet and great in a trial situation so I’d rather take that option off the table altogether. Same with people…if we’re working there is never greeting. I’m sure other people handle it differently and with success.
Seems like allowing environmental investigation FIRST at any new place makes good sense for the dog so they can get oriented and be a “dog” before we even get started with the training factor—-even at shows. Even us HUMANS like to walk thru and check out our new resort or cruise ship we’re on, don’t we? THEN it’s in the crate, we get out of the crate or our vehicle and we start our “working stuff” around the ring set-up for warming up even if it’s just “attention”. or play stuff, So no excuses for distractions anymore even if new ones crop up. You’ve already cased out this joint!. Simple correction for no attention or play engagement =s no worky no foody or fun play toys either. Back in crate or vehicle. Go home. No guilt on handler’s part—-just maybe disappointment. That’s OK to feel, right?
And like you said——–TOMORROW—-yes, we’ll try this again.
Don’t you wish it was you who could happily curl up under the desk and take a nap?
Oddly enough, we wrote about very similar topics:
My previous dogs were relatively environmentally bomb-proof. We could train anywhere with very few “train wrecks.” Phoenix changed all that. When we go out in public to train, I never know if we’ll have the session I planned or if I’ll end up flying by the seat of my pants to accommodate what he needs from me vs what I wanted to work on that day. That was a huge lesson for me – it’s not about what I want, it’s about what my dog needs.
Now he’s 5 and getting much better at settling into his work in new places but things still don’t always go as I planned. That’s okay, that’s just who he is.
Thanks for another insightful post.
Kudos to you as a trainer to recognize the good days and bad days of puppyhood. Pushing through a bad day would likely cause more issues that you would need to work through. I know I have preached training in different places and different situations to my students and then I do the things I tell them not to. I am sure this little girl will eventually be one of your perfectly well trained Tervs – and it will be because you see what she needs and are willing to work through the steps to make sure life is “right” for her.
I am dealing with my puppy having her first season and doing all the things I laugh at other people for – like not recognizing her name. Seriously – you think you hear a voice? LOL
Thanks for sharing your thoughts once again.
She has the same issue with people at my house – if I’m training in my home field and someone shows up, she’ll leave me and visit. but since they never interact with her, she’s starting to learn that her best interest is to stay with me and work, because the alternative is that I’ll return her to the house.
Unfortunately my neighbors and coworkers ALWAYS pet Dragon. I guess I need to start yelling out “Please ignore him!!”