There are three things I have learned since getting Luna that I wish someone would have taught me in our early days. Place, touch, and wait. We've picked up each of them at different times and from several people. Now I consider them essential for a well-trained dog. I introduce them in puppy class and offer them as solutions to friends and coworkers. Because they are a foundation for Trick Dog I have a planned post for each of them, but wanted to start with wait.
Wait and stay are similar commands, yet vastly different. With stay you are asking your dog to remain in the exact place and position you have left them. Sit/stay, means to sit where you are until I come back. That doesn't mean down, and it doesn't mean moving forward to see how much ground you can steal before I turn around. This isn't baseball. Stay is serious business because it could save your dog’s life.
Stay also doesn't mean I am going to call you to me.
If you are an experienced dog owner, you may have just reread that sentence. Maybe you stared at it in disbelief. It comes off a little crazy, right? What do you mean, you can't call your dog to you from a stay? Remember, stay isn't voluntary or conditional. Stay means you remain exactly where you are until I come back. Which means if you are calling your dog to you you are breaking down the strength of the command.
Now, hopefully, you've accepted that the idea of not calling your dog from a stay isn’t crazy. Or at least are open minded enough to keep reading. Because this is where wait comes in.
One of the most difficult thing about living in a multiple dog household and working full time is finding enough time for one-on-one training. Individual is ideal, but in day-to-day life it isn’t practical. I’m a firm believer in training every day, even if it is only for a few minutes. My personal goal is a few exercises before and after work, but due to time restraints it’s often in a group setting. On the positive side, the group forces your dogs to focus on you and not each other. This can be difficult for them to master, particularly when you are just starting out or when they are puppies.
A normal quick session for my dogs are obedience drills, sit, down, wait, and stay. During some sessions we will deviate and practice tricks instead. On the weekends or days with more time I often do combination.
We started these drills because we have a busy household. At the time our oldest was living at home and she did most of Ella’s original training. This was great, but it also meant that her commands were not as strong as Luna’s. I hadn’t spent as much time with her as I should have, and Ella’s a terrier. She is notorious for choosing when she does and doesn’t want to do something. And she knew just when to pick at Luna and destroy a session. Still does some days. Looking back it's kind of amazing she passed her Canine Good Citizenship on her first try.
This was before Charlie came to live with us, and by then we were up to four. It was time to get the whole pack to focus, even when the distractions were each other. When we started it was all I could do to get everyone to do sit and down in unison. Hell, half the time Ella still wouldn't sit on her own. And forget down. If you didn't have a treat for a lure, it wasn't happening.
It all came down to patience and the little things, both in a group and outside of it. Making everyone sit for their food. They learned that a treat meant work. Now, whether it's their morning dental bone or something small when I come home the sit is automatic 99% of the time. We progressed to downs until all the dogs were firm on the basics, even the monster.
Here's a list of our favorite drills. Feel free to leave your own in the comments, we are always looking for new ones to try!
I promised a few posts ago that we would post more on Trick Dog. Last week Luna and I set out to sign off her Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced titles. To some, it may sound like a rush, but I wanted to get hers finished and off the table so I could move onto Ella and Charlie. Not that it means we’re done, because constant training keeps Luna happy and strengthens our bond.
She completed 20 tricks last Saturday to obtain all three titles. Her wave was a little sketchy...but she had also only learned it that same week. There is still one more title she can earn, Performer, but we have to do a video for that. If I’m going that far with it I want to put a whole sketch together. I’m thinking something musically inclined, as we are working on ‘keys’ with Dad’s keyboard.
As I mentioned before, I want to share the Trick Dog journey with you. But to be honest Luna's is towards the end of that path, so we’ll be focusing more on Charlie and Ella. Not that she won’t still make an appearance now and then, because, well, it’s Luna.
So how do you get started in Trick Dog? A good starting place would be to find a local AKC obedience club. If you don’t have one available or you want to go it alone start by picking up Kyra Sundance’s 101 Dog Tricks. I recommend everyone, whether or not you are interested in Trick Dog, to complete a basic training program. This should include getting your Canine Good Citizen (CGC). Depending on the program you choose and how much training you have done on your own this may take more than one complete class.
Luna and I have been excited for the new Trick Dog titles ever since the American Kennel Club (AKC) announced the program in May. The AKC partnered with Kyra Sundance’s Do More With Your Dog and is designed for all dogs to participate.
“Tricks” are something Luna has done almost naturally since the day she came into our house. Whether it was something she picked up during a quick training session (balancing a treat) or she just did (perch - front paws on an item like a stool). A natural worker and eager to please, grab a handful of treats and give her some one-on-one time and Luna’s ready to go!
There are so many things I love about this program’s design. First, it’s simple to get involved in. You can find a list of all the tricks for each title (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Performer) on the AKC’s website. This makes it easy for you to practice at home at your own pace if you can’t find classes near you. Kyra Sundance even released a book called 101 Dog Tricks that contains many of the tricks with step-by-step instructions. Once you’re ready to title you don’t have to wait for a dog show or compete dozens of times. All Trick Dog titles just have to be passed off by an AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator.
Trick Dog also allows you to dip your toes into the world of several AKC sports. There are obedience tricks involving the basics of sit and down alongside agility equipment like the weave poles and tunnel. And if these are commands your dog is familiar with you can challenge yourself with tricks such as pulling a toy with a rope or balancing on a barrel. Trick Dog is designed to be fun and I think it meets that goal.
Over the next few weeks we’ll have more updates on our Trick Dog journey. I hope it will inspire you to do more with your own dog, even if you never decide to title.
I think it's safe to say I'm terrible at this blogging thing. Well over a year since the last time Luna and I have caught up with things here. Charlie had just come home to us!
It's also been over a year since we said goodbye to Boots and while I don't want to rehash her loss again I will add this insert from the post I shared on Facebook the day we let her go:
“She was a wonderful dog, had one of the best temperaments I have ever seen, was sweet, and so smart. Although she only lived in our home for several years many of you know she was part of my family for her entire life (all 15 years). She was one of the last parts of my dad that was still with me.”
For the first time in a long while I am not operating the Doggy Old Folks Home. Even now that feels weird. But at least we aren't at the vet's every month!
Not that we never see Dr. Taylor over at Brookside, because that would make life too easy. Just last week I found a tumor next to Luna's little tail nub that had to be removed. It looks like it's benign and Luna is taking it in stride so I'm doing my best to emulate her and not worry. Hard when you know all the things that might go wrong.
But we have had a lot of good things happen in the last year, too. Both Charlie and Ella passed their Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) on their first attempt. I had someone make the mistake of asking me if that meant they were smarter than Luna - No, they have less issues from their past to work through. Luna can run circles around both of them when it comes to obedience.
Lots of changes on the training front. I’ve been assisting and training puppy classes, making it harder for me to fit in training with my own dogs. At long last we’ve started dipping our toes into rally - I’m sure I have a post around here somewhere talking about how agility was a goal for Luna. We’ve dropped Rally and are getting ready to start a trick dog class in a couple weeks.
Right now life is good… now if I can just find time to write more!
Anyone who knows me (or has poked around this blog) knows that since getting Luna I have been a big advocate for dog training – whether it’s just the basics or onto higher levels. Since January is National Train Your Dog Month I thought I would share some tips for those just getting started and let you in on what Luna and Ella are working on now.
The first step is recognizing the importance of training your dog. This makes them more manageable in all situations, helps keep them safe, and leads to a happier, well-adjusted pup with a stronger bond towards you. I once mentioned the homework we had been given in Luna’s first intermediate class – learn what your dog was bred for, and this is still some of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever been given. Once you know what your dog is more inclined to want to do naturally you can move on to the next step of finding out what kind of training will work best for you and your dog.
I recommend researching your local businesses to find a class that will suit your needs. While you can read books or websites to learn about training on your own, the on hand experience is immeasurable. My own research brought me to our local AKC training club, which I mostly chose because they offered training from the basics up to rally and agility. I never realized that it would also give me the opportunity to work with and meet with a wide variety of experienced dog handlers and trainers. Every trainer I have had has taught me something new, no matter how many times I attend a class.
No matter where you decide to go, or if you choose the on-your-own route, try to set aside some time every day to work with your dog, even if it is only for a few minutes. Luna attends class almost every week for two reasons, first it helps with her socialization with dogs and people and secondly, because she loves having a ‘job’. When we are not in class I work on basic commands such as “sit”, “down”, and “stand” several times throughout the day, particularly first thing in the morning and when I come home, and Luna knows there are no ‘free’ treats in our house! I also work with them during down times such as TV watching or waiting for pots to boil in the kitchen. Walks are also a great time to practice heeling and those same basics, and while I prefer to walk each of the dogs on their own, time doesn’t always permit me to give them that one on one attention.
Aside from the importance of time, I’ll just add a couple other tips to keep in mind as you start this journey. A few I wish someone would have told me long before Luna ever came in my life.
So how are Luna and Ella honoring Train Your Dog Month? Unfortunately, our normal classes are not being held due to a remodel that is taking place in the building we use, but we’re still keeping busy at home.
Ella is mastering the difference between "sit", "beg", and "dance". "Dance" being her favorite go-to for treats. It was a pose she naturally took from day one, so we’re incorporating it into her ‘tricks’. She’s also learning stronger responses to hand signals.
Luna is working on tricks more than commands right now. She’s learning "perch" (placing her front paws on an object when standing) and being taught to fetch her toys in from outside as Ella can’t stop taking them all out the dog door. We are also working on walking backwards for advanced rally.
Together they are working on routines of "sit", "down", and "stay" they do at the same time. The goal is to get them to respond only to the command they have been given. Luna is a bit of a pro, but Ella is still learning to wait for her name to be called.
As for Boots, she is just enjoying the old age benefit of getting treats simply because everyone else is, although her down/stay is pretty much unbreakable.
I recently discovered through the American Kennel Club’s post here that it is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. I honestly didn’t even know that such a week existed and as someone that was bitten by a dog as a teenager (an Alaskan Malamute that was NOT socialized) quite badly it’s refreshing to see tips on how to prevent these events from occurring. The truth is what happened to me should have never happened. I was taken to a house and purposefully introduced to a dog that had bitten two other people. I still carry several scars, one on my lip and a handful on my arm, but am thankful I don’t have a fear of dogs. In fact, I feel worse for the dog because he lost his life. We as dog owners are responsible for our dogs, to train them and keep them safe.
The aforementioned post had some great tips and information I suggest everyone read over, but the article that stuck out to me was the one about Dogs In Need Of Space (DINOS). I had never heard this term, but it led me to Jessica Dolce’s website, dogsinneedofspace.com and I spent the entire afternoon reading over her articles. They are easy to read, with a pinch of humor about a serious problem – some dogs really do need space for many reasons (injury, old age, training, or simply uncomfortable around other dogs/children/strangers) and we as dog owners sometimes forget that fact – or if you’ve never had a bad dog encounter maybe it’s never occurred to you before.
I will admit, when I was younger I was one of those people that walked my dog without a leash unless I absolutely had to. It was only one dog, but still irresponsible. Miley was tethered to me as if she had a leash and at the time it never felt necessary. She never walked farther than a foot or two and after we had two more dogs her on a leash actually complicated things by making one big tangle. I never thought there could be a danger in doing so and luckily we never had an incident. Knowing what I know now I’d never do that with my own dogs, not only because it isn’t safe for them, but it isn’t safe for those around them.
You see, I found out today that Luna is a DINOS, something we knew but didn’t have a name for and something we are heavily training our way out of but a problem that still exists. Her main trigger is larger dogs she doesn’t know and if one comes bounding toward her, either aggressively or in play her teeth and hackles rise. She’s never bit (or even attempted to bite) another dog, but honestly I’m not willing to take that chance. I’m lucky in the fact that we can pass another dog walking appropriately on lead in class without incident, but not so lucky in the fact that I have more than once had someone tell me how friendly their dog is I want them to “meet”.
Your dog may be the happiest, most playful, energetic puppy in the world, but those are Luna’s triggers. I use many of the tips mentioned on the DINOS website even in class, such as distracting her with treats and body blocking. We had a young German Shepherd Dog slip its collar last week and as it playfully went from dog to dog I could only pray that someone caught it before it pounced Luna. Luckily the two people nearest me also knew of Luna’s triggers and while I distracted her they were watching the other dog to let me know if it got too close and a third managed to catch the escapee.
It was comforting to know I’m not the only DINOS owner out there, and that someone had coined a name for it. I already knew the best you can do is train past these issues, prepare for them, and above all KNOW your dog. Knowing her is one of the main reasons I’m glad we started taking classes, without them I don’t think we would be nearly as in sync with each other.
Time often creeps up on us, years pass before we realize they are gone. That was the case at our house earlier this month when I was startled with the memory that Luna has been with us for a year. The time has flown, it feels like she has been a part of our family forever – and yet it also feels as if only yesterday we lost Ari. There will always be this gut wrenching twist when the anniversary of her arrival rolls around, but that stab is dulled with the ‘looniness’.
Luna has come a long way, not just in her training, but also in her confidence. It’s hard to believe that this is the same poor dog that was scared to death when we meet her, teeth bared as she crouched in the back of her kennel. I have come to accept that someone in her past not only treated her poorly, but likely chose to reprehend her physically when she misbehaved, or simply did not understand what it was they wanted from her.
She is in fact quick to learn and eager to please. There is still nothing she seems to enjoy doing more than going to class and I’ve recently been taking her to two, rather than one, class once a week. We start out our evening with rally and then move into her intermediate obedience class. She’s taken intermediate repeatedly for the last eight months or so, not because she couldn’t learn, but because she still was fighting to obtain her Canine Good Citizen.
That all changed three days before her anniversary in our home. On a whim I decided to test her again with the graduating intermediate class we had been crashing. I had planned on skipping the test, knowing she could not stand for three minutes in my absence. The only reason we didn’t leave was Ella was performing her STAR puppy at the same time with my daughter and since we were in the building I decided I might as well use the time for more training.
We got lucky. Our examiner was Luna’s original trainer from our beginning class, someone she had no trouble letting approach her. We passed each step with flying colors, and when it came time to have a stranger hold her I handed her off to someone from our rally class. We listened to a few whines out in the hall, three minutes feeling like three hours, and I was certain it was Luna I could hear whining.
To my surprise I returned and was notified she passed. It turned out when she started to whine the person holding her would just ask her to sit. Torn between her need to be with me and her need to obey she sat, and finally, we passed.
It may seem like a little thing to some, but I could hardly sleep afterward, I was so happy and proud of this little girl that had been so afraid when we took her home. The future already looked bright, but now it feels as if Luna can accomplish just about anything.
We’re still taking two classes though, this time around so Luna can attend with Ella (who passed her STAR) so that the younger pup can learn to work even if her big sis is around. Just last week Ella pounced Luna during a stay exercise to which Luna remained transfixed in her sitting position, looking up at me.
I was almost as proud of her in that moment as hearing the words, “She passed”.
I have been away for too long. Not just here, but everywhere online that is dog related, including Worldly Dogs. I found that after losing Ari and then Miley I needed a break from stories and photos of dogs. It was too easy for the tears to fall, on some days it still is, but now it is past time to start a new chapter and return.
Luna is doing great, if still Loony (she wouldn't be Luna otherwise). Together we have completed intermediate obedience three times now, still trying to obtain her Canine Good Citizen (CGC). She has become a very obedient dog in the last 11 months; she just cannot manage me leaving her with a stranger for three minutes - or even one. It’s frustrating, but I know it isn't everything. Luna is amazing on a leash and her stays are almost unbreakable, she does so well that despite the CGC mishap we enrolled in Rally two weeks ago. Of course, that was also due to me being unable to have two dogs in class at the same. It became two because apparently my life is a little empty without three dogs.
This time I really wasn't looking for another dog (unlike when I told myself I wasn't with Luna). My husband and I had decided we would look for a third dog after our next family trip sometime this year and I already felt like my hands were full training Luna. Then the photo of "Binkie" found its way onto my Facebook feed. She was an adorable four month old wiry Jack Russell mix and somehow I knew right away that she was the missing dog in our pack.
I was a little worried that being a Jack Russell mix she would remind me too much of Ari, but when we arrived at Best Friends I was shocked to find that aside from a different coat color she was very much a "Miley-dog". She sat up on her hind legs in those first few moments and for a moment I thought my heart would break. How on earth could I bring home a dog that looked so much like my old girl? Luckily I gave her the chance to be her own dog - because in personality she is a dog all her own!
I had been slightly worried about trying to introduce a new family member to Luna, but the two of them bonded as soon as we got home and the newly renamed Ella and her have become inseparable ever since. They love to roughhouse, Ella thinking she's one of the big dogs while Luna still thinks she should be allowed on laps.
Life is good again. My pack is complete.
I’ve said for a long time that if I had known how to train a dog Luna wouldn’t have needed to take basic training classes because she already had the basics down before I brought her home. Now, more than halfway through her intermediate class, I was proud to know that she was one of the top dogs in her group. She loves to work and her stays (sit or down) can last forever as long as I’m in her sight. She once tied a lazy St. Bernard in our class on a down/stay competition. A tie because we got tired of waiting to see which dog would break.
I beamed the first time I had to leave her with our trainer while I cleaned up an accident and he told me that she hadn’t acted the bit concerned when I walked away. Apparently leaving your dog with a stranger for three minutes is one of the harder parts of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test we are expected to take at the end of our course.
This was all before last week.
It was my own fault for not researching the CGC, I was so pleased with the way that she had progressed that I hadn’t felt the need to. Our trainer was walking down the line, petting each of the dogs on the chest and head, but on that particular time added the paws – at which point Luna’s ‘grin’ from the kennel returned and she backed away from him. She was having none of the feet touching and was not even pleased to resume the petting at that point.
After class was when I found out that touching her paws was part of the CGC and he wasn’t confident that she’ll be able to pass the test in a few weeks. It might sound odd to some, but it does make perfect sense when you consider that groomers and vets would have to handle the same area (oddly she had no problem at her vet appointment). Worse, if she can’t pass the CGC they won’t let her move on to the advanced class.
I understand the why, but it’s still disappointing. I’ve been to several sites researching the CGC and so many of them make it sound easy – if you’ve had your dog as a pup. It’s clear Luna didn’t have the perfect socialization as a puppy and I still half suspect that she was abused on at least some level by a male. I always say both puppies and rescues are hard in their own way and socialization is Luna’s trial.
We’ll take the next few weeks and try to work past this point. While I’m already working on her social skills we’ll be adding some extra trips to relative and friends in the next few weeks. Our trainer still wants her to at least test even if she’s not ready so we’ll know what to expect the next time around – and who knows, maybe the evaluator will be female and she’ll be much more relaxed!
Lisa (and Luna)