Weim lives matter!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fiona Goes to School

Last night was Fiona's first night in the Basic Obedience class at Golden Triangle Obedience Training Club.  It was quite a night for a young Weimaraner who was basically on sensory overload, but all in all she did pretty well.

When Fiona came to me she knew one command and that was to sit.  It was obvious that she lived a very sheltered life where she saw the same things day in and day out and was not exposed to very many new things.  She did not get much exercise and was allowed to eat all she wanted.

So entering a building with about 9 or 10 other dogs and 15 to 20 people and all the smells, noises and activity that comes with those things was very exciting to her.  And let me say that that excitement never abated and she was happy and playful the entire hour.  

I didn't have time to make a list of all the different dogs in the class but I know there was a Collie, 2 German Shepherd Dogs, 2 black labs, a Golden Retriever, a very reactive Boxer, a Giant Schnauzer and a Puli, so she had quite a variety of dogs to look at.

To prepare for class I had taken her on a short walk in the morning and then taken her to the field at the fairgrounds around 5:00 to run off some of her energy. Then, to make sure she'd be a little hungry we only gave her half of her dog food and green beans at supper.  Pretty good ideas, but she could have used double the amount of exercise.

My challenge was to get her attention on me as much as possible to keep her from barking, lunging at the other dogs (in a totally playful manner) and so that she could try to work on the exercises that we were to teach our dogs in this first class.  With the help of some pretty good treats I had moderate success with her and I was pleasantly surprised that she actually could hear me when I talked to her (as opposed to listening to those puppy voices in her head saying, play, play, play).

Through this I have to keep in mind that Fiona has only been with me for 2 weeks and in the past month she's lost her home, lived in a vet's office for 10 days, got spayed, took a 5-hour car ride, had her name changed and is now in a new home with new people and two strange dogs and she is, after all, a nine-month-old Weimaraner puppy.

Earlier this week, actually on Tuesday, I thought it might be a good idea to teach her to "down" so that she'd at least have two commands that she'd know.  So for four days I worked on teaching her to down from a sit.  The first day we were having no success, her little rump just flew into the air instead of staying on the floor, but then when I used my favorite method to teach a Weim to lay down, putting them on the bed and using the same method as on the floor, she caught on in minutes and would repeatedly lay down for me (something about the soft bed seems to agree with Weims).  Then we worked the second day on the bed for the first few repetitions and then she was laying down anywhere I asked.  

Now I was ready for class, because if she ignored my down request at class I could use the old stand-by line, "Well, she does it at home."  Oh, how many times have we heard that!

Thank goodness, I didn't need to use the excuse, because Fiona not only sat when asked, she downed and she caught on very quickly to the game of having a treat in one hand and learning that when she quit mouthing my hand with the treat in it that she got a treat from the other hand.

The only area where Fiona had a problem was when the class got too stimulating for her and it was pretty much impossible to keep her attention on me and that was when we tried some loose leash heeling across the room.  She was just too interested in the other dog moving beside her and wanting to engage the other dog in play.

I was exhausted at the end of the class from the constant effort of keeping her attention on me and keeping her in her own space.  She is a very strong dog and if there's something she wants she's going to give a good effort to get to it.

The positives from the night were that she showed no signs of aggression either to dogs or people, even when put in a totally strange environment.  She was able to adapt to the situation enough that she listened to me and followed commands.  She showed she is a quick learner and a willing training partner.

On the other hand, Fiona showed that she still needs a lot of work on her social skills both with dogs and people.  A few people who wanted to meet her helped me tremendously by following my request to not pet her on the head, but to calmly try to pet her behind her head, as she still sees hands coming toward her mouth as toys to clamp onto with her puppy teeth.  She still needs work on not jumping up and batting with her paws, in addition to the mouthiness she shows.  But, hey, it's only been two weeks and these are puppy traits and she is a puppy, so we'll continue to work on getting better and better.

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