Wednesday we had a fun little morning jaunt to a dog park (weekday mornings are always so nice and empty!) and then to the dog friend beach in town, which isn't nearly as nice as our usual beach, but whatever.
You know, sometimes I wish I trained more tricks and flashy behaviors with Nola. Don't get me wrong, she knows a few dozen, but not nearly the extent of other bloggers' dogs. And then I take her out in public, and I couldn't be more grateful I've placed more emphasis on honing her naturally solid, take everything in stride personality with real life situations and "real life", more functional training. The number one thing I'm glad to have taught and reinforced is her handler focus.
I've spent thousands and thousands of hours working on her focus, and proving to her that nothing she could ever do will be more rewarding than me. Showing her exactly how incredible it is to listen to "mom", and reinforcing good decisions, has created a dog that doesn't try and step outside these parameters, choosing instead to do things she knows will get her rewarded, rather than taking a risk on what may or may not get her anything out of it.
That's not to say that she has never tested her boundaries, because she has, especially when she was around 24 months or so. Instead of using the old school method of punishing her when she would blow me off (let's use recall for this exercise), I would simply go get her, and either pick her up or leash her to me. I wouldn't correct her at all, not even the no-reward marker I will sometimes use during distance stay work. All I would do is ignore her for 10 seconds or so, and then we'd go along with whatever we were doing.
Using this method, she knows that she will always be praised and rewarded for staying near me and recalling to me when off leash. Always. She knows that she will be heavily reinforced for following cues in highly distracting environments. Always. And since she knows that blowing me off won't get her what she works for, she's learned to choose on her to work with me.
Despite popular belief, it's entirely possible to teach this type of behavior without adversities.
I'm not bragging when I say she's an absolute dream in public (okay, I'm totally bragging ;)).
Loose leash walking, including intense handler focus and automatic sits? Second nature to her.
Leave it? Done.
Stay? Her ass isn't moving.
Kids, adults, dogs, bikes, cars, motorcycles, cats, ect? None of it bothers her.
She is focused on me, and me alone.
At home, it can be a different story, but she's always perfect in public.
I love this dog more than I could ever describe.
This was shot at the dog park. It was chock full of distractions, including fun obstacles, puddles, scents, and some of Nola's favorite people and a trio of other dogs just outside the fence. It's not flashy and there's no complex behaviors; it's just Nola, choosing to work with me, without cue. Giving her the option to choose has made for a dog that loves to learn. When it's "her idea", it goes much smoother. ;)
Okay, proud dog owner moment over!
|This weird little dog house thing would make an adorable chicken coop.|
|Huge, empty area!|