One of My Proudest Accomplishments
Posted at 12:01PM - Comments: (9)
If I had to pick which training accomplishment I am most proud of with my dog Otto, I’d have to consider a few. He’s got a rock-solid, enthusiastic recall that I love. When we’re out on the trail and he sees a duck and ducklings on the shore of the river, say, or hears a deer crashing through the brush away from us, this recall -- combined with a strong “Off!” (a.k.a. “Leave it!”) – never fails to bring admiration from my walking partners. (And because I reward him so richly for this, with a veritable avalanche of tasty treats, it stays nice and strong.)
But perhaps the most useful for walking in my semi-rural town is his ability to “look at me” when we are walking down the sidewalk and there is a dog (or several dogs) going berserk on the other side of a fence as we walk by. This is an extremely stressful thing for a dog to do – to completely ignore some very dramatic behavior from fellow dogs – and it does make him nervous. His pace speeds up, he’ll whine a bit, and he’ll lick his lips and flick his tongue in distress.
However, he knows what to do to make it less nerve-wracking: look at me. If he turns toward me, I allow him to walk or trot faster – heck, I want to get out of there, too! – and I speed-feed him treats as we hustle on out of there. I also praise him in a calm and happy voice, “Goood boy, Otto. What a good boy!” I make sure not to make it squeaky, scared-sounding, or fast and frantic.
When I first got Otto, four-plus years ago, I wouldn’t even attempt such a thing. If there was a dog going nuts in a yard as we approached (or I was previously aware of a lurker who would burst out as we passed), we’d veer out into the street or even turn and avoid that block as we practiced. It was an overly high-stress exercise for him when he was younger. But as he has gained confidence in both the behavior and in me, he’s gotten even a little cocky about it. Not long ago he surprised me: As we walked along, with Otto looking at me and eating the treats I was steadily feeding into his mouth as a dog on the other side of the fence going crazy with barking, snarling, and throwing himself against the fence, Otto suddenly stopped, and – still looking at me – lifted his leg and peed against the fence, pretty much right in the berserk dog’s face. Oh snap! That dog was dissed! And as rude as it was, I was still proud.