Juneau and I have learned a lot together. She came to me at 8 months of age as a well socialized puppy with tons of energy. If I didn’t find things for her to do, she’d find her own things to do. She may only be 12 inches tall, but she still figured out how to get things off of the counter (like an entire pizza).
She taught me early on to be consistent with my hand signals, and to be careful not to casually use my hands in ways that might be construed as a hand signal. For instance, our hand signal for sit was an open hand, fingers splayed, palm toward her. On walks, she constantly looked for signals that meant she could earn a treat. I started showing her that I didn’t have any treats at the moment by displaying my empty hands (fingers splayed, palms toward her). Shortly thereafter, she started turning away and finding something else to do upon giving her the “sit” cue. It took me a little time to connect the two hand signals. I retrained “sit,” giving it a new hand signal, and vowed to pay closer attention to what I was “saying” to Juneau.
Juneau is very attentive during training, and strives to keep her eyes on what I am doing at all times. “Stay” is not a problem for her when I walk a short distance away, but it’s a challenge for her to hold that stay if I walk behind her. Unfortunately, she hasn’t learned how to turn her head 360 degrees, so she often gets up and turns around to see what I am doing back there. I plan to recruit a helper to reinforce for holding a sit or down while I walk around her.
I have found that keeping an open mind, being consistent, and adhering to positive reinforcement methods of training have built a solid connection between me and each of my dogs, including Juneau.