As most of you know, I have three dogs - Scrumpy and Java are seniors and Twizzler is just over a year old now. And while for the most part the three have gotten a long, it's a bit of a balancing act sometimes. Scrumpy and Java being 13 are very laid back. Twizzler, not so much ... he puts the energizer bunny to shame. Thinking back on the past year, I've come to realize how I've been able to incorporate and transfer skills that I've learned in class to practical applications to keep the peace and my sanity!
Like many of you, I brush my dogs teeth. It's really no problem as they love the taste of the doggy toothpaste and after brushing, they are rewarded with a lick or two from the tube. The challenge comes in when you introduce a puppy to the mix - one who doesn't know how to wait his turn and tries to steal the paste from the brush. It was a bit of a struggle and my blood pressure was beginning to rise until I started using this daily ritual as an opportunity to practice impulse control and sit stays! I have to admit that peace and harmony didn't happen overnight but it did happen.
My friend Rob has a great story about Ryker, who he adopted from a rescue some years back. Ryker was quite a vocal dog especially when encountering other dogs. Up the road from us, lives a couple of terriers who just love to bark at anything walking by especially dogs. Unlike the terrier mom, Rob wanted to fix this so here's what he did. He took what he learned in class to the streets, literally. He stood on the sidewalk opposite the terrier house and rewarded Ryker for not barking. Once that distance was perfected, he decreased the distance - always working below threshold so that Ryker was successful. Eventually he was able to walk Ryker past the barking house (on the same side of the street) without a peep from Ryker. Bravo, Rob and Ryker - one person's challenge is another's training opportunity!!
I have another friend who loves to take pictures of dogs having fun. Sometimes people ask her for a photo shoot in the park. Why not, it makes for a great back drop? She told me how much she enjoys working with clients when they have done some basic training with their dogs. Of course, there's the obvious sit stay but most people want shots of their dog in action. For her the most important skills are a solid come (so that she can shoot them running without fear of losing the dog), toy drive and understanding what are high value rewards. I asked her about distractions in the park, like other dogs or the dreaded squirrel. She told me that she tries to pick a time when the park is quiet usually early in the morning or during the dinner hour. Sorry, we're on our own when it comes to the blasted squirrel!
Sometimes there's hidden benefits from dog training that are what I'd call "Wow, who'd have thought?" moments. This might be meeting someone in class who later becomes a romantic interest or your new BFF or perhaps someone who has your dog's litter mate. My "Wow, who'd have thought?" moment happened this past fall with Twizzler. I had him in Flyball class with a trainer who unbenounced to me is also an Animal Wrangler. What's an Animal Wrangler? They are find animals for ads, commercials, TV shows and movies.
One day I get an email from Jackie telling me that a new TV show needs a frou frou dog and would Twizzler be interested. Sure, I say but not really thinking much of it. Some weeks later, I find out that he's been selected. Wow, who'd have thought?!?! Now, I'm thinking, "Oh oh, don't I need to train him or something???" Jackie tells me probably just sit stays and down stays. OK, I'm thinking that we've got that in the bag until I realize all the activity on the set, behind the cameras and that I'm WAY far away from him and that sometimes the scene needs to be shot over and over and over from different angles and he gets passed from one actor to the next. YIKES!! Thank goodness for all the early socialization - it's definitely not a good thing for your dog to be a fusspot. Anyway, it's all good in the end. I was even able to use my "spot" command from agility contacts class on set. It's quite amazing just how many skills you can leverage and how many ways you can practice in your everyday life.
So what's the show and when's it coming out? The series is called "Working the Engels" and will be airing in March on Global and NBC. Check your local listings for it!