Training - Day 1

With Dexter's neuter behind him, we can begin our training in earnest.  For novices like me, the number of dog training methods are enough to make your head spin around and pop off into orbit.  My Koehler Method book arrived.  It is old school, but there are many things in there that I think that I can use.

For this week, my goals are simple.
  1. focus on me in the yard.  
  2. getting used to hearing his name and the call command
 My  tools are
  1. H. Sprenger collar,  
  2. 50 ft lead line made of silky nylon webbing that doesn't burn me or him.  
  3. Sturdy waist pack and an attached carbiner to attach the lead to me while keeping my hands free
  4. tasty treats
I had the help of two assistants:  a feline (unplanned but welcomed), Wyatt, and a canine, Ella.  Both provided distractions to Dexter that helped with the lesson.

I used the prong collar, because Dexter pulls like a mule.  I am unable to control him, and I'm no wimp.  Remember, this is a dog that came to our home without the benefit of any shaping behavior insofar as I can tell.  He also has a stain on his white fur under his neck, mostly likely from his continual pulling in former life. Further his behavior of determined, pulling on lead, jumping and 'play biting'  is likely the catalyst for his being tossed. I want to give us both the benefit of effective communication and control without constant correction.  The collar gives a self-correction.  I put it on my thigh and tested it.  It was on my bare skin and I was pulling tightly.  I was not injured; the prongs did not pierce my skin, but I did feel pressure.  I'm sure there are competent dog trainers out there that do not need such an accoutrement.  I am not a competent dog trainer, but I plan to master the basics with Dexter without any harm coming to either of us physically or emotionally.

Method:  Koehler's long line training.  You can also watch a video of using a long line method here.  This method involves a relatively unstructured training session that teaches the dog one decptively simple thing: to keep his/her eyes on you lest there is an unpleasant experience at an "end of line" event.  (Unpleasant, not painful).  I simply attached the lead to my waist pack's carbiner and went about the business of  'inspecting' trees in various places in the yard.  I moved purposefully from one tree to another.  I didn't look at Dexter; I didn't call Dexter when I changed direction.  I just walked.  If he was not paying attention, he soon did and moved toward me. Sometimes beyond me, but that was not a problem.  He was free to operate withing the confines of the length of line.

While I was stationary, and he was distracted I did some recall commands: " Dexter, come."  In every instance, he bounded quickly toward me and sat without being commanded to and received a yummy treat.  He's scary smart.  A reminder of why timing of commands and rewards are so important: Given some previous work that we did, he sits as soon as he hears me fumbling for treats. I made sure that I had my treats in hand before issuing commands. 

I mentioned that my feline assistant, Wyatt, was unplanned helped.  I was quite glad to see him sneaking about outside.  He's non-plussed when it comes to dogs, so I knew that I could count on him not to bolt (and he knew he could count on me for not putting him in harm's way).  DExter hasn't chased a cat--but he has high interest in the cats. Given his interest and his lightening fast moves, I continue to distrust Dexter as he has not been proven to not chase a cat. (And for all I know, Dexter landed on the backroad because he killed a cat, bit a child or some other unsavory behavior).  My cats are dog savy--and so far they have merely sauntered away, not scampered.  I still have visions of Mylo (cat) in a dead run against a newly acquired Daisey, and since cured of this chase. 

With Ella and Wyatt at different places along our training perimeter, it was only after a trio of "end of the line" events that snapped Dexter into watchfulness.  He was not at my side, and that was not the point.  He was not at the end of the line either when we went passed feline and canine distractions, and that was the point.  Mark was also a potential distraction as he had to return home to get his phone.  We did have an end of the line tension that Dexter immediately self-corrected.

It was an enjoyable training session for both Dexter and I.  We did stealth training; relationship building and enjoyed the great outdoors without any overt corrections.

And when I feel like I'm ready to throw in the towel on any of this, I want to list Dexter's excellent qualities that give me hope that the other 'qualities' can be overcome long term and are 'bearable; in the short term:
  1. whip smart
  2. eager to please
  3. quick to learn (some things)
  4. not food aggressive
  5. not dog aggressive (but he plays too rough and is not mindful of cues from other dogs)
  6. has not attacked my cats
  7. is friendly to every person (but jumps and puppy bites with a not-so-puppy mouth/teeth)


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