Today was Sadie's very first obedience class. I had stopped by PetSmart in Katy, TX last Friday looking for a new collar for Sadie and ended up having the nicest conversation with one of their dog trainers. Susan was interesting and confident. We talked about both group classes and private lessons. Sadie needs to be more socialized with other dogs but I decided to start with a series of four private lessons. Today was lesson number one.
I was to bring the dog, her record of immunizations, a bag of treats, something to put the treats in and a leash to the training area in PetSmart at one pm this afternoon. This morning Sadie and I went to our vet's office to pick up her records and Sadie pee'd all over the floor when one of the ladies came out from behind the counter to give her a treat. I wanted to give Sadie some small amount of practice in walking through strange doors and dealing with people but in hind sight I wish I had left her at home. All the way to PetSmart I was thinking about the trail of pee she would leave from the front door to the training area, all the people she would try to jump on and all the dogs she would bark at. They would escort us to the door and tell us never to come back. I would have to find somewhere else to shop. I was so wrapped up in the horrible things that would sure to happen that I arrived at PetSmart without treats. I could not have been more wrong about how the afternoon would go.
Sadie walked confidently into PetSmart and was eager and excited to be there. She has never met a stranger and would have loved to jump on all the people she saw but I had a firm grip on the leash. She didn't even think about barking at anything or anyone and she didn't pee at all. We had a great time. Susan even gave me treats to use so I didn't have to buy any just for class. We started on the simple stuff and progressed to slightly more difficult stuff. When we had worked in the training area for a while Susan told us to walk around the store and practice. Really? Without walls around us? More places for Sadie to pee? More people to bother? OK. Just stop that! <Penny slaps herself in the face> We walked around the store and had a wonderful time.
It was hard work for both Sadie and I. We are using a clicker in this training. The idea is to click the clicker every time she does what I ask her to do. The sound in the same every time so there is no mistaking the "Good Dog!" Of course, timing is important but I didn't have much trouble with that. I did have some difficulty holding the leash and the clicker and the treats. After a while the smell of the treats weren't working their magic so Susan gave me a squeaky toy to use also. That adds up to quite a few more things to manage than the number of hands I have available. And all the training is done standing up and walking around which was some work too.
Sadie worked hard to try and figure out what I wanted and to distinguish the commands over the noise and hubbub of PetSmart. There are people talking, announcements on the PA system, phones ringing and dogs barking. It's a noisy place full of great distractions. Sadie was truly "dog tired" on the way home.
Part way through the lesson we moved the leash from Sadie's collar to a "Gentle Leader" halter which straps to the head and gives the handler more control. It's not harsh and she can still breath, eat treats, bite, etc. but it reduces the pulling and jumping. It's not something you leave on after the trainer session so we took it off for the drive home. We have homework to work on between now and the next lesson. Sit and Down and Look at Me are on the top of the list to be practiced. We are also to work on walking on a loose lead and not jumping up on people.