Before I start talking about Sasha, I have to share something awful.
I don’t want to talk about it, I’m spending everyday trying my best not to think about it, but the reason I haven’t been posting is because we lost one of our dogs.
We were walking one of our dogs the other day & a car opened and an off lead dog ran out. It ignored the owners’ calls and started attacking our dog. Our dog was on a longline, we couldn’t get to her, and our dog was screaming. We dropped the lead because we couldn’t do anything else, and for a bit it helped, but then she was chased into a road and hit by a car and we lost our dog. That’s it, that’s the end of it.
I am very, very broken. If it wasn’t for Sasha I wouldn’t be holding on right now.
I can’t talk about it yet. Please don’t mistake this for me not caring, I just know that if I do think about it more, I will break.
I’ve been working a lot with Sasha heeling, and especially checking in / offering eye contact. She has caught on to this amazingly fast, and can heel around pretty heavy distractions now 🙂
And I’ve also got a crate all opened up and started reinforcing her for going in…this has gone amazingly well, and now the crate is her second most favourite place to settle 🙂
Her very first time in a crate checking it out!
Choosing to eat a chickens’ foot in there
And this was her choosing to settle in her crate whilst we had a friend round!!
There was a period of time where we were really concerned if Sasha could make it as an assistance dog.
She has been more fearful than almost any puppy we’ve had, with the exception of the puppy we found tied to a tree…and even then there wasn’t *that* much in it!!!
She wasn’t cowering and shaking all over the place, I’m not saying it was so obvious. But she would shy away from people walking past on the street, freak out over cars driving past, sit and stare at things that concerned her (which was literally everything). It just wasn’t what you’d expect to see from a puppy so young, or one that was knowingly sold to SD work, sold as being almost bombproof, and that we paid £800 for
This was when she was 12-13 weeks old, and puppies at that age should NOT be reacting to almost anything with fear. They should be confident, outgoing and excited, and if anything does scare them (such as an unexpected bang) they should bounce back quickly.
I was very, very concerned.
Last week for example our friend came over, and we went to the car park round back to meet him. I guess it was dark so I’d be okay with her being a little less confident than in the day, but our friend knelt down to greet her 6ft from where Sasha was, and Sasha was moving away, concerned, tail a little tucked etc. Not good.
She got used to him with time and he no longer scared her, but it’s not what you want to see in such a young puppy OR one that is going to train for assistance dog work!!
Whilst he was here we drove to a beach that was actually sandy though, and Sasha experienced sand for the first time 🙂 I swear she has never had so much fun in her life – she LOVED it!
We had a long chat over the span of a few days about Sashie’s reservedness, and decided we would ask the trainers at our class on Tuesday what they thought. It made sense as they would see Sasha in a new environment.
Then, for the next two days until the class, Sasha aced EVERYTHING. Out of nowhere we had turned a massive corner!
We started taking her out more and more and she was rocking everything with zero fear. Why?? IDK! She was heeling maintaining eye contact walking past strangers, and if I didn’t ask for a heel she was bounding over to have a look and wag hello.
We went to the train station, sat outside the supermarket (where she greeted a man she didn’t know and who wasn’t very good with dogs!!!), we went to the canal twice and she met an elderly JRT and was so happy about it afterwards ( ❤ ), we walked around town…we were doing SO MUCH and the fear had just gone.
That was Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday evening we had our first puppy class, and I was terrified…I haven’t been out in public other than to walk my dogs in about 4 months, I’ve not even been inside shops. So going to a class, sitting around with strangers, talking to people etc was a big deal.
It started badly in that the taxi we had booked was 15 minutes late, so the entire time I was freaking out, and we ended up 10 mins late to class >__<
But from there, it was one of the best experiences of my life!
We were the only ones that were attending our first class, all the other puppies had been to 2-4 classes already and they were all older than Sasha. (before I write the next bit I want to apologise if it sounds like I’m bragging – which I’m sure it will! – but I’m honestly just so proud 🙂 )
Sasha was a bazillion times more focused when training than ANY of the other puppies!!
She was the only one that could walk to heel whilst focusing on me. We practised this by being split into groups of two, and had to walk around the room trying to get our puppy to walk beside us and give attention to us. The distractions included two trainers to the left, a row of puppies and owners to the right, and the other dog to avoid too.
NONE of the other puppies could do it at all, and Sasha was bloody amazing.
I was the one who did every exercise with her, so it was me working her in front of a room full of people I didn’t know…and I DID it. I wasn’t terrified, I just focused on Sasha and she rocked it 😀
We worked on sit, which everyone could do.
Then we worked on wait which some could do and some couldn’t – Sasha was incredible and she sat and focused on me with no verbal cue, and I was able to up the duration, move a few steps away etc.
We did off lead recall, where one at a time the puppy was released, the owner yelled from the opposite end of the hall, and the puppy had to run past all the other dogs to their owner. I was glad I was there with my partner so that we could hold and release her, instead of the trainers having to grab her!
Sasha was awesome, no interest in the other pups, just ran to us 🙂
We worked on luring the puppies into a down and I talked to the trainer about this whilst my partner took Sasha out to the loo (I SPOKE TO HER ON MY OWN!!). I told her how I’d tried various ways to lure Sasha into a down, and she didn’t get it, and after maybe 10 seconds of trying she would give up and just sit there and look confused.
I told her I’d tried shaping it, but now she’d lower her head and then just look at me like ‘well now what do you want?!’
The trainer said move the lure into her to get her to lie down, and when Sasha came back through the trainer tried to get her to do it…the exact thing I’d just described happened, Sasha tried for 10 seconds then just sat there looking at her XD
I was actually kinda relieved hahahaha!!
Then the second trainer, who is an old woman, came over. And this made me uncomfortable because I had seen her interact with the other puppies and she was nowhere near as good, but she was okay with Sash. Again, Sasha tried for about 10 seconds then just gave up.
They didn’t really offer any advice, just said “keep trying”, which wasn’t at all helpful but I think probably know as much as they do haha, so it’s okay. Today I’m going to try ‘force’ a down by getting Sasha to crawl under a bent leg of mine, leaving only enough room so she *has* to lie down. We’ll see how that works!!
The entire class Sasha was absolutely amazing!!!
She was sitting still & focusing on me whilst all the other puppies were scrabbling, trying to play with each other or barking. Sasha barked maybe twice, early on, and her focus was amazing. I was so frickin’ proud!
After class she got to say hi and play with two of the puppies (both JRTs haha, one was 16 weeks old and Sasha’s paw was the size of the little one’s head XD ) so that was really good for her.
Whilst my partner went and sorted out payment, I had Sasha following directional cues around all the busyness of people leaving. We got our second taxi home (£16 each way, ugh!) and in both taxis, one van-style one and one a normal car, Sasha had zero fear, didn’t pay any attention to the driver, lay down seconds after getting in and slept 😀
The entire class made me feel very proud of her, and also showed me that the training I’m putting in IS paying off, and that she IS doing great for her age and especially for how long we’ve had her.
Finally, how she has done this past week, and how wonderful she rocked a stressful environment full of unknown people and dogs, has shown me that she is ready to start heavier socialisation and going in places too.
So…that’s pretty much it!
My overall thought on the class
For the price, it’s VERY good.
The main trainer does know her stuff and says all the right things. It’s very much PR and not much was said that I would disagree with (I still don’t like their rule of ‘when you call your puppy, make sure to grab their collar / harness before giving out the treats’).
I don’t think they’re going to be able to offer much I don’t already know, but their also not going to advise alpha rolls or lead jerks…for what we want, which is getting Sasha used to working around distractions, it’s perfect 🙂
My one complaint is that they’re not very good at telling owners what they’re doing wrong, and will just leave them to make the same mistakes or fail…there were two huge examples of this at last night’s class.
One was an older couple who have an extremely high energy breed puppy (a Vizsla). Their dog was scrabbling madly the entire class, barking all the way through, and the owners just kept repeating the dog’s name – “Benny, Benny, Benny, BENNY, Benny” etc.
One of the exercises we had to do was the instructor would come say hi and distract your puppy, and you had to say your pup’s name to see if your dog turned (Sasha aced this, because duh 😉 ).
And of course ‘Benny’ completely ignored his owner saying his name, because it gets said all the time and he no longer even notices it. The trainers didn’t offer any advice to them, they didn’t give them an alternative thing to do other than repeat their dog’s name, and they didn’t move the puppy away from the others so that it could calm down less and be less of a distraction for those nearby.
The second example was during recall work. An older man had a Collie puppy, and to recall he just clicked his tongue and said in a very quiet calm voice “Lenny, come. Come on Lenny”, then just stood and did nothing more.
Lenny of course ignored him and was running around dive bombing all the other puppies, and instead of telling the owner to try louder, or get more excited etc, they just said “oh he’s just distracted, try again”. Then when it failed again they kept getting the man to move closer and repeat, until finally Lenny was bored enough to listen!!
Whereas if the man had used a loud ‘agh I am so incredibly excited’ voice, maybe with some jumping up and down, hand claps, kneeling or running away, I bet Lenny would have run to him immediately.
Minor complaints but, if you had no experience with training dogs / puppies (and most these owners didn’t), you still wouldn’t really have much of an idea how to correct problems you were having after these classes 😛
There were some utterly adorable puppies there though!
Two Collies, two JRT, a Vizsla and I’ve forgotten one that was at the far end from us…Bailey the JRT puppy was next to us, and both him and his owner were adorable. She was very good with him, and when he lay down successfully she got wonderfully over-excited, doled out treats, was playing & kissing him etc…made me so happy to see and we chatted a bit ^__^