As many of you have noticed, Duke has been MIA in the packs for the past couple of months. Why? Well, let me tell you!
At the beginning of December, my partner (Joel), Duke and I drove up highway 2 for a session with Tyson Hainsworth (ie Dog Squad http://www.dogsquad.ca highly recommended). As the daughter of two PhDs, I've always valued education. I'm a strong believer that knowledge is a powerful tool and that we are, and always will be students. So when Tyson's name popped up multiple times over a few months, I saw an opportunity to spend some time learning different training techniques. The added bonus that I was able to take Joel with me and he could learn more about how to work with Duke made it doubly worth the while.
From our session, I was able to take away some very valuable knowledge, some new tools and a new perspective on dog training and how to properly exercise dogs. The biggest take away for me was how to be aware of the dog's energy level and to tailor your training activities to match that level. For example, if your dog is REALLY excited, that may not be the best time to work on sit stays. It might be best to work on some recall training or playing games. Similarly, if your dog is relaxed and happy, that would be the best time to work on loose leash walking (for example).
I'm sure many of you read that paragraph and thought, duhhhhh. And of course, it makes perfect sense - but requires a little extra awareness of your dog to put into practice.
The application of this concept in the packs has been really amazing. I recognize that at the beginning of the walk, everyone is energized and excited. So instead of working on slow exercises or expecting perfect sit stays, I might start with a fast walk or jog, or even start with a little off-leash to let the dogs calm themselves down before we get started on the other stuff.
In addition to learning new tools in the pack, I was able to focus my training attention on Duke. It made me realize that over the last couple of years, I've been taking Duke along with me while I'm working with other dogs. The one on one time that we get together is often limited to weekends. Which, being the high energy and prone to anxiety dog that he is, wasn't necessarily good for his training.
So fuelled by new knowledge, new tools and a new purpose, I've been spending the last couple of months working with Duke outside of the pack setting and frankly limiting the time he spends with me when I'm with other dogs. While on one hand I know he misses the pack and I feel horribly guilty leaving him at home all the time (now I know how you guys feel!), our training relationship has grown and strengthened.
So now, since I've started on my dog walking business journey, I feel that I truly understand the need that many dog owners have: To have a trusted caregiver come and exercise their dog during the day without totally ruining their hard training work! Some weeks I've really found it difficult to give Duke enough exercise to promote the calm behaviour that I desire. I need to hire me!
In all seriousness, Duke is doing great in his new training regime, and I plan to slowly re-integrate him into our regular packs while still prioritizing our one on one training (because let's be honest, it's way cooler to take your dog to work with you all the time). I know he will be overjoyed to see all his Silver Jet friends again soon!
Until next time, Happy Trails
Holly, Duke and Jax