Not to brag or anything – actually pretty much anything BUT bragging in this case, because I was shocked and overjoyed when Genie and I went to her second puppy class on Thursday evening. She was a different dog from her first class, far improved and just wonderful! And it wasn’t anything I did. I fully expected her to act similarly to her first class two weeks ago; I had spent a week on vacation, away from home, returned on Monday, so we didn’t have much time to train. I did take some little pork bits I had left over from dinner, in addition to cheese and meatballs, and she was quite attentive and appreciative of all of it.
From the moment we arrived, Genie was looking at me and asking me what I wanted her to do. She was lovely.
One “trick” I’ve taught her is to lie on a mat. This used to be standard fare in our puppy kindergarten classes here, and the technique is used by Leslie McDevitt in helping to calm dogs in new situations. Basically the dog is shaped to lie down on a mat and ultimately to relax on the mat. Genie’s not to the relax stage yet, but if there’s a mat in the vicinity, she’s on it, and she’s lying there waiting for cookies to rain on her. I took the mat to class and laid it on the floor immediately, giving her a familiar object to relate to. She used it as taught, and after I took it away (after perhaps 5 minutes), she continued to be focused on me.
Genie wasn’t the only good dog at class; it appeared that all of the puppies had settled in. None of them had gone the previous week, since class was snowed out. So Genie is up to date on classes there and won’t need a make-up. It’s a fun class with lots of activity, lots of informative hand-outs, and much positive energy.
Toward the end of class, about 50 minutes into it, all of the puppies suddenly acted like they were possessed. They could no longer listen, no longer focus on their handlers, and were trying to socialize with one another regardless of human pleadings. Genie was no exception. It’s amazing that these puppies could work for 50 minutes, so no surprise! Time to play tug, or go for a potty break, or just quit.
Our maximum training time at home is about 20 minutes – and it’s broken up with many tug or retrieve breaks. These short play sessions not only provide a natural break so we can switch from training one behavior to training a different one, but they allow the puppy’s brain to process what went before – a very important part of learning. I find it helpful during our class times to break off and tug with her, or leave for a 1-minute walkie outdoors. It’s good for both of us.