Archives for September 2008

Stay Class

Sunday Aiden and I had our first “stay” class. He is the youngest dog in the class by far, but did quite well. He was also the only lab in the class which meant treats were a big distraction! He impressed us though, staying for more than 10 minutes straight most times. This was only our first group session so with time he will improve even more.

Today I met up with a classmate, who also used to be one of my professors. Our dogs were tethered to posts on opposite sides of a driveway and we walked back and forth between them…only giving treats when they were staying in a down position. Both Aiden and Tyson did well, getting up at times, but we didn’t need to wait long before they laid back down. I can already see an improvement in Aiden’s stays and am curious to see how well he can do them after the 8 weeks of class. I can really see the benefit in training a dog using solely reinforcements, but am wondering if whoever gets him in the future can keep this up. He is a very fast learner and I am finding that he seems to be learning the concept of “stay” a lot better using this method than the usual one of “punishment”.

For those who aren’t familiar with this method I will describe what we do. I will ask Aiden to lay down and then only tell him once to “stay”. I will then walk away and only return when he is staying in a down position. When he stands or does anything other than lying down I will keep my back turned to him. When he returns to the down position I immediately go over to him and give him a treat and then continue this cycle until the end of our session when I will “jackpot” him which means he gets treat after treat and then can be released from the “stay”. The opposite to this method is “punishment” where I would continually go back to him and put him back into a “down” position. The theory behind the “reinforcement” method is that a dog will begin to understand that he only gets attention when he is doing the desired behaviour and will be ignored when he is not.

I will update everyone on his progress as time goes on

He’s Grown So Much…

I haven’t specifically written a post about Aiden in a while so I thought I’d do one today. Aiden has grown up to be such a handsome young man. He will be 9 months old on the 23rd and is already slightly taller and longer than my retired dog guide, weighing more than when I first got Phoenix as well at 67lbs! I will admit, Phoenix is not a big dog by any means (24 inches tall; 22 inches long & 70lbs while retired), but he is an 11 year old male so it still shocks me that Aiden has surpassed him in size at 9 months of age. Gone are the days when Cessna (21 inches tall; 19 inches long & 62lbs) could tower over Aiden and look so big beside him.

We had our first training session with his trainer in over a month and he was so amazed at how nicely Aiden had filled out and matured. He is no longer the silly looking puppy with the big head, big paws and small body. He is still tall and slim, but now his head and paws actually seem to suit his frame. At the session we did some obedience and some staying while people walked here and there through the mall. Aiden did overly well, he was a little too interested in what I had for him, but with time his stays will improve and his desire for all food will lessen – at least we hope it will!! I was so proud of my little Monkey Man, he was so well behaved and didn’t seem as young as he really is. His trainer commented that he looked great for 10 months, and I reminded him that he was actually only 8 months, this impressed him even more.

Over the past couple of weeks we have had some visitors which have both excited Aiden and also made him a little jealous. Foxy (foster puppy for National Service Dogs) came to visit for a week and Aiden loved to play and wrestle with her, she is only a month older than him so has a similar energy level. At times though I think Aiden wished she’d actually leave him alone so he could have a nap…oh baby boy, you are so lazy for your age! Foxy went home last Saturday and then we had a 7 month old male golden retriever come to visit for a bit. The golden wasn’t a huge fan of Aiden as he was also not yet neutered. I felt terrible seeing Aiden nervous to come near us and after only 6 days of assessing the golden, we decided to take him and his brother (who was staying with a friend) back to their breeder. They will some day make wonderful pets for someone, but I feel it would take too much time and effort to make them into successful service dogs. Aiden has been happy to finally have his home back and be the only puppy in the place, but to our sadness the weather has been quite rainy and for some reason Aiden’s energy level has decided to peak at this time… Hopefully soon we can get him out running every day so we can finally get a handle on this energy!

This afternoon Aiden and I will be joining a “stay” class which is held by Sue Alexander of Dogs in The Park. She believes in a dog’s ability to learn through reward rather than punishment. Aiden has so far been trained using the “punishment” way of doing things, but I am hoping that this class might help both him and I, him with his stays and me with learning the way of training through “reward” rather than “punishment”. We had a preliminary training session on Thursday and Aiden seemed to catch on slowly. We’ve been practicing this all weekend, I am hoping it will show, but I worry that his energy level might get in the way of his learning, especially when there will be other dogs in the room learning as well.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us! I will let you all know how it goes.