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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Training pupdate

Both Shyla and I have been having fun with training, strengthening some cues that Shyla knows well and starting a new one. Today, we played "find it", where I hid a stash of treats while Shyla was in a sit-stay and then released her to go find the stash. She sprinted toward the treats.
We also practiced "take a bow", a fun trick for photos. You'll notice that, in my photos, Shyla is always taking a bow while perched on a boulder. Because she's on a boulder, Shyla doesn't scoot over to take a bow right at my feet. Ultimately, I want her to simply "take a bow" where ever she is, without needing props to prevent her from coming to me before doing it.
We've also been practicing lots of recalls because Shyla is allowed to run again. I'm really happy with her enthusiasm. Look at that face as she sprinted to me at warp speed!
I don't have any photos of our new training game. I'm teaching Shyla to fetch. I know - that sounds odd - because most Labs naturally love to fetch. Shyla is my first Lab (of seven) who isn't inherently enthusiastic about retrieving. So, I'm teaching her a "formal retrieve" using my clicker and treats. The technique that we're using is much like the one shown in this video.

I started by teaching her to take an object from my hand and hold it in her mouth with the verbal cue "take it". Then, I gradually required her to hold it for longer until I clicked to tell her that she'd done the right thing. Next, after she took the object from my hand, I walked backward in an excited way, and she ran toward me with the object in her mouth. We're still working on having her hold the object until I ask her to put it my hand. As of today, she has about a 50% success rate for putting it in my hand (she drops at my feet in the other 50% of her retrieves).

The best part of it is that Shyla loves it! When I first tried a retrieving game with her back in September, she was apathetic. Seriously, she seemed like she didn't like being asked to retrieve. With our this fun training method, she's super enthusiastic. That's what positive training does!
We had another big success this week. We did a socialization session with our trainer, taking Shyla to a nearby mall. It's an outdoor mall so Shyla was exposed to walking people, rumbling buses, cruising cars, rattling shopping carts, loud children, and lots of other odd noises. I was dubious about whether she could handle it but I took my trainer's experienced advice that Shyla was ready for it.

Of course, we didn't just walk around the mall like normal people - we did our BAT training, letting Shyla get good looks at things that scared her (like a UPS guy pushing a huge cart of boxes) and then rewarding her by letting her briefly retreat from those things. This method really works because Shyla knows that she has a choice - we're not going to force her to face anything that she finds too scary. Moreover, she's naturally curious so she almost always wants to go back and look at the scary thing again after her brief break.

I was so proud of her. In general, she was curious and happy with bright eyes and happy body language at the mall. A few times, like when a bus made a loud sound at the same moment as a 3-year-old boy asked to pet her, we saw the fearful Shyla. But, we quickly walked her away from the hub-bub, played a few fun games, and she recovered very fast. Her fast recovery from fear is a good indicator that she's going to navigate our world with little fear someday.

If you'd asked me, back when I first met her in late August, if she'd walk around a mall relatively happily within a year, I would have been dubious. This courageous girl sure has exceeded my expectations!
Life takes so many unexpected twists and turns. I've learned more about dog behavior and training from Shyla than from any of my previous dogs. And, our concerted training effort has built quite a bond between us.


  1. Every post you write about Shyla makes me more and more eager to get working with Addie in class! We've been working on our own, but I can't wait to work with a trainer.

    I saw a dog do a cute trick last night (my mom is taking Ziggy to a CGC class)..."peakaboo"! The dog comes from behind you between your legs and peaks up at you :) really cute.

  2. I would love to teach Rufus a new trick! Take a Bow seems like a good start because he play bows quite a lot.

  3. The rottweiler retrieving technique is to chase after the object, bring it back a few times and then just stand there about the third or forth time the object is thrown - or to take the object to a safe "den" and just keep it! BOL!!

  4. you can just see it in her face she is eager to learn. What a smarty pants
    Benny & Lily

  5. Shyla's intensity is unbelievable. She is one smart cookie. Your trainer is awesome as well, she is really in tune with the dog. You are blessed :)

  6. That Shyla is just so darn smart and cute as well. She is the total package!

  7. And not only is Shyla smart-
    the look on her faces says she is happy!

  8. Again, you shame me with all the work you are doing with her. I was such and involved trainer when training for SAR work, but since retieing Bert, I have become so lazy. The thing is, like you have noted time and time again......our dogs love the training, the interacting, the bonding of working together.

  9. A lab that isn't obsessed with retrieving? That's a new one! Love her recall shot.

  10. Training is a lifelong thing and a continuing opportunity for bonding. Sometimes all the training and discipline breaks down (see our post for today) and you realize how fragile the agreement is.

  11. Woof! Woof! LOVE any games that involves TREATS. Running shots are hard for my mom ... she complains I'm too fast. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  12. Stella (half Lab and half Spaniel) also has little interest in fetching balls. She will usually do it three times, then she brings it back and says "If you WANT the ball, KEEP the ball" and would use her clicker on me if she could!


  13. It sounds like you and I are in the same place with retrieving balls, Shyla. I let my mom have it about 50% of the time and drop it at her feet the other 50%. Playing ball is great fun!

    Love ya lots,

  14. Training at a distance is so hard, especially with a lab who can move like lightening. Sounds like the mall walks are going great. You and Shyla are a real team.

    Mango Momma

  15. Shyla is a very lucky girl to have you! so dedicated to her happiness and success at life!! I can see the confidence growing in her through your pictures...

  16. Sounds like you and Shyla are doing great! I love the photos, especially the one of her running towards you, such a look of joy on her face.

  17. Run Shyla run. She's as free as the breeze and she is loving it!

    Great job on all the training with her. She has come a long way and we are cheering her on.

    She's one happy camper ~ just look at her beautiful face!

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  18. Hi Y'all!

    Shyla seems to get more beautiful as she matures!

    I would never have questioned that Shyla would be a well adjusted dog by now. Your patience is responsible.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  19. Love the progress you've made with her and even more, the bond that you two are sharing - that's such good news!

  20. Interesting to read abot your training.
    Last picture is great.
    I´m happy today..our training is to go on trials...Today Ayla got her second first more and she is hunting champion. She did find roes today , we had snow during night so it was rather tough for her. Im very proud of her.

  21. I love to hear all about Shyla's continuous and growing list of successes.

  22. Very interested in how to train the fetch. My guys seem to have the natural instinct to do this so I am lucky that way. I really enjoy these training posts!


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