To keep myself on the ball, I'm going to post on Tuesdays about the training progress that Shyla and I have made. I also want to do this so that I can look back later, when I may be training yet another dog, and remember how long it took me to achieve various training goals.
Up until this week, Shyla and I were hiking out every morning to see the sunrise, and I was no longer using a leash because her "heel" and "stay" are so good when we hike solo. This week, I started biking up to see the sunrise, and that has presented a whole new set of training needs. First, Shyla needs to learn to "stay" while I make final preparations to pedal my bike away from the door. While her "stay" is almost perfect when I'm on foot, it has completely fallen apart since my bike has become part of the scenario. This morning, after working on Shyla's stay by the door for what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it up to where we could see the cloudy but pretty sunrise.
I'm also starting to teach Shyla to heel next to my bike. I choose short straight stretches of trail, and I ask her to heel, just like I'd do if I were on foot. Then, I reward her for being in the right place by feeding her small training treats as I ride. Heeling next to my bike will become critical when I try to take Shyla riding anyplace where there might be other people on the trail.
retrieving. Last week, I reported that she would go get an object from the floor a short distance away but she'd only place in my hand about half the time. We've worked on this daily, and now she's placing the object in my hand about 90% of the time. I've also introduced other toys to retrieve (we started with a Kong toy), and she's doing great with all of them. This week, I hope to move our retrieving training to new locations, including outdoors. Since Shyla isn't naturally enthusiastic about retrieving, we'll have to go back to Training Step 1 when we change location, gradually building up to a real retrieve like we've done indoors.
paw lift, using a clicker. Even though we just started this 2 days ago, Shyla seems to have figured out the trick almost immediately. She is freely offering a high lift of her paw right now, and I plan to shape it into several different tricks like a "paw shake", "high five", "wave", and a faked "limp".
socializing Shyla to people and the bustle of the real world. That's an ongoing process that is certainly not a straight path from Point A to Point B. On Saturday, she had a tremendously relaxed and happy visit with my family, including my young nephews. But then, on Sunday, she was severely terrified by a man who was yelling angrily at his dog. The man was about 30 yards away but Shyla cowered to the ground next to me, scared almost to the point of paralysis, by his enraged voice. All that I can do to help with this is to continue to have her meet new people, including kind and soft-spoken men, and hope that she learns that men are not generally scary.
I took Shyla into town twice this week, and she did very well with our progressive program of exposure to people and town bustle. She met numerous people on one outing to a shopping area. She approached women with ease and happiness. Approaching men was much more difficult for her - she tended to cower when faced with them. However, her naturally outgoing personality made her still want to approach them, albeit very tentatively (which my trainer and I allowed her to do if the man was amenable to helping with the training). I asked the men to hold out a hand toward Shyla, and then I'd cue Shyla to nose-poke the hand. That worked with most men but not all of them. It's an ongoing process.
Thanks for reading this wordy post. My hope is that, by chronicling my work with Shyla, I can perhaps help someone else training a dog with a similar background as Shyla and help myself to objectively see our progress. I get exhausted by the process sometimes but, when I realize how far Shyla has come and how much my bond with her has grown, I know it's worth it.