Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tricks and training

We've done lots and lots of training since my last update. I see our training in two parts: socialization and skills. Socialization involves going new places, seeing a variety of things, and meeting all sorts of people and dogs. Skills are things like "heel", "down", and tricks like taking a bow.

This week, we had a roller-coaster ride in terms of socialization. One outing was to attend an advanced dog-training class that meets in a different outdoor location every week. Last week, it was in a town park that Shyla has enjoyed in the past. So, I arrived at class full of confidence.

Unfortunately, the park was bustling with a lot of crazy activity, and a couple of things scared Shyla within the initial 5 minutes of class. The first scary thing was kids on scooters. The scooters were quiet but they zoomed in a way that scared Shyla. We walked away to observe them from a nearby hillside, and it seemed like Shyla was going to recover. However, to my chagrin, the scooters were followed by skateboards a few minutes later. We were still up on the hillside, pretty far away from the skateboards, but Shyla never recovered from the terror of the skateboards.

As class went on after those scary things, Shyla spent most of the time scanning 360° around herself and obsessing over anything even vaguely unfamiliar. It was a huge flat park (at least 200 acres of flat field) so she could see people doing recreational activities in every direction and then worry incessantly about them. In technical terms, except for a few respites during class, Shyla was "over threshold". In retrospect, I should have bailed out partway through class but my teacher and I kept thinking that Shyla was just about to recover.

In contrast, later in the week, we had an awesome socialization outing. We went to a busy shopping area, and Shyla was outgoing and relaxed. She even seemed to be getting used to the loud sounds of city buses, trucks, and push-carts loaded with boxes. Moreover, she went into a shop that was teeming with people, and she wagged at them as we weaved in and out of the people! We both had a fun day - and Shyla shined.

In the coming week, we plan to return to that scary park with our trainer at a quiet time of day to help Shyla relax there. We'll also visit a more urban setting - with traffic and city noises - with a focus on helping Shyla adapt to unexpected noises. Trying to socialize a teenage dog requires incredible patience - but I think that we're very gradually moving forward.

We've been continuing our clicker training of basic skills (our main focus was/is an off-leash heel but we work on the full repertoire regularly) and fun tricks. About 2 weeks ago, I taught Shyla to raise a paw off the ground. I've now shaped that into three different tricks: a handshake, a high five, and a wave. She adores waving and does it without me asking! I think it's very cute.

On Hug Hill...
At sunrise...

Another skill we've worked on is retrieving. Shyla has gone from being apathetic about retrieving to being over-the-moon happy about it! I've shaped it into two different games. In one game, she takes an object and holds it while sitting. She doesn't release it until I put my hand on it and say "out".

She held a rope toy...
A rubber stick...

In the more traditional form of a retrieve, I throw objects, and Shyla brings them back to me. She is great at this now (except if she gets too excited and starts zooming), including returning the object to my hand at the end of the retrieve.

Today, we played a modified retrieving game on Hug Hill. Usually, I throw the object away from both of us and then I send her to get it. Today, we did it differently, and Shyla had to think hard to figure out that it was just another form of a retrieve. I put the object between the two of us, and she started in a sit-stay. You can see from her face that she's thinking hard about what she's supposed to do.
I told her to "take it".
And then I asked her to "bring", which she was starting to do in the photo below.

I've purposely used fun toys for all retrieving games because Shyla seemed to actively dislike retrieving when I started teaching her - and the toys made her much more happy to play the game.

In the coming week, I plan to start teaching her to retrieve a variety of objects - like a piece of PVC pipe, handwarmers in a package, a hat, and all sorts of other random things. If she's okay with those things, we'll move toward the toughest things to retrieve - metal objects like keys. My goal is that Shyla will eventually pick up anything up off the ground if I ask her to. With my spinal problems, that can be a huge help to me.

While we were on Hug Hill earlier this week, she practiced her "relax" cue. She's known this one for a while... but, if we don't practice, she'll forget it.
Shyla will relax on either her left or right side. This week, I plan to teach her to lie on her back with her paws in the air, for a funny trick. I also plan to teach her a controlled roll, from the relax on her right side to relax on her left side. That should be fun!

I also hope to start teaching the "be shy" cue, which means that she covers her nose/eyes with a paw.

But, most of all, I hope to keep building her confidence this week. Working on tricks helps with building confidence and trust. We also have a couple of town outings planned... and I'm hoping that the happy and relaxed spirit that I know inhabits her body shines through.


  1. I adore these training updates! I'm gonna steal the idea. ;)

    I think clicker training makes a dog's self confidence sky rocket. It's part of the reason Nola has such diva sass, LOL! It also makes eye contact easier; a confident dog will look you in the eye.

    I love the paw tricks! Nola know: wave, high five, shake and fist bump.

    Nola's Mom

  2. Shyla is such a joy to watch from this side of the computer screen.
    I just can't imagine the sight of seeing her in person such a majestic animal and so smart.

    You have taught her well.
    Thanks for sharing her with us.
    xo Cinnamon

  3. Those pictures are adorable. We wishwe knew how to stop my Lily from going after motorcycles. If she ever broke loose (she did once) she would be gone. We are trying everything. Good job Shyla, those scooters won't get you
    Benny & Lily

  4. Training, fun days, and an eye to the future, very thoughtful, Shyla will meet any challenge and fill any request totally. Cheers from Jean.

  5. I have to admit something here. I'm not crazy about skateboards, either. I can't say that I fault Shyla for not liking them! :P

    Seriously, it sounds like Shyla is growing exponentially every day. I always love hearing what new obstacle she's conquered! The wave trick completely melts me! If she did the relax trick with that wave, I would probably just melt into a puddle of incoherent goo!

  6. Love the Wave! :)

  7. It's the end of a very long work day for me. I'm about to head home, but like to unwind with a couple of blogs before doing so. Shyla's wave trigered a full belly laugh from me. she is so adorable!

    Can R help with the socialization/confidence work in town?

  8. I love these training updates. It gives me ideas on things to try with Millie.


  9. Wow! Love hearing about all of the updates on training that Shyla has learned...complete with pictures!! I have a few favorites...the one with the paw! The relaxing one! What a wonderful relationship you have with's beautiful to see from this side of the screen! Thanks for always brightening up my day! xo Jeanne, Chloe and LadyBug

  10. Your training updates are wonderful. MOM LOVES the wave. She just wants to kiss the sweet paw. Even better is to witness this beautiful relationship the two of you have.

  11. Of course... in the first 5 minutes of class!! It certainly couldn't have been in the last 5 minutes, eh? That's Murphy's Law for you!

    The next socialization session WILL be better!!


  12. You are such a smart girl and we love hearing what you're learning, Shyla! Your high five pictures are so adorable!

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly

  13. amazing! both of you are so talented!! love the wave!

  14. You make training sound like so much fun. I would love to take on some training, especially with the two youngest pups, but training is hard when they all want to get in on it at the same time.

  15. This sounds great! I love Shyla's relax picture! Was she really as relaxed as she looks?

  16. Yoow Twaining and photogwaphs awe inspiwashunall and bweaftaking!!!
    If you'd like to pawticipate in the fun hous miwwow fow the Blogville Ciwcus, just send me yoow photo and you only pay when you go look at youwself at the ciwcus site when it will be open
    smoochie kisses

  17. You have done so much with her. Just love the look on her face with the red tube in her mouth.

    Love the "relax" cue, very neat.

  18. I love that you are teaching Shyla in such a positive manner. I think it's great that she may be able to assist you in the future! The class that I had Blueberry in that we no longer attend trains service dogs and unfortunately - they use old-fashioned not very nice methods with choke and prong collars and often I see the owners getting downright irate with their dogs when they "step out of line". How nice it would be if they evolved and started teaching those dogs in a more positive way as you are with Shyla!

    Keep it up - love the wave and am going to try and shape that behavior with Blueberry - it's adorable!

  19. OMD...teach me, teach me!!!!!!! I just absolutely can not gets over da foto of her holdin' her paw up in da air! What an awesome shot and especially da one of her and da sunrays.


  20. You must be a very patient person! I find the small steps needed to shape a trick painful. I then try to teach too large a step, and the dog ends up frustrated. I think that's why I like agility...It moves fast!

  21. Wow you are so good with training....our pics are wonderful.
    I have to really train recall on both Trym and Vilja now until hunt starts 1st Oct. That will be a challange..puiiiii!!!
    Hugs from us all!

  22. Holy moly, that last photo is sensational!

    I enjoyed seeing how Shyla is training and how she responds to the different games. It's nice learning what you hope to expect, too. Things a dogless person doesn't think of!

  23. The wave is adorable. I might just have to try to train two older Goldens to do that. Too bad about the panic at the scooters but still Shyla has made some amazing progress.

  24. You have inspired me to work training into our daily routine. My dogs thank you!

  25. That was a great training update, both you and Shyla should be very proud of yourselves!

  26. We love you keep continuing on to teach Shyla- even after scary things happen in the day!
    The photos are awsome- especially the last one.

  27. Hi Y'all!

    Love the last photo especially. Most people do not realize the importance of reinforcing what we have already learned. They don't seem to realize that "use it or lose it" applies to animals as well as people.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  28. Go Shyla! You are going to be a trick pro! (Tell your mom to teach you to retrieve a tissue out of the box for her when she says "Ah Choo!")


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!