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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shyla's Winter Training Plans

In the winter, our agility course is swamped by snow. It never melts until April so I am thinking about my training goals for Shyla this winter. I love training her, and she loves it too. That's the main reason why I plan to continue some training this winter.
I've been mulling over the socialization issue and discussing it with experts. At one point in the fall, I posted about an incredible trip to town when she was afraid of no one and excited to try new things - it seemed as if she'd been "transformed". Unfortunately, it didn't last - within 2 weeks after that, we'd had a string of trips to town during which various little things spooked her. She's still leaps and bounds ahead of where she was a year ago but I've decided to modify my approach.

Over the first year that she lived with us, I tried to take Shyla to town multiple times per week - in an attempt to overcome her lack of socialization as a puppy. It worked to a huge extent. Remember that, on the first occasion that I tried to take her into town, she collapsed onto a sidewalk, paralyzed by fear, and lost control of her bladder. Now, her signs of fear are far more subtle, and I know them well so I can help her when the fear starts to creep up on her.

She can get spooked by the most mundane things - and she remembers the places where she was scared with great precision. If she gets scared on one street corner in town, she will cower past that corner for a long time thereafter. So, I've learned to stay away from the "spooky" spots for months afterwards - and then she seems to forget.

After much thought, I've decided that I'm going to accept Shyla's socialization where it is right now - with the knowledge that she'll probably continue to slowly improve just from everyday life experiences. She's generally a very happy dog. She's a mountain dog at heart - but all of our hard work has made her capable of going to town when needed without it being traumatic. I'm happy with that situation. After all, I don't love going to town either!

So, for the winter, I'm planning to work on Shyla's greetings when we see people on our mountain trails. She still sometimes gets scared of people on the trails - and I simply encourage her to "go around" those people without greeting them. However, the opposite extreme happens too - she decides that someone seems very sweet and she jumps on them! To deal with that, I've been trying to closely supervise her interactions with people who she appears to like, requiring "four on the floor" for her to be petted. I think we're making some progress. It's a tricky issue because I don't want to discourage Shyla from being outgoing, given her history, but I think it's doable.
For the winter, I want to teach her some more tricks plus a few things that will be useful in agility. The next photo shows a trick that I taught her last winter, and she adores doing it! I don't even have to ask her to do it... she just "offers" it.
This is another trick from last winter - taking and holding an object.
So, what shall we do this winter? Hmm...
We'll definitely keep practicing recalls every single day. They are so important around the wildlife in our world. We'll also keep working on her "stay". She now will "stay" with me out of sight for extended periods (without any people to distract her). I plan to add more distractions to her extended stays.
This winter, I've already starting teaching her two new tricks: balancing a treat on her nose and spinning. She's not ready to show either of them for a camera yet!

I'm also thinking of teaching her to heel on either side, and to switch sides either in front of me or behind me, depending on which I ask for. That's something that will help us when we play on our home agility course. She already knows how to heel on one side but the rest of it will be new.

Do you have any suggestions for other fun tricks?
It looks like Shyla is getting tired just thinking about all this training. But, the truth is that she loves it as much as I do!


  1. We love to hear all about Shyla and her trianing and how she is doing.
    This is a trick mommy has me do.

    She says "and what do we do?"
    and then I lie down- very fast!

  2. I agree with you lady. Accept Shyla where her socialization is at the moment. She lives there anyhow and not moving into town anytime soon. Enjoy,

  3. We don't know from tricks at our house, to get a treat she always knows to sit without being asked, and she will stay for a limited time. I should help Stella learn some more becaue she likes to show off now and then!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  4. Shyla is so beautiful, and her socialisation has come so far ahead in just a year, sorry, no ideas for winter training, Does she ever need to wear bootees on her feet to stop ice crystal damage? Maybe she could try that... just a thought, not real training, but extra winter gear!! Greetings from Jean. p.s.hope the steroid keeps working some magic.

  5. I just knows with your help Shyla will overcome da fears, it will just take some time.
    Shyla reminds me so much of my sissy Whitney, her was afraid of absolutely everything when hers came here. She is much betters now but still is purty fearful. One of da best things dat helped her was watchin' me an Albert.


  6. Shyla is one amazing pupper! Regardless of her in town fears, we think she is incredible.

    For a new trick, teach her how to come to our winter home in Florida :) We could have lot's of fun together here and we would love to meet her in the furs.

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  7. she is simply the prettiest model in the country. :)

  8. I just taught Torrey to give me a high five, and play dead, Easy and mundane I know, but that's what I thought of. She will teach Shyla to spin though. She does it all the time when she is excited.

  9. For an indoor trick - how about turning the light on and off? For outside, I am not sure. Shyla seems like she'd be excellent at "taking a nap" (like playing dead, but I'm not crazy about that term). Blueberry knows that one but she's really into millisecond naps and then she leaps up to get her treat.

    Shyla has come such a long way - keep up the great work!

  10. You are such a smart girl and we absolutely love that last picture of you, Shyla! You do look bored!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  11. Shyla is so smart, and picks things up so quickly, my bet is that she will quickly learn that she doesn't get attention or affection if she's not keeping her paws on the ground. It will just take a few people willing to work with you on it.

    As far as cute tricks, I had a friend with a therapy dog who taught her dog to wag on command. Then, she'd tell her to stop. After that, she'd tell her to "wag the other way" and it made for a very entertaining trick. I'm not sure if she actually did switch directions, but I think part of it was the illusion of the command. It was one of her most popular tricks!

  12. Thought you would like this site. Even covers dancing with your dog

  13. Hi Y'all!

    I love to switch sides heeling and it comes in handy in town or when we pass other dogs or peeps on a public trail. Lots of people don't like us dogs, so my Human simply puts me on the side away from the approaching person. It works to be sure about a strange dog. Sometimes people don't want to meet and greet and sometimes the other dogs aren't friendly.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog


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