Friday, September 03, 2010

The Graduate

When we got Ziva, our new dog, we determined to "do things right" with this sweet puppy. We vowed to be good people parents, not succumbing to some of the bad habits we had previously given in to with Tipper.

Among other things, we thought it would be a good idea to take her to obedience class. So, we signed up at our local P*t Sm*rt store for classes. The instructor was a kindly older German woman named (Re)gina. She told us to call her Gina. She spoke with something of an accent, which only gave her instructions the sound of COMMAND as she put us through our paces.

The first week, there were about ten dogs and owners in attendance. One dog was a small pit bull who could not/would not stop barking. Gina took a metal water dish and kept dropping it next to the dog--clang, clang. The dog would startle, stop barking for a bit, then resume barking. There was a sweet looking border collie named Dakota that was so shy and freaked by all the people that she would not look at anyone. She kept her head tucked in next to her person.

Then there were Murphy, a labradoodle who looked for all the world like a big doofy puppy, and Brook, a sweet retriever mix. And of course Ziva. These three dogs were the "big" dogs of the group.
Brook and Murphy
The second week of class we missed because of Ziva's little medical episode. When I called Gina to tell her we would not be there, she said, no problem. Also, she was dividing the class into two groups; would we come next week at 8 p.m. Sure.

So the third week, we went, and found that it was just the three big dogs. Actually, the pit bull was supposed to be there too, but the owner never came back. Maybe he liked having recalcitrant perpetually barking dog.

Each week, the class would begin with a mad tumble of dogs. All three mixing it up, with Brook and Ziva especially liking (and licking) each other. Ziva and Brook seemed to be best friends. Then it was down to business--sort of.

The training focused on SIT, DOWN, STAY, COME, puppy push ups (sit, down, sit again), and WAIT. The difference between "stay" and "wait" is basically that "stay" requires duration, distance, and distraction. You get your dog to sit or lie, you back up to put some distance between you; then you hold for 15 seconds or so, then go back and release the dog. Distraction means you should be able to have the dog stay, even if you walk around it or some other distraction. "Wait" is you walking away from the dog, then calling her to come to you. Frankly, a fine distinction, but maybe there is a point to it.

Finally, there was one magic command that Gina wanted everyone to learn and practice. TOUCH. When you are some distance from the dog, and you want her to come to you, raise your hand overhead, waving, and yell ZIVA, TOUCH. The dog comes running, you grab her collar or leash, say "good touch" and give a food reward. If you imprint this sequence enough, you should be able to use it to bring your dog back to you, if for some reason she is getting away from you, or about to be in danger.
Ziva receiving instructions

Let's just say that Ziva was an easily distracted pupil. Oh, look, there are bunnies in the cage over there. Oh, there's a customer, maybe he wants to pet me. Oh, another dog, I should go say hello. She reminded me of the dog in the movie UP--squirrel! If you have seen it, you know what I mean.

We would go through the paces, she would sort of do each step. She got very good at SIT, and DOWN. OK with puppy push-ups. STAY--well, sort of. For a few seconds. COME--no problem. WAIT--forget it. TOUCH--she was great with that, and we have even used it a few times at home.

The next to last class, when she was supposed to go through ALL the steps, she would not do it. She basically refused every command. Gina was very understanding. Oh, it's the border collie in her. RIGHT. All I see in Ziva is retriever. Her mother was reputed to be a golden retriever., But my suspicion is her mother was a yellow labrador retriever. And, labs can be rascals--loving, yes, but rascals.

So this week was graduation. But, first, there was the final exam. Gina walked around dropping a label on the floor with each step. My heart sank--she (Ziva) had been so bad the previous week. But, like some human students I have known, Ziva seemed to be absorbing even when she wasn't performing.

The final exam

She went from SIT, to DOWN,STAY, and COME. She even did puppy push-ups. Then WAIT--a bit of trouble with that. But she enthusiastically ran to me for TOUCH. In fact, as each dog owner would say TOUCH, Ziva was ready to run to them.

She passed. And got her certificate to prove it. I don't think she's a natural student, but at least we both survived our training.

The graduate!


P. S. Dakota, the sweet border collie, completely came out of her shell, and was very friendly. Another successful graduate.


Barbara said...

Loved your post! I'm going through this with two 4-month old cockapoos. We are close to the puppy obedience class after getting them neutered so they don't hump everything in sight!
Thanks for the humor and hope in this post!

Beverly said...

I love this post, Donna. We didn't have a dog during our marriage and kids. We finally got a cat, and I was content with that. Dogs are wonderful, but I guess I'm too selfish to spend the time needed with them.

Concerning my post, A Tale of Two Babies, I do indeed understand your thoughts there.

Ginnie said...

I think she learned the most critical command, the "touch" one ...that could be a lifesaver. Congratulations, Ziva!

Denise said...

Awwe! Good Ziva! She sounds wonderful and I am so glad you are her person. Give her a hug from me!

Jayne said...

Even if nothing but "TOUCH" took hold, that very word may keep her safe if nothing else. I know you were proud that she graduated! :c)

NCmountainwoman said...

Congratulations to both of you. Actually there is quite a difference between "stay" and "wait."

"Wait" is a very valuable command and basically tells the dog, "don't do anything until I tell you." Use it just before you go out the door. Ziva will learn that she NEVER goes out in front of you, but waits until you tell her. "Stay" would not be appropriate because she isn't really going to stay for any length of time, she simply must wait for you to tell her what to do next. Same thing applies when getting out of the car. Using "wait" you are teaching her never to jump out the instant you open the door. She must wait there until you are ready for her to get out. If you use it frequently, you soon won't have to say it at all. Ziva will have learned to wait before going through the door.

When do you start the second round of classes?

Anvilcloud said...

Ziva the Diva.

amarkonmywall said...

Here comes my first comment from my iPad-the keyboard is quite different! I love working our way through training with Ziva-good dog! I also like Caroline's comments; those make sense to me. As soon as you get scheduled for round two let me know and I'll send along McCloud by air freight. He despite the whiskers he qualifies in all other respects as a big dog and the only word he's ever comprehended is food. But he can speak: he says,"Now? Now? Now?" many times throughout the day. "Wait" would be a useful addition to his vocabulary!

okay- i was not able to successfully post this from my iPad- the word verification didn't show up there. Clearly I need to do a little advanced research on this new toy. But I'm back to my computer so here you go.

Biting insects- bah! It's been a struggle here in NC. I've resorted to deet and a large brimmed hat that covers my ears and forehead but still get bit about the ankles. And I scratch immediately so I scratch for days. I like the Off lanterns better than the little fan device for when we are seated on the deck.

Anonymous said...

A toast to Ziva and her person!


JeanMac said...

So sweet. I had never heard of the command, "touch" but it's a good idea. Loved the pictures.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

My Heidi knows three commands: sit, down, go to bed. For the life of me I cannot get her to learn the command "move over you are taking up the whole bed." Too many words I guesss.

RuthieJ said...

This was a great post Donna. With my next dog, we will definitely be enrolling in classes. I thought it was interesting that your PetSmart store just does the classes right out in the store. At our PetSmart, there is a little "classroom" area enclosed in the far corner of the store -- I'm guessing it would be a lot less distracting for the dogs.