We have now attended the first few sessions of an Advanced Life Skills class in preparation for the Canine Good Neighbour test. I admit to thinking it would be a breeze. We have already completed two obedience courses and with all our training in agility, I expected this class to be a little dull. Useful, of course, but I didn’t anticipate learning anything all that new.
Shiva is by far the oldest dog in the class. At three years of age, she is practically a senior citizen. It would be kind of sad if certain things didn’t come easily for us. So far she has done really well. Sit-stays, going through gates, ignoring distractions, loose-leash walking, all of those skills are about where they should be. However, she is by no means a perfect example. The holes in our training are now glaringly obvious. I was surprised to learn how lazy I have gotten with upholding certain standards of behaviour.
It has come to my attention that perhaps my laissez-faire walking style where I let her sniff as she pleases, has not set us up for a lot of success in the classroom. Embarrassingly, she seems to pull towards interesting things on the floor – like another dog’s blanket and bag – a lot more than the adolescent dogs. It’s not a big deal and we can fix it, but it surprised me. Hopefully it won’t screw us over in the test.
Another thing I learned that might be a problem, is that I have been rewarding her far too much for her skill level. Especially in the classroom setting. I am still giving her just as many treats as I was two years ago. It will be an issue during a test in which I won’t be able to reward her at all until it’s over. Shiva has come to expect these too-frequent rewards. Rewards she shouldn’t need at this point. I worry she’ll have a meltdown or forget herself if they don’t come as quickly as she expects.
All this is proof that it doesn’t matter how good you think you are, when it comes to dog training, there is always so much left to learn. Shiva keeps me humble, that’s for sure!
There is only a week and a half until the big day. I am going to try to spend the time going over the basics and not-rewarding my dog. I know so much is going to come down to how Shiva is feeling in that moment. If she is focused and having a good day, we should do well. But if she is over-excited or anxious, there could be trouble. We will try to get there ahead of time to get her used to the tense environment and the other dogs. Maybe a trip to the dog park in the morning. She should be exercised, but not over exercised as that tends to pump her up a little too much.
It’s all we can do.
The rest will be up to her.
The whole thing probably makes me a lot more anxious than it should. Pass or fail, she’s still a great dog. As much as I want it for myself, I have to remember that it changes nothing for Shiva. It’s so weird that the only activity I have ever felt competitive about is one in which my partner doesn’t even realize exists.
I wonder what that says about me?