Shiva and I have experienced a plethora of training challenges. This blog is a pretty big testament to that. Just when it seems we’ve fixed one problem, another one decides to join the party. Unfortunately, one of our biggest issues is one we can’t really do anything about. I’ve noticed it more than ever while practicing for Something Wagging’s Train Your Dog Month Challenge. (If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s not too late to join in!)
At the start of the month, I announced my goal to train Shiva and The Cat to perform a trick together. At the same time. In the same room. Over the last few weeks, I’ve discovered how much of a challenge this really is. Especially when said room is smaller than some people’s closets.
Lack of room has forced me to be a little more creative in my training. We don’t have a fenced yard so we can’t always use the space in our small backyard either. It’s fine for basic tricks or agility contact work that can be performed on a leash, but anything that involves running or jumping is out. It’s hard to get Shiva weaving through twelve poles when I can only fit four in my training space.
Until now, I don’t think we have suffered too much. We try to attend as many classes and workshops as possible, and there are many “one jump” exercises we can work on in the living room. I’d love to move into a larger house with an even larger yard and a living room wider than a small car but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Not when I also have more debt than I have square footage.
Which brings me back to this month’s challenge. The hardest part is preventing Shiva from getting over-excited and pissing The Cat off. The two are hardly besties. If she moves too quickly or stares too much he is out of there. Enlisting the help of my PH, we did have a lot of early success. I would get him to distract and reward the dog while I encouraged the cat to move closer. There is the difficulty that Shiva is so used to me working with her every time she hears the word “good” come out of my mouth, she thinks she’s getting a treat. I should probably switch to a different marker when working with The Cat.
During our last session, I screwed up and may have set us all back. I let hubris get in the way of my number one training rule. We were doing so well. The Cat was interested and ignoring the dog. I had managed to get him to walk around Shiva in a fairly close circle. The little voice in the back of my head whispered, “one more step, just one more…” At that exact moment, The Cat turned around, floofed his tail, and walked away.
If it had been Shiva, I would have known how to get her back. It doesn’t take much. But with The Cat… Once he’s done, he’s done. It took me ten more minutes just to get him to look at me again. Desperate to end on a high note, I ended up rewarding him for taking a step in my direction with Shiva laying quietly in the other room.
The month is almost over. We still have a long way to go to actually have something to present. I wonder if I can afford to rent a hotel ballroom.