Spacing Out: Train Your Dog Month Challenge

Something Wagging This Way Comes

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.

The toys scattered everywhere probably don't help either.

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.

21 thoughts on “Spacing Out: Train Your Dog Month Challenge

  1. First, thank you so much for the shout out for the Train Your Dog Month Challenge. Yes, it’s not too late to join the fun.

    Great post. We have all been there–trying to squeak one more success out of a training session just to find out it was just a little too much. It happened to me just last night.

    But you’ve already seen some great value from your work. It’s why I didn’t want to encourage people to feel they had to accomplish something difficult to take up the challenge. The success is in the doing. And if you have a calm Shiva and your cat in the same room, you’ve had lots of success.

    If you don’t have a fancy video at the end, know that you have met and exceeded the terms of the challenge already. Congratulations!

    The other part of the challenge was to encourage a stronger bond with our animals. Do you think that working with the cat has strengthened your relationship?


    • Absolutely. Before I started working with him, he barely acknowledged my presence at all. Now he actually walks right up to me when he is looking for a treat or attention. I still think he’s a far cry from liking me, but we are definitely closer than ever before. That was truly the whole reason I started training him in the first place. (That, and I was hoping to show off his skills. ;-)).

      We’ve been living together for six years now. It’s about time he starts seeing me as more than a nuisance!

      His relationship with Shiva is also better. It’s still not great. She gets entirely too excited when he is active and they often end up duking it out. Rather, he ends up duking it out, she thinks it’s part of the game. They may never be friends. I may never get to see them snuggling together on the couch. But at least he doesn’t totally detest her anymore. That’s a start.


    • You absolutely should. It’s all about finding the cat’s motivation. It turns out, our guy will do pretty much anything for tuna and for Whiskas Temptations. Frou might be equally bribable! 😉


  2. Its good to see how creative you are in training your pets. I liked your ideas. There is one question lingering on my mind and it is-Is there any reason you named your dog, ‘Shiva’?


  3. Ouch. That DOES sound like it is going to be difficult to accomplish. I’ve done that – going for that extra “step” – and I always regret it too! Cut your self some slack, and maybe don’t worry about the end date so much, as how much progress you have made already. I mean, getting the cat to walk around the dog in a circle was challenging enough! You’ll get there eventually. 🙂


  4. It’s a great idea! Maybe the trick is just getting Shiva and the cat to lay down together and pose for an awesome picture! I love cats, but I don’t really understand them.


  5. I have always loved dogs and Shiva is amazing… I admire the way you trained her. I am not of a cat lover so I don’t have an idea how to train them. Thank you for sharing your experiences with Shiva.


  6. Haha — I totally share the marker-woes. I tried using the regular clicker with my cat and Elli was sitting outside the kitchen, whining her face off, throwing in the occasional bark, pacing in the small space really anxious-like when I finally realized I needed a different marker.


  7. I think it is amazing that you got as far as you did. I am not sure I could get our kitty to co-operate like that.

    Space is always the issue isn’t it? We have a similar problem. We need to train 300-400 yard marks, but where to find the space when you live in the city? Wish I had a cow pasture out back. 😉


  8. Keep on keepin’ on! You’re a dedicated trainer who doesn’t give up, so that’s huge right there. I have no doubt that eventually I will see you, Shiva, and The Cat on Letterman! 🙂


  9. I have 3 cats and I can guarantee that NONE of them would participate! (okay, maybe one of them – Ashley loves Cali and rubs all over her . .I might be able to get her to play along!) I think you are doing an amazing job- especially with a cat that seems to have no desire to please you (typical cat behavior!). I can’t wait to see how it all ends up!


  10. It was an ambitious goal and I’ll be totally wowed if you master it this YEAR, forget this month. You have made great strides with the cat. Be proud!

    Poor Koly & his nosework training have taken a bit of a back seat this week while I battle turning into a blow fish. Lack of space is a real problem for us too. Luckily, I can stretch mesh fencing around our carport and we’ve been practicing there.


  11. You definitely set a tough challenge for yourself! I’ll be interested to see what happens at the end of the month, but it sounds like you’ve already been making great progress.


  12. Well…did you at least get it on tape?? 🙂 I can not fathom what you are doing for the life of me!! lol Neither of our cats or dogs would even think of doing such a thing!! You are awesome Kristine!!


  13. I so need some dog training tips 🙂 I am slowly moving along with training my dog but it takes me more to learn how to train her to do something than it takes her to learn the thing itself 🙂

    I am working on some basics now, I want to enter us into a Rally event. I know she can do it, I am just worried about how I will handle it, lol. Looking forward to this challenge.


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