Why Teach Stay? Or Obedience??
I got this from Ann Seymour, my client and friend of 15 years this afternoon:
“Maus is a red mini dachshund who is fear aggressive, mainly to other dogs, but with other issues as well, most involving the word “aggressive.” She’s a lot better than when she first came to me, and that is entirely due to the classes she continues to take at DogTrain, including Advanced classes. She loves to work, she knows the commands, but her behavior needs improvement. For that, exposure to the behavior of other dogs and owners is invaluable – especially inexperienced dogs who (understandably) can display a degree of uncertainty as they and their owners continue to learn how to work together, control their adrenaline, and listen. So, my favorite sessions are the ones most like real life: when dogs break stays, steal treats, try the patience of their owners, and challenge Maus to control herself and me to keep her focused and calm. All this with Diane aware of everything, in control, and calling out instructions and encouragement to owners (and intervening if need be). In one recent class, during a “hustle” (aka: Paper plate recalls) exercise, Maus hustled on one side of the room while another hustled on the other side. The other dog – a lovely, super-nice young Great Dane – ultimately found Maus way more interesting than the treat on the plate (or her equally super-nice owner) and came bounding after Maus. I called Maus in and she stayed focused on me instead of attacking the Dane (well – when the Dane turned to go to her owner, Maus did try to nip her back leg, but I think there was almost some humor in that not entirely serious nip, and Maus came immediately when I called her on it).
Hustle had one more unexpected episode. While one dog was being sent on hustle, another younger dog broke stay, raced to steal the treat before the older dog could get it, walked on top of Maus and fussed at Maus’s neighbor. Maus started to come out of her down stay, turning toward the activity – I could see air between her and the floor; she looked at me in mid-air, and when I said “stay,” immediately dropped and hugged the floor. I told her “good,” reminded her to stay while order was restored, and yes-rewarded as soon as was practical. What made this so great was that it seemed like Maus was beginning to use the floor as an anchor to hold her, reassure her, and help drain some of her adrenaline. Also unexpected was how this translated into a 15-minute down stay (sometimes with her head on the floor!) in the vet’s waiting room on Saturday, while some of the others were not quite as reserved. That kind of payoff is tremendous and couldn’t have happened without these sessions where life imposes itself on class. A kind of planned imposition, I suspect. Seeing Maus make progress toward a more balanced and stable world view is an amazing experience.
Thank YOU, Ann. And tonight, we had yet another fabulous Maus moment.
Week one of my advanced group, we put out ALL the dog bones, antlers and Kong toys in a line on the mat between the dog (who is expected to hold a stay) and the owner. The owner is to call the dog past/through/over the distractions and help as needed. Point for the dog is to learn to come when called no matter WHAT is in the way, and most of them get it in 4 to 6 tries.
I tell students it is like playing *good cop, bad cop* with your dog, verbally. Owners get four sounds. Come or here. Good. The No-reward mark of their choice, the usual here being ahh-aah. And the reward marker Yes. Some do better than others shifting gears. It is a learning experience in the timing game. But I digress. . .
To bring this back full circle to der Maus . . . I make the waiting dogs stay on a line watching the working dog. Owners typically have feet on leash, because the leash is moving out of the hand at this point. Maus was on a stay with Ann sitting across the room, as she is able to work at a higher level than most (all) the newbies.
At one point a young Portugese Water Dog pup went AWOL, and ran over to Maus who STEADFASTLY held her position and continued the attempt to stay even as the leash of the Portie went around her (the Dachshund’s) neck. At no time did Maus respond or retaliate in any way, and tried her best to maintain eye contact with Ann (and the stay) while a crazy Portie pup was zipping around in her space and in her face.
Do not believe those who would tell you “stay” is outmoded and unnecessary. Or that Obedience training is a drag, and unnecessary. Obedience provides the language of learning, the framework upon which rests the relationship. The rules, the boundaries, the expectations.
The lifeblood, the very essence of the dog/human relationship is COMMUNICATION.