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This is the seventh (and final) installment of M&E reader Danielle’s mini-series about her and her husband’s experiences taking their Welsh Terrier and Airedale terrier to their first obedience class. I am a little sad the series is over, but, I am so proud of Danielle, Andrew, Oliver & Millie, and, I am looking forward to hearing their future adventures. – Emma
“During our last class, we began by reviewing the many commands we have learned. Of course, Millie did everything well, but I was impressed by how well Oliver did too. He even did loose-leash walking without jumping up at me, which was an improvement over the week before. But one of the biggest surprises was his recall. There were only two dogs left to demonstrate this, one of which was Oliver, and the instructor switched it up by asking myself and the other owner to stand at the same end of the hall, about 6 feet apart. The dogs were at the other end and we recalled simultaneously. The other dog figured it out right away and barreled toward his owner, but poor Oliver was so confused. He sat, and sat, and eventually figured it out because he came racing down the room, straight at the other owner and dog. That’s where the party was! I was pleased that he was coming, but I had hoped he would come to me instead. However, at the last second, Oliver seemed to realize what he was supposed to do and he veered off and came right to me. I was so excited and I rewarded him handsomely! He has never pulled off such a recall anywhere, and that was close to a park-like level of distraction.
In the second half of the class, we got to explore agility equipment. I’ve always loved watching the horse-dog relays on TV, and reading about Emma and Miles’ adventures in agility so I was interested to see if it might be something our dogs could try. We got to attempt two jumps, the tunnel, and the A-frame. All the dogs were hesitant about the obstacles at first, but then quickly caught on. Millie was even jumping over the jumps and not knocking the bars down. Oliver was a bit wary though, and kept trying to go around the jumps instead, but he did start to get the hang of it.
Next we tried the tunnel, which started off about a foot long and then we progressed to the full length. All the other dogs did the full length happily, except Oliver. As I was peering in and calling him to come through, even luring him with his favorite toy from home, he was inside, digging in his heels and looking very uncomfortable. Eventually he turned around and came right back out. The instructor said we were going too fast and that Oliver just needed more time to get comfortable before we tried the full length again.
Finally we gave the A-frame a go, starting out flat and then raising it only slightly for our purposes. Again, all the dogs had no trouble, except Oliver. Often when he is tired, he is unsure about new sounds or textures, like metal grating underfoot, and we think he didn’t like the sandy paint on the frame. He would only put his front paws on and stretch across to reach a treat. But again, we were rushing through this intro very briefly and we didn’t spend a lot of time to get him used to it.
At the end of class, the instructor told us what classes he thought each dog is ready for next. Millie can do Level 2 Obedience, or Level 1 Agility. Oliver is not yet ready for Level 2 Obedience, but he would enjoy a Level 1 Agility class if we slowed down the pace and let him get comfortable. We will have to continue to work hard with Oliver if we want him to do the next level of obedience some day, but we are definitely planning to give agility a try very soon – it seemed like great fun for all of us.
Now that our class is over, I am confident in saying that we all learned a lot, humans included. It was a great reminder of some techniques that we learned in Puppy Kindergarten, some brand new techniques, and a reminder that we need to start small and build on our foundation – great behavior doesn’t just happen! Now the onus is on us to continue to work at all these skills and to integrate them into the real world, like on walks and at the park, the places where we struggle the most.
In hindsight, Millie probably didn’t need to do Level 1, but I really wanted to take a class as a family. It was a good bonding experience, and now we are confident in choosing the next level for her. Oliver still needs a fair bit of training to get to the next level, but we are very happy with his improvement. And to me, one of the biggest things I’m proud of is that he went from being so over-excited in the first class that he vomited, to voluntarily lying down on his mat between exercises. It’s a miracle!
To anyone considering taking some classes with their dog, especially if your dog is a terrier, I say do it! It’s so worth the hard work and energy, especially when you see how they love having a job to do, and how they are improving from week to week. And one of my favorite parts is the quiet car rides home where we all feel tired but happy.
Lastly, I want to say a little thank you to Emma for inviting me to write our story each week, and making it look nice! I feel happy to have shared our experiences and it was a great way for me to record the experience and reflect on it. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read about our obedience adventures!”
A huge thank you Danielle for sharing her experiences, and, a big congratulations to Millie & Oliver for successfully completing their first obedience class. What an inspiring family team!