Monday, January 10, 2011

Raising Onyx

SSD Onyx is one smart dog.

She learns new behaviors very quickly. Last semester in puppy class, we had all the dogs work on learning "heel" by first pivoting their back feet around a box until they were in the heel position. Once the dogs pivot their back feet around the box, we remove the box and have the dog pivot into a heel position with all four feet on the floor. Onyx quickly mastered the box and later heel on the floor. "Heel" is now her favorite cue. In fact, she can be across the yard playing and when her puppy raisers say "heel," she comes running up and snaps into the heel position.

Onyx tends to get worried around other dogs or other dog smells, though. If she's around other dogs or in an area where there are lots of dog smells, she has a very difficult time focusing. Sometimes it doesn't even matter what kind of treats her puppy raisers Mark and Carol have. She just puts her nose to the ground and sniffs everything.

To help her get over her worry, Mark and Carol are slowly easing her into situations. For example, the pet store is full of other dogs and dog smells. When they take her to the pet store, they don't just get her out of the car and walk right into the store. Instead, they get her out of the car and walk through the parking lot, clicking and treating for a loose leash, to the point where she just begins to get worried about all of the dog smells. Then they turn around and go back to the car. When she has calmed down enough to focus again, they try again - walk through the parking lot toward the store to the point where she starts to get worried, then turn around and go back to the car.

Using this method, eventually Onyx should eventually be able to walk right up to and inside the pet store without a problem. The theory behind this method is that as you and the dog continually approach the thing or area that is causing the dog worry, the dog realizes that it's okay and there's nothing to be worried about.

Mark and Carol are also putting Onyx on leash while she's in the house. The idea is to get her to associate the leash with calmness and safety, so she'll realize that there's no reason to get excited just because the leash is being put on.

Although there are times when it's very challenging for Onyx to be around dogs and dog smells, there are other times when she takes it all in stride. About at one of our puppy classes, she had no problem focusing on her puppy raisers. We even played Dog, Dog, Bone (the canine version of Duck, Duck, Goose), and she was fine with all of the dogs being in very close proximity to her. And over Thanksgiving, she was in the Baltimore Washington International Airport and did great, despite the fact that they were in the heart of the airport. From these experiences, her puppy raisers know she is able to focus in challenging situations. It's just a matter of helping her realize that she can do it in all situations.

Onyx is currently spending time with one of our puppy sitters, and she's going to school with her sitter. We hear that she's been doing very well in school!

We're looking forward to seeing how Onyx progresses!

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