Monday, July 1, 2013

Every Dog Has Its (Off) Day

The saying goes that every dog has its day. Well, it’s also true that every dog has its off day.

Last Wednesday was Irwin’s off day, although the day did end with a smile.

In puppy class that evening, he was full of energy. We start every puppy class with puppy massage, which usually relaxes him. This time, however, he got so excited that Donna had to put him in a down-stay and ignore him.

Next, they practiced “get dressed.” On this cue, Irwin usually walks right into his harness to have it buckled on him, and once it’s unbuckled again, he walks backwards out of it. At puppy class, he performed the behavior, but not the way he usually does. This time he groaned every time he walked into the harness, like it was a huge effort to do it.

They then practiced sit, down, and stay while Donna was sitting on the floor, and Irwin did well with that. Later, they walked around outside, and Donna purposefully walked him passed several dogs to see what he would do. Irwin did well, only slightly pulling. He was much more focused.

We try to play a game a puppy class, and that evening, we had our puppy raisers switch dogs. “Irwin was so ‘hyped’ for his new handler, going down, then sit, then down like a crazy dog,” says Donna. “He eventually calmed for them, and he was able to stay in a down while she walked around him.”

Jim and Donna usually go out to dinner after puppy class, and Irwin is usually on his best behavior. Well, dinner that night was a challenge. They went to Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Donna decided to use the comfort trainer. The restaurant was busy and crowded. Just as the hostess was about to lead them back to their table, Irwin decided to try to rub his comfort trainer off by rolling around on the floor. Donna told him to leave it and asked him to stand, which he did, and they followed the hostess to their table. They had a very narrow aisle to walk through, and Irwin did a prance step, still trying to paw off his comfort trainer. He was drawing attention from the other diners.

Donna decided that Irwin needed some time to get refocused, so she noted where their table was and took Irwin outside. Going outside not only gave Irwin a chance to get focused, but it gave Donna the opportunity to recompose herself. Being out in public with a dog who’s misbehaving can be stressful. The dog then picks up on that anxiety, which can sometimes make the situation even more difficult. However, by taking a moment to relax, Donna was able to successfully walk Irwin to their table, with the help of some power treats—cheese!

Irwin went under the table nicely, but soon he started his “crazy dog” rolling to try to get his comfort trainer off again. Donna waited for his to stop, then cued him to “visit” (put his head in her lap). She removed the comfort trainer. After that, Irwin did much better. He actually ended up sleeping while Jim and Donna ate. When they were ready to leave, Irwin did another “visit” to have the comfort trainer put back on for the walk out of the restaurant.

“It was not the most relaxing meal or the best puppy class, but we made it through smiling,” says Donna.


  1. I am loving your blog. I am a puppy raiser for KSDS, Inc. in KS and am actually getting a puppy tomorrow morning donated from SSD. My blog is Feel free to follow our adventures in puppy raising!

  2. Thanks! We will definitely be checking out your blog. Good luck with your puppy!