Big-dog-little-handler: One week on.

Its been just over a week since we started attending obedience training. Our initial session saw us trying to focus a very frantic dog, while listening to someone talk a little critically about my size. Apparently the gentleman was slightly concerned Duke was large and may pull me over. Something people love to mention. And drives me crazy. Having spent 7 months learning that no matter how hard Duke pulled I was able to hold him back. I’ve become quite confident of my ability to keep a tight hold on that lead!

My boy. Ridgeback cross mastiff called Duke.

In all honesty Duke doesn’t pulls so much on the lead anymore; that is unless there is another dog or bike! Duke has learnt to walk with a loose lead until he sees these things. By now I’m use to the judgmental looks when he becomes over excited. But he improves every day.

 We had a little wish list of things we wanted Duke to learn at the training classes, but mostly we wanted him to have a reliable recall and to be able to show some restraint and stay calm around other dogs!

Our first session: Duke was excited, a wee bit frantic but ultimately relaxed towards the end of the session. Chilling out and laying down at our feet rather than pulling and panting. This was actually a pretty big win for us! Something we thought may not happen. Duke loves other dogs and wants to say “Hi!”. All the time. He will pull, bark, whinge and whine. Luckily we just got the odd cry directed at another pooch. All the other handlers where really understanding. And we left the session feeling quite positive.

We were advised to buy a halti like harness, called a dogmatic, to prevent Duke from pulling when excited. Although I wasn’t sure about it other members of the group said it was great and their dogs looked pretty happy! For now, we will give it ago and try to ween him off the use of it. In all honestly it does make a difference. I did do some research and all the information seems to suggest that they are safe as long as they aren’t uses to jerk or ‘check’ the dog. Whenever we have been given advice I always research it; there is a lot of people out there with lots of different advice. Some of it conflicting.

Dogmatic


At home: We practiced the “Sit to Stand” and other commands we had watched them do in training. He knows a lot of these commands but needs to learn to act on them every single time. 10 minute a day each. Broken down into 5 minute sessions. The lady recommended we didn’t give him the treat but allowed him to lick or taste it as motivation; especially when trying to get him to stand. This gave me the idea to use his Kong filled with peanut butter. His favourite treat!

Our second session: we used the Dogmatic. Duke was unable to pull towards the other dogs put in general the peanut butter kept his attention. When we stood up to try and demonstrate each command he followed them really well and was relatively focused! We did have a few issues because we were keeping him on the lead. The lead was short so “go away” and “go to your bed” was a bit too easy or a bit tricky to really demonstrate.
He was much more focused than he had been the first time. We were very proud. But not just that people where still happy to talk to us so we clearly hadn’t terrorised everyone! Most people where happy for their dogs to come and say hello to Duke which is lovely. Sometimes small dog owners are abit unsure of Duke, even though he is a gentle giant.


At home
: we practiced on and off the lead at home. Karl and I both noticed improvement with him follow commands a lot faster even when we weren’t treating him or actively ‘practicing’.


Session 3:
only a few days later we attended our 3rd session equipped with a long double ended lead, it can be adjusted from 7ft to 6ft 5ft to 3 1/2ft, it affords much more freedom. The lead helped a lot! The more sessions we attend the more we are able to find equipment or strategies that work for us. The only issues with this session is that Duke and I went for a run before hand and he was extremely tiered. I think he was relieved when we started practicing the “go to your bed” command. Duke was listening to me a lot more, following commands and, most importantly, not watching the other dogs so closely. This is good news! We are still sitting in the corner so we are less of a distraction for others. But he’s doing good. Karl and I are learning lots to!
And in answer to the question posed in my previous post? I don’t think being a short person really disadvantages me. It’s al about knowledge and confidence.

Beautiful boy.

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