3 Steps Forward 2 Steps Back
We try to take Kira training every week when possible but for the last couple of weeks we haven’t been able to attend our normal Sunday class as we’ve been away. Hello Easter holidays! Today I could take her to the Monday session to try and make up for this.
On a Sunday we attend the puppy class – have been since August but recently we got split into 2 groups a ‘puppy puppy group’ and the ‘slightly advanced puppy group’. Now at the time we were really relieved that she finally progressed. “Yes you aren’t a failure! We didn’t ruin you!”. It was slightly harder than puppy class, less socialising longer distances etc what you’d expect from a step up. Kira looked pretty good in this, as long as you didn’t as her to stay still while you walked around someone so that momentarily she couldn’t see you. Overall, we were quite proud of her and come away from the sessions feeling happy and like good owners.
Today, I was expecting to be in a puppy class and Kira looking huge compared to the other puppies (there was an 11 week old boxer and a 12 week old spaniel, she did look huge). But after 30 minutes one of the trainers asked me to go and join the ‘step up group’. Honestly, I was slightly nervous especially after our little refusal to finish our walk on Saturday but I was pleasantly surprised… at first. Kira heeled nicely, she sat well, we even heeled off lead! Wooh success, we should be in this class cue misbehaving puppy.
Kira has never been great at stay. Our trainers keep telling us that German Shepherds are Velcro dog, they don’t like to be left behind so stay is something we know we have to work on…we should probably be working harder on it but there we go. What we’ve never had to work particularly hard on is recall. Kira always comes back! I have never had to worry about her not coming back. Today, she did not come back. In fact, the whole class had to stopped because she was off lead and still not coming back.
It was helpful that she decided to do this at training because I had no idea how to get her back but it felt awful! I felt useless and like a complete failure of a doggy owner. But what I need to remember is that she’s a puppy. And puppies like children don’t always get things right and they can’t do it every time. She is going to make mistakes – I am going to make mistakes but that’s okay! Kira wasn’t the only dog that made mistakes, ran off, needed to do the activity again or simpler. It’s okay to get it wrong, what’s important is that we keep practising and that we keep training her.
People often comment that Kira is “so well behaved for a puppy” and she probably is but I really believe it’s not because we’re great at training her, we really aren’t, it’s because we go to training every Sunday morning that we can. Rain, snow, sunshine we go. Sometimes we turn up and it’s been cancelled but we made the effort to go. Training a dog is the same as teaching children. You can’t do it once or until they’ve got it and then stop. You have to keep going because occasionally they forget or get distracted or decide that they want to have a go at being alpha. Going training isn’t something you succeed at in a 6 week stint and then can forget about it. It’s something to work at and keep practising.
So if you’re thinking of joining a doggy training class I’d recommend finding a class that isn’t a 6 week course where you have to go every week for 6 weeks and then it’s over. I’d recommending finding a class that is outside where you’re likely to have to apply these principles. I have yet to take Kira to a small hall and get her to stay sat while I walk 10 paces away and come back, I have in a field to check if there are sheep through the get. But more importantly find a class where you trust the trainers to help you when it goes wrong. But also remember you’re trying your best and so is your dog.