Training Ups & Downs
Updated: May 13
Stormy is by far the BEST dog I have ever had. I would say I got "lucky" but I didn't. I worked hard to get her where she is and continue to nurture her to flourish. Today is all about Stormy. Her breeds, strengths, challenges, and everything that makes Stormy...herself!
I had a DNA test done through my ex-vet and it came back 50% German Shepard and 40% Australian Cattle dog (Blue Heeler) and 10% of her own little sass mix (mutt). Her front end is built like a GSD but her hind is built similar to a Heeler as well as her size. With her being more GSD than anything else, the name "gsdstormy" was born. Whenever people meet her in person they always comment on how small she is and how they expected her to be bigger. But she is the perfect size for me since I'm super short and small!
I only started truly training her about 2 years ago. Of course, she was taught sit, stay, down and paw but didn't have a clue about training.
Stormy was very dog reactive and pulled like no other. Wanting to fix this I researched and researched and researched and did some more researched. I watched YouTube videos, read books and asked questions and slowly but surely gained my way into being able to transform my dog more and more. I am very proud to see our daily progress and how far we've come.
She is no longer dog reactive and doesn't pull, has fabulous engagement, eye contact and has a cute little heel. But we still have many challenges as well as strengths.
Some challenges we're working on currently is cooperative grooming. She is the absolute devil of nail trims. I used to use clippers but switched over to the Dremel about a year ago since it's easier and quicker. Stormy likes to behave for her back paws but once I get to her front paws she raises hell. SO... I have been restlessly working on cooperative care and making nail trims a positive experience more her. It's progressing very slowly but I know in the end it will pay off.
Positive Associations: To turn her negative association into a positive one I am allowing her to choose whether to stay or leave. My end goal is for her to want her to choose to stay because she wants to. To start I have her lay down flat on the floor with her head down (our cue is "settle"). Then I start with the Dremel off and just touching the filer to her nail and rewarding very heavily when she doesn't pull back her paw. Then after a few sessions of that, I'll move on to turning on the Dremel and very quickly trimming one nail and rewarding for staying still. Over the course of each session, she allows the Dremel to touch her without flinching longer and longer. Soon enough we will have a stress free nail trimming session for life!
Another mountain we have to conquer is recalled. Now she is fabulous at them but only because I completely retaught it to her to clearly communicate what I wanted. I trained with the most common words "here" and "come" but found that my family would say "Stormy here" or "Stormy come" and allow her not to fulfill the command causing her to become numb to her word. Therefore, I have a secret word I never told them that is only my recall word for her. So they still have "here" and "come" to call her but I have the power when it comes to recalling now.
Her new words are "Too far". I retaught as a fun game so she is very motivated to get to me and has a blast.
What out new recall looks like:
1. I'll very gleefully say "too far"
2. Place my hand down by my side as a nose target and back up
3. Stormy whips around and races to "boop" my hand with her nose
4. We have a mini party with treats, praise and jumping up and down
5. She gives me eye contact and I say "go get" (her release word)
Now I can recall her from pretty much anything and no one knows her new word therefore it doesn't get used and abused. I always am working on practicing her recalls in various places such as hiking trails, walks and especially new training locations. I may look like a lunatic while praising her but it's so worth it to have this essential skill in my back pocket.
Every team has challenges but with that also comes accomplishments!
One of the things I am most proud of is her ability to focus on me where-ever & whenever. I believe that eye contact is everything! If I have her eyes on me anything is possible. This is a big part of how we overcame Stormy's dog reactivity. As much as I am appalled by dog parks, I do go every now and then to work her right outside the entrance where it's a busy traffic area. I like to put her in a down stay and just people and dog watch while throwing in a few obedience commands here and there.
Another of my favorite achievements is our heel ("fuss"). She picked it up so quickly and has a little spunk about her when she does it which I absolutely love. Her favorite place to fuss is up and down the echoing aisles of Lowe's. We always have people comment on how well behaved she is and how "lucky" I got. To which I replied it's not luck, it's training, hard-work, and consistency.
Right now we are working on shaping her "hold". She's always had a problem with this so I'm taking a different approach to teaching her. So lots of treats and clickers it is! She's been progressing well and understanding what is expected from her.
Rear-end awareness is a skill we will always continue to improve on. Even though she has come so far I will continue to build on that skill! I pumped our balance disc to the max and now all her exercises our 100% harder for her. She is such a hard worker though and loves the challenge.
One huge lesson that I have learned from her is 99.99% of all the "challenges" she has were created by me. The Dremel issue could have been avoided by introducing it more slowly and the recall problem could have been prevented by teaching a unique recall word earlier and being more clear with what I wanted. While I would have loved if I was flawless and had a perfect dog the truth of the matter is that we’re not. We are far from perfect but I wouldn't have it anyway. Mistakes are how Stormy & I learn, grow and thrive. I am so thankful how lenient and patient Stormy has been while I still figure out this whole thing and continue to aim to become stronger and more confident every day.
hAs always thanks for stopping by and Always Keep Exploring!