I sat in on a few novice rally-obedience classes to get a feel of what it is like. Though Knox would excel better at agility, his reactivity prevents him from being able to calmly watch other dogs having fun.
For those interesting, this is basically competitive obedience. The dog must be in a left heel and perform a number of directional and instructional cues while on leash with a flat collar. This is easier said than done. We are working towards the Canadian Association Rally Obedience trials though the likelihood of us actually competing is … slim. 🙂 That said, if we can make it to advanced, it looks like there’s some agility areas that we get to work with!
As a reactive dog owner, I was attracted to working with Rally with Knox because of all the other reactive dogs in class that had amazing focus on their owners. Knox, on the other hand, has very little focus when other dogs are around. I recognize that this is definitely after lots and lots of daily work.
Due to his kennel cough, Knox had to stay home for one lesson (luckily, the one lesson he’s already pretty pro at!) so I had the chance to work with Malcolm, one of the other student’s advance rally dog. The ability to work with a dog that I didn’t have to worry about wanting to eat another dog was … so different. No pulling, no cujo face, no growling… It really brought to light all my handling inabilities and areas to improve. Namely: death grip on leash and using only my left hand for cues. Poor Malcolm had to endure my mismanagement for two course runs!
For the sake of tracking progress, here are all the signs cues we need to learn and where we’re at with our training. I’ve also borrowed a lot of cues from Malcolm’s owner. 🙂
Weave Once: have not learned yet.
STOP, Sit, Stand: 5/10, can sit okay but at an angled. Has not learned “stand” yet
STOP, Sit, Down: 6/10, can sit okay but a an angle. Learning “drop” for a surfer down, and using “lie down” for a relaxed down.
STOP, Sit, Down, Sit: 5/10, can sit, lie down back to a sit okay, but has trouble from a relaxed down.
STOP, Sit, Walk Around/Stay: 8/10 apparently we have a great sit-stay!
STOP, Sit, Down, Walk Around/Stay: 7/10 we don’t have an awesome down-stay though.
Right Turn: 4/10 Harder to keep Knox in a heel, using “this way!” but might need a better cue
Left Turn: 7/10 oddly simple for him, likely from all our body blocks!
About Turn (turning away from the dog): 4/10 keeping a heel is difficult
About U Turn (turning into the dog): 8/10 body blocks without physical contact are getting lots of practice.
270º Right: 5/10
270º Left: 7/10
360º Right: 5/10
360º Left: 7/10
Call Front, Forward Right (and keep going): 6/10, using cues “front” and “around”
Call Front, Forward Left (and keep going): 6/10, using cues “front” and “swing”
Call Front, Finish Right (sit): Similar to above, doing okay but need to work on alignment
Call Front, Finish Left (sit): Similar to above, doing okay but need to work on alignment
Slow: 6/10, using the cue “slow down”
Fast: 8/10, using the cue “let’s go”
Normal: 9/10 Nailed it!
STOP, Side Step Right, STOP: have not learned yet.
STOP, 90º Pivot Right, STOP: have not learned yet, though we tried and it was a poor attempt.
STOP, 90º Pivot Left, STOP: have not learned yet, though we tried and it was a poor attempt.
Spiral Right Dog Outside: have not learned yet.
Spiral Left Dog Inside: have not learned yet.
1, 2, 3 Steps Forward: have not learned yet.
STOP, Turn Right, 1 Step, STOP: have not learned yet.
Having no idea what his breed mix is, I think we can safely assume that he has some sort of herding animal in him as he approaches unknown dogs (especially fluffy ones) at a crawl, getting about 5 meters away and lying super flat, ears down, staring. As the dog reaches 3m proximity, he BOLTS towards the dog. Rude, rude, rude.
No fights yet (thankfully) but we need to work on this so much more! One more thing to add onto our list of behaviours to work on.
When we first got Knox, we made the same rookie decisions as most owners: let’s socialize him at the dog park!
Lesson 1: This was a stupid idea because dog parks are a crap-shoot of behaviours.
For the first 7 weeks, we were the 5:15pm regulars at one of our local, enclosed dog parks. Knox made some awesome friends and played super hard every time he saw his friends. He still gets all wiggle-butt when he sees Bubbles the shiba inu, Sity the blue heeler, and Penny the pocket pitty (pictured above after a great play session!). We were addicted to how calm he was after a great play session, and how he would just sleep after getting home.
How did your schedule change after adopting a dog? Well, I used to wake up 30 minutes before work, get to work, stay late (averaging 9 hours a day), and cook dinner. Now:
6:15am — wake, emails, get ready
7:00 to 7:15am — prep for dog walk
7:15 to 8:30am — dog walk
8:30am to 5:00pm — work
5:00 to 7:00pm — dog walk
Sometime around 9:30pm — dog walk
We easily averaged 150 minutes of walking with Knox. Every. Single. Day. We have a Whistle report to prove it! But as it became easier and easier to wake up and walk long distances in -1C temperature, I couldn’t help but wondering “just how do other people so it?!”
As we were filling out the adoption papers for Knox, I had dreams of taking him to Crab Park and watching him play with all the dogs, or swim in the ocean, or play fetch with us.
After taking him home, all those dreams were dashed when we learned that he was a little reactive, a little crazy pants, and had absolute zero recall. Determined to fulfill my dream, once we got past those pesky bad behaviours, I enrolled him into Recall class with Shelagh Begg of Dizine Canine.