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Athena | Vizsla | El Segundo, CA | In Training



Meet Athena, she's an eleven-month-old Vizsla from El Segundo, California! She's here with us for our Two Week Board and Train Program, where we will be working to improve her obedience and manners. She is a very sweet and energetic pup and has some general knowledge of a few basic commands, but she is easily distracted by her surroundings and often struggles to maintain the focus and patience needed to reliably follow through with what is asked of her. She also likes to pull on the leash while walking, and has bad habits such as jumping on people and stealing food from tables and counters. Over the next fourteen days, we will be working to improve her manners, patience, and obedience to set her on the right track to becoming a well-behaved pup both on and off leash! Stay tuned for her transformation!


 

Pupdate 6/3/2023



Today Athena and I spent the day bonding and getting to know each other after her pickup! We spent some time at the park together, and I tested her knowledge of basic commands to gain an understanding of what her starting point will be, as well as get an idea of what areas we may need to focus on in her training going forward. She was very distracted by her surroundings, and was often unable to focus on me or any commands for longer than a couple of moments, before quickly redirecting her attention to something she decided was more interesting. She was especially distracted by the people and other dogs in the area, and would often try to pull towards them or want to stare at them constantly.


Athena was able to perform sit a couple of times when asked, though despite having an understanding of the command, she often did not listen or follow through with it, as she was much more focused on distractions in the environment and could not pay attention. The few times she was able to perform a sit, she was not able to hold it very long, and would quickly stand back up after a couple of seconds. She also was able to come to me when called sometimes, though more often than not, she chose to ignore her name and the recall command, as well as the leash pressure being used to guide her towards me. When she did come to me, she would come to my general proximity, but never stayed by me for very long before wandering back off again. She was able to lie down when asked once or twice, though it was rare and very inconsistent. She was also pulling on the leash a lot and veering off in different directions as we walked, and didn't seem to have an understanding of the heel command. She doesn't appear to have much knowledge of leash pressure yet, and she would often try to ignore the leash pressure by resisting its guidance or by pulling harder.


After we had a chance to get to know each other at the park, it was time to head home and get settled in! Athena had no issue jumping into the car or entering the kennel when asked, which was great to see! She did however get a bit carsick on the ride home, and did vomit a small amount. I gave her some fresh water, and she seemed to be feeling fine once she was out of the car. Once at home, I encouraged her to go potty while in my yard but she was too busy sniffing around and exploring, and didn't decide to go. She did seem a bit anxious in the house at first, but after spending some time together and playing with some toys, she calmed down and was able to explore the environment and become familiar with it. She did have a sudden urine accident on the floor however, which may have been due to her being too excited or unsettled to go outside earlier. Once she begins to feel more comfortable in this new environment, this kind of behavior should not be a common occurrence since she is already potty trained. She was happy to eat her food at dinner time, though only ate a little over half before losing interest in it. She was also comfortable with going into her kennel when asked, but she did whine a bit once inside. After several minutes, she was eventually able to calm down and settle in for a nice nap.



 

Pupdate 6/4/2023





Today Athena and I visited a park, where we introduced her to the "come to sit" command. We also practiced working on increasing her overall focus, impulse control, and patience. We focused on introducing her to leash pressure as well, which will be an important concept for her to understand in order for her to learn new commands and progress in her training. The idea is that when pressure is applied, it is paired with a command, and the pressure will remain until she follows through with what is being asked of her, at which point the pressure will immediately turn off and reward will be given. Leash pressure is a good introduction to this concept, as the pressure is directional, and dogs are often quick to figure out that they can turn off the pressure and receive reward when they simply follow the pressure being used to guide them. Once Athena develops a clear understanding of this, an e-collar can be introduced as a new form of pressure, and paired with the leash pressure. Doing this will teach her that these two forms of pressure mean the same thing, eventually allowing for the opportunity to begin weaning off the leash pressure, replacing it with the e-collar, and opening the door for training without the need for a leash!


The goal for come to sit is for Athena to be able to come directly to me when called, and finish with a sit on my left side. Having a solid recall and the ability to perform and hold stationary positions are important for every dog to master for obedience training, so introducing this command early on will help her become familiar with it quickly. We began introducing the come to sit command by asking her to come to me, then applying leash pressure to guide her towards me. The moment she stopped pulling on the leash and chose to come to me, the pressure immediately turned off and she was rewarded. She was able to understand what was expected of her fairly quickly, and began coming to me when called with only minimal leash pressure needed to get her attention, as she knew good things would happen when she listened! Once she understood that she was supposed to come to me when called, the next step was to guide her to where I wanted her to be after she came over to me. This was done by guiding her with leash pressure around to my left side, then asking for a sit. When she was able to focus, she was often able to sit on command with only minimal leash pressure needed, though sometimes she struggled to pay attention and would need additional pressure or guidance to get her into the sit position. As soon as she followed through with the command and gave in to the leash pressure, she was rewarded with lots of praise, which encouraged her to pay closer attention and do what was being asked of her.


When in quieter areas of the park, she was able to hold a sit for about a minute which was great to see! However, she struggled to hold the sit position for very long any time distractions such as dogs or people were nearby, and would tend to lose focus and stand back up only a few seconds later. Whenever a stationary command is given, such as sit or down, the goal is for Athena to not only perform that command when asked, but also to hold that position until given a new command or the release command. The goal is for her to be able to hold stationary positions for at least two minutes, even when distractions are nearby. To work towards this goal, it's very important that we stay consistent, and do not allow her to successfully get up or walk away on her own after being told to sit. Any time she broke the command on her own accord, she was immediately asked to return to position, which after many repetitions began to discourage her from breaking the command, as it was consistently unrewarding and unsuccessful. Each time she was able to hold the position until asked, she was given lots of praise and reward to communicate to her that she did a good job! After practicing this for a while, she was consistently able to hold sit for about a minute, even when distractions were nearby! We will be working on increasing the duration little by little each day, so we can work towards our duration goal of two minutes! She is already halfway there, which is amazing progress to see this early on in her training, great job Athena!



 

Pupdate 6/5/2023



Today Athena and I visited a park, where we met up with some other OffLeash SoCal trainers and their pups! Practicing commands while around other people and dogs is a great way to increase her tolerance and ability to focus around these types of distractions. Today we focused on introducing the heel command as well as continuing to improve her focus and impulse control. We also introduced her to the e-collar today, since she seems to have developed a solid understanding of leash pressure by this point. Each time I applied leash pressure and a verbal command, e-collar stimulation was paired with it. She seemed to respond well to it which is great to see! As she progresses in her training, we will slowly begin using less leash pressure to help her become accustomed to the e-collar as the main tool of communication and guidance. The goal for the heel command is for Athena to walk on my left side, with her paws at my heels. Teaching this precise positioning discourages pulling ahead, veering off, or lagging behind, which makes walking around with her much easier. Practicing heel also encourages engagement, which helps keep her attention on her training and handler and away from any distractions in the area. We began by keeping the leash rather short, which restricted her ability to wander off or pull too far ahead as we walked. Whenever she caused tension in the leash by moving too far away, leash and e-collar pressure were applied and she was given the verbal command, heel. The moment she chose to stop pulling and follow along nicely at my heels without tension in the leash, she was rewarded and praised. Athena caught onto this pretty concept quickly, and after just a few minutes of training, she understood what was being asked of her for this command. She stopped trying to constantly pull on the leash, allowing her to walk nicely with a loose leash for a good amount of the time. We also practiced making lots of turns and sudden stops, which encouraged her to pay extra attention to what I was doing and where I was going, which is necessary in order for her to remain in the heel position properly. Once she got the hang of this, we began practicing heel as we walked by distractions, such as the other trainers and their dogs. As expected, Athena was significantly less focused when around them, and needed more reminders and guidance to help her stay in the heel position. She was very interested in looking at the other dogs, and sometimes did pull a bit to try to move towards them. She also was sometimes distracted by smells on the ground. Though overall, she did very well with her heel and was often able to return her attention back to me once reminded and guided back into position.


We practiced her come to sit command while at the park as well, and she was much more responsive and willing to come to me when called, which was great to see! She did still need consistent leash pressure to guide her around to my left side once she got to me, though she is starting to get the hang of the hand signals used to help show her where I want her to be. We also worked on improving her sit duration while distractions were nearby, and while she did sometimes break command and try to stand up before she was asked, she did quite well overall and was often able to hold the sit position for over a minute at a time, even when various distractions were present nearby. Since she is already familiar with the place command from prior training experience, she had no trouble performing place on various objects such as benches, seating areas, and other objects. To add some variety to her extended sit command, we made use of the various objects around the park by having her hold the position while on the place objects as well as on the ground. I was also able to create some distance between us as she held her sit by using a long leash. Some dogs can become nervous or clingy when they are further away from their handler, though Athena didn't seem to mind too much about me taking a couple of steps back, as long as she had a clear view of me. Today she was consistently able to hold her sit position while I was about ten feet away, which is close to our distance goal of fifteen feet! With a bit more practice, she should soon have no problem holding her positions even while I am at the goal distance away from her!


 

Pupdate 6/6/2023





Today Athena and I began practicing the down command. She has had some prior training regarding this position in the past, but thus far has not been able to consistently perform the command when asked, especially when in distracting environments. We also continued the work from our previous lessons, and practiced her heel, place, and come to sit commands. The down command is simple in concept, but can be hard for some dogs to perform on command as it is an instinctually vulnerable and submissive position to be in. It can also be difficult for dogs like Athena, who are excitable or impatient, to hold the position for extended periods of time. Introducing this command in a quiet and comfortable environment is an important factor for Athena to have the best success in understanding and developing a positive association with the command. Since she is comfortable with laying down on a dog bed in her free time, we began working on this command while having her hold place here. After being asked to place and settling into the sit position, I then guided her into a down with some leash pressure, and rewarded her as soon as she followed the pressure and laid down all the way. With many repetitions, she began to understand what to do when given the down command, and was able to lie down on the bed with little to no physical guidance needed. We then practiced this command on some different surfaces, such as on the floor, in the yard, and on a dog cot. Despite the different surfaces, she was able to lie down in each of these places without much guidance needed, which was a good sign of her understanding. She would sometimes lose patience and try to stand back up again whenever she felt like it, though by staying consistent and ensuring she held the position until asked, she got better about waiting until given the release command before she could get up again. She was able to hold this position consistently for a little over one minute while practicing at home, which is a great start!


Once she was able to perform and hold down with relative ease at home, we took the session outside where there would be some additional distractions to work around. Some areas of my neighborhood get quite busy with people and dogs walking around, and there is some construction going on nearby which provides some noise distraction as well. Understandably, she was a bit more hesitant about performing down while in a less familiar environment, and was prone to getting distracted anytime she could see someone walking by or when there was a loud noise. We worked her through this by staying consistent and ensuring she followed through with what was being asked of her despite the change of scenery, and with some guidance from the leash pressure combined with the e-collar she was able to perform down when asked. We practiced the down command on various surfaces as well, such as on sidewalks, grass, and place objects. Once again she struggled to hold the position at first, and would sometimes quickly stand back up or try to walk away, but with more repetitions, she was able to hold the down position for close to a minute even while distractions were present! We will continue practicing with this to help her learn to easily perform the command and hold the position for longer periods of time, even when there are distractions nearby.



 

Pupdate 6/7/2023





Today Athena and I visited a local shopping strip, where we could continue to practice each of her commands around various distractions. This location has lots of people and other dogs walking along the sidewalks, and it's close to a busy street with loud cars and buses that pass by. Overall Athena did a good job keeping her focus despite the distractions, but did seem a bit overwhelmed by all the car noises from the street nearby. She was able to ignore people and other dogs passing by for the most part, though sometimes she would want to pull towards other dogs to play with them if they were barking at her or were over-excited. Though whenever she began to lose focus due to a distraction, she knew to return her attention back to me and leave the distraction alone when given the "off" command. The off command is similar to "no" or "leave it", and the goal is for Athena to immediately stop what she is doing and pay attention to me so she can listen to any instructions being given to her. Off can be used for a variety of situations, such as when she is distracted by something like another dog or a smell on the ground, or when she is jumping on a person or on counters.

We began our training session by practicing heel as we walked along the sidewalk of the shopping strip, and we made many frequent sudden stops and turns to encourage her engagement and focus. She did a great job with heel today, and was able to respond well to the verbal command and e-collar, so the leash was rarely needed to help guide her to the correct positioning. She was able to walk past most distractions without veering off or pulling ahead, which shows she is progressing a lot with the heel command and her ability to focus around distractions! She is also developing a good understanding of the e-collar, which is a great sign that she is on track with her training!


We also practiced her come to sit and stationary commands today while in this busy location. Having a solid recall is important, and is even more crucial for her to be able to follow this command when distractions are present. Overall she did very well with come to sit today, and was consistently able to come right to me and sit on my left side any time she was called with minimal or no leash pressure needed. When there was a tempting distraction very close by, such as another dog walking past, she did sometimes need a bit of leash pressure to get her attention, though once her focus shifted away from the distraction she came over to me quickly and sat right beside me! She also did a great job with sit today, and rarely needed any leash pressure to guide her for this position. She was able to hold a sit while on place objects or on the floor for about a minute and a half, even while I was at a good distance away from her of a little over ten feet. When distractions were very noticeable, such as someone walking by within a couple of feet of her or hearing a loud sudden noise, she would sometimes break position by standing up. Though this behavior is much less common than it has been in previous days, and she was able to return to the position the moment she was asked to which is a great improvement. The command she struggled with the most today was down. Due to the highly distracting and busy environment, she did not seem to feel comfortable with performing this command when asked. She was eventually able to lie down with consistent physical guidance to bring her into the position, though she would quickly try to stand back up and was not able to remain in a down for longer than a couple of seconds. She was a bit less hesitant about performing down while on a place object such as a bench, though she still was unable to hold the position for an extended period of time. After heading back to a more quiet area of my neighborhood, we continued to work on the down command in a less distracting environment where she could feel more relaxed and focus easier. She was much less anxious here, and was able to lie down when asked with minimal leash pressure or physical guidance needed, and hold it for about a minute. With each successful repetition, the praise and reward that follows will help her develop a more positive association and understanding of the command. With time, we will gradually increase her tolerance to distractions so that she will be able to perform down when in busier environments.



 

Pupdate 6/8/2023



Athena and I made a trip to the Santa Monica Pier today! This location is well known for its exciting and busy environment, and is full of all kinds of distractions that helped us put Athena's skills to the test! Overall she did a fantastic job with her commands such as heel, place, come to sit, and extended sit, and was very responsive to the e-collar, verbal commands, and hand signals. We still used some light leash pressure when she needed a bit of extra guidance through highly distracting moments, though she was often able to maintain an excellent level of focus and was able to listen despite the busy surroundings. She didn't seem to pay much attention to other dogs or crowds of people as they passed by, and was able to walk past them in a heel or remain in a sit as they walked around her. The large number of birds in the area seemed to be the most distracting factor for her today, and she was sometimes tempted to fixate on or chase them, but was able to resist her prey-drive instinct and instead follow through with the commands given, which is a great sign of her progress in impulse control!


While she did an excellent job with most of her commands at this location, she did struggle a lot with down today. She has a solid understanding of the down command overall, and knows what is expected of her when given the command. In quieter environments, she is happy to settle into the down position whenever she is asked to without any issue, though when somewhere busy like today she has some strong feelings against performing the command. For a majority of the time practicing her other commands here, she was feeling quite confident and relaxed, though when we began working on the down command she began feeling very anxious and uncomfortable. She refused to lie down when asked, and protested heavily against the leash pressure, e-collar, and other forms of guidance used. Since she understands the command clearly, this isn't an issue of her not knowing what to do, but instead that she is refusing to do it.


With consistency and a lot of patience, she did eventually give in and lie down, though each repetition was a big challenge for her. Staying consistent and ensuring she follows through with the command regardless of the environment, and giving her lots of praise and encouragement each time she successfully performs it will be important in helping her get through this challenging stage. With time, she will understand that protesting will not yield the results she is looking for, and will not successfully get her out of having to do what is being asked of her. She will also learn that it is safe to relax and lie down when asked, and that following through with the command is rewarding and leads to a positive experience. We'll continue practicing this command around various levels of distractions, and we will focus on putting extra time into working her past the anxiety and hesitation she feels about performing this command in busier environments.



 

Pupdate 6/9/2023



Today Athena and I visited an outdoor mall, where we practiced all of her commands around a moderate level of distractions. While this environment was still quite busy, the intensity and amount of distractions seemed to be manageable for Athena today, and she was able to maintain focus and a calm demeanor while we trained here. She still became slightly distracted now and then, though she was quickly able to redirect her focus back onto her training when given the off command.


We focused on the down command again today, and spent a lot of time practicing the position on various objects and in different areas around the mall. She was a bit hesitant at first due to the amount of people and other distractions in the area, but with some reassurance, she was able to relax and lie down when asked without any physical guidance needed! During the first few repetitions, she was prone to standing or sitting back up a few moments after getting into the down position, but by staying consistent and not allowing her to break the command successfully, she quickly understood what was expected of her. After spending some time practicing with this, she was able to hold the position for over a minute even when there were plenty of distractions present, which is fantastic progress! She seemed to have much less anxiety about this position today, and even became eager to perform the command as she knew it would lead to rewards and a positive experience for her every time she followed through with it. She seemed to be more comfortable with performing and holding down while on a place object such as a bench or other seating areas, though she was also able to perform down while on the floor when asked.


We also practiced each of her other commands while at the mall, including heel, come to sit, and extended sit. Her heel overall was really great today, and she was able to stay right beside me in the correct position with almost no leash pressure needed at all! She was quick to focus and correct her positioning whenever asked, and was very responsive to the verbal command, e-collar, and body language to guide her as we walked past various distractions and made sudden turns and stops. She was able to maintain excellent focus while walking in heel, engaged with me regularly, and paid close attention to where I was so that she could follow along. Her come-to-sit was also reliable and consistent today, and she was able to be recalled from about twelve feet away without any delay. Each time she was called, she knew to immediately come over to me and sit on my left side, which shows great understanding of the command! Her extended sit was also very good, and she was able to perform and hold this position on place objects or on the floor for two minutes while I was about twelve feet away. This means that she has reached both the duration and distance goals for this command that we have set for her! Great job Athena!



 

Pupdate 6/10/2023





Athena and I visited an outdoor mall again, and continued to practice each of her commands around distractions. We also met up with another OffLeash SoCal trainer and had the opportunity to practice her commands alongside their pup! Athena was excited to meet the other pup, but once we began training she did not let the other dog's nearby presence distract her from performing her commands, which shows great discipline and self-control! She also seemed to have an easy time ignoring other nearby distractions such as people walking by, small kids running around, smells on the floor, and even birds in the area! She has improved drastically with the Down command, and no longer displays any signs of anxiety or stress when performing or holding it, which is really great to see! Today she was comfortable with laying down in any location around the mall, and didn't need any leash pressure or other physical guidance to assist her. She was able to pay close attention to the verbal command and hand signal used, and was quick to settle into the position any time she was asked. She was also able to hold it for two minutes today, which means she has successfully reached her goal time for this command! She was even able to hold the position as I walked around her from a distance, and she ignored the other dog beside her as well as the other distractions that were in the area. We will continue practicing Down around increased levels of distractions, though it seems she has successfully worked through this challenging area of her training!


Since she has gotten the hang of each of her commands at this point, the next step in her training is to work on weaning out leash pressure from each of her commands. We first tested her commands using no leash pressure whatsoever, to see where her progress stands. She had no trouble performing Down, Sit, and Place with no leash pressure, though she still needed some work with Come to Sit and Heel as she was more prone to making errors when the leash was not used to guide her. Her recall for Come to Sit was solid, and she knew to come right to me each time the command was given, though she would sometimes sit behind me or in front of me, instead of at my left side. Her Heel was fairly good, though she did sometimes veer off and would struggle to find the right position again without the leash being used to show her where she should be. Heel and Come to Sit will be especially important for her to master when we begin training off-leash soon, so we spent some extra time today practicing these commands with very minimal leash pressure used to help prepare her for this transition. By reserving the use of the leash for only moments when she truly needs it, we encourage her to focus, problem-solve, and apply her learned skills to perform the commands instead of relying on the leash to physically guide her.



 

Pupdate 6/11/2023



Today Athena and I visited another outdoor shopping mall, where we continued to practice each of her commands around distractions without leash pressure. We focused on Heel and Come to Sit, since those are the commands that she tends to struggle with the most when no leash pressure is used. By using the long leash and keeping it completely loose, we can allow her to freely make choices regarding her positioning for these commands while still having her safely tethered to a leash should the need for it arise while she is adjusting to this training. Each time she made an error such as veering off too far or walking too ahead of me while working on Heel, or sitting in the wrong position for Come to Sit, I would ask for the command again and have her correct her positioning. Holding her to this higher standard helps her gain an increased understanding, and helps her become more reliable and consistent. By encouraging her to focus on my hand signals and body positioning, she was able to problem solve and learned to depend less and less on the leash for guidance. Each time she was able to perform a command successfully without leash pressure, she was rewarded and praised which helped communicate to her that she did a great job! She made great progress today, and she will soon be ready to begin training while off-leash!


Similar to yesterday, she had no trouble performing Sit, Down, and Place with no leash pressure, and was familiar with the commands and eager to perform them whenever asked. We practiced having her hold these stationary commands in various areas around the mall, and while nearby many different types of distractions. She was able to ignore people and other dogs walking by, and she held her positions even if they came very close to her. She would sometimes try to sniff them a bit as they passed, though was able to go back to ignoring them when asked. The bigger distraction for her today were the birds, as there was a big group of pigeons that were wandering around the shopping area. Athena took immediate interest in them, but despite her excitement and temptation, she was able to break her fixation when given the Off command which allowed her to focus back on me. Despite having a loose long leash and the physical freedom to do so, she never tried to run off or chase them at all, which is a great show of her impulse control over her prey drive instinct. She did need regular reminders to stop staring at them though, as when she lost focus or was allowed to fixate on them for too long, her excitement would rise and the temptation would become stronger. She did break command by standing up from stationary positions a few times when pigeons flew right past her, but this happened less and less the more we practiced around them and eventually she was able to hold her positions and maintain her focus even while the birds were close by!



 

Pupdate 6/12/2023






Athena and I visited a park today, where we continued working on each of her commands around distractions with no leash pressure. We also met up with another OffLeash SoCal trainer and had the opportunity to practice commands around their pup. Athena was excited to see the other dog, though as usual was easily able to shift her focus away from the dog and focus back on her training. The park also had some small animals around, such as birds and squirrels, which helped to test Athena's impulse control and focus around. She was interested in looking at the small animals, though she never tried to chase them, and was still able to listen and follow through with each of her commands despite their presence nearby. Since birds are typically the distraction she struggles with the most, continuing to work around this type of distraction and encouraging her to ignore them when asked will help to improve her self control around them.


Her Heel has improved greatly, and she made very few errors while practicing this command. When the verbal command was given, she knew to stay focused and stick right by my left side no matter the direction or pace we were moving at, or what distractions we were passing by. Whenever slight adjustments needed to be made to her positioning, she was able to correct herself without any leash pressure needed to guide her, which shows she has made great progress! She also had no trouble with performing Place, and was happy to jump onto any object I asked her to. Athena also did great with Extended Sit and Extended Down, and was able to hold both positions for multiple minutes very consistently. She did a great job of performing them immediately when asked, and very rarely broke her position before being given a new command or the release command. She would sometimes like to look around at her surroundings while holding stationary positions, but if I noticed her focus becoming too invested in a particular distraction such as a nearby bird, I would ask her to ignore it with the Off command. Being aware of her surroundings isn't a bad thing, but allowing her to hyper-fixate on distractions can increase her chances of breaking the command due to a lack of focus or an increase in excitement. So to help her chances of success, it's important to pay attention to her body language and determine when to use the Off command to help her refocus and bring her excitement level to a manageable amount.


Athena has improved a lot with her Come to Sit, though she will need more practice before she's able to perform the command consistently each time when leash pressure is not used. She's able to correctly perform the command and position herself at my left side about seventy-five percent of the time, though she does sometimes make errors such as sitting behind me, in front of me, or on the wrong side of me. When this happens, I ask her to focus, redo the command, and correct her positioning. No leash pressure is used to guide her, and she is encouraged to problem-solve, think about her training, and pay attention to my hand signals and body positioning. By this point, she knows what she is being asked to do, though will sometimes try to get away with doing it incorrectly. By holding her to a high standard, and withholding reward until she performs it properly, we can encourage her to be more consistent and do it right the first time for every repetition. While she still needs a bit more work on the precise positioning for the stationary part of the command, she is very quick and consistent about coming right to me every time whenever she is called, even if I am at a distance away from her or if there are interesting distractions nearby, which is an important skill!



 

Pupdate 6/13/2023



Athena has been doing very well in her training, and has shown fantastic progress in all of her obedience skills and commands! She has also been successfully weaned off of leash pressure, and no longer requires any guidance from it in order to understand and perform her commands. She now has a solid understanding of each verbal command and the e-collar stimulation that is paired with them. With this, she is now ready to begin training off-leash! We began her off-leash training in a quiet area in my neighborhood, where we could test her skills in a safe environment. There were still some distractions around, such as birds and squirrels in the trees, bicycles passing by, smells in the grass, and dogs and people out on walks, though Athena didn't seem too distracted by them today and had no trouble focusing on me and following through with everything that was asked of her.


Athena did great with performing and holding Extended Sit, Extended Down, and Extended Place. She was able to hold each of these stationary commands for multiple minutes while I was walking around at a distance from her, and she knew to stay there until asked. Whenever people or dogs were approaching us on a sidewalk, we stepped slightly to the side to make room and she had no trouble holding her stationary positions as they passed by. Besides an occasional sniff in their direction, Athena was able to completely ignore them and didn't seem tempted to break position or approach them. Her Heel was also fantastic, and she managed to stick right by me in the perfect position on my left side with little to no reminders needed. She was able to ignore the distractions in the area, and never strayed too far from me as we walked around. She could also easily follow along as I made turns, and knew to stop beside me and Sit any time I stopped moving. She also seems to have developed a good understanding of the boundaries of sidewalks and streets, and knows not to step off the sidewalk or into the street unless invited to. Before crossing any streets, she understands to stop at the curb with me and hold a Sit while I check for any traffic, and is able to wait patiently until given the Heel command to get up and follow me across.


She also did much better with Come to Sit today, and was able to consistently perform the command correctly each time she was asked. She had no trouble being recalled from a distance, and was able to follow my hand signals and body positioning to guide her to my left side for a Sit. She also showed incredible impulse control and was able to perform this command when a major distraction was present! While on a break, she was exploring and sniffing around some grass when a bird landed near her. She took an immediate interest in it and began approaching it, but stopped and came right back to me the moment she was recalled, completely ignoring the bird as it flew off! This was great to see, as it shows her obedience and self-control are stronger than her prey-drive instinct, which is an important factor especially when training off leash.



 

Pupdate 6/14/2023



Today Athena and I continued to practice each of her commands while off-leash, and visited a local park where we could work around the various distractions present. Once again she did a great job with each of her commands today, and was able to maintain an excellent level of focus! We also got to play fetch while at the park without the hassle of a leash, and Athena had a great time! Playing fetch is not only a great way to have fun exercising, it can also be incorporated into training. We practiced her ability to hold stationary commands by having her hold Sit or Down as the ball was thrown, and then had her wait until given the release command to go chase it. Fetch is also great to practice recall with, as it adds an additional level of distraction, excitement, and motivation! We also spent some time today touching up on her manners both inside and outside the home. These manners include greeting manners, food manners, and door manners, as well as car and kennel manners.


The goal for greeting manners is for Athena to hold a stationary command such as Sit while being greeted or pet by someone. This practice encourages polite and calm behavior when saying hello to someone or when meeting someone new, and discourages impolite behaviors such as jumping up on people. We have been practicing these manners nearly every day, as we are often out in public places and lots of people want to stop to say hello to her. Before allowing anyone to approach her, I let the person know that she is in training, and to only give her attention and affection when she is sitting down and is calm. Most people understand and are happy to do this, and after just a couple of times practicing this Athena quickly understood what to do and how to behave when meeting someone! We also practice these manners while in the home, whenever someone comes over to visit. This teaches her that these manners apply no matter the environment we are in.


Food manners is another concept Athena quickly caught on to. The goal for food manners is for her to be able to hold a stationary position, and remain there patiently as her food is prepared and set in front of her. She then is asked to wait there until given the release command before she can begin eating. This teaches her to have patience, makes feeding time more rewarding, and discourages impolite behaviors such as jumping on counters or people, begging for food, or rushing to get to her food as soon as she can see it. As she progressed in her ability to hold stationary positions overall, the food became just another distraction for her to practice around, and she was eventually able to hold stationary positions in front of her food bowl for multiple minutes without any issue!


Door manners is another great skill that Athena has learned during our time together. The goal for door manners is for her to be able to patiently hold stationary positions while a nearby door is open, and wait there unless invited to go through it. Practicing these manners helps to teach boundaries, and eliminates potential risks to herself or others that may be present without these manners in place. The risks include her accidentally knocking someone over while trying to push past them through a doorway, or escaping outside through an open front door or gate. She is now able to stay where she is asked to, and understands that even if a nearby door is open or people are walking in and out of it, she needs to wait there and not try to follow them or walk through it unless invited to. She is currently able to hold stationary positions around distractions such as doors consistently for about three minutes, and with more practice she will be able to hold positions for even longer periods of time.


The last set of manners we have been working on are her car and kennel manners. Car manners are pretty straightforward, and Athena has had no issue jumping into or out of the back of my car whenever asked to. For kennel manners, the goal is for her to be able to enter the kennel when asked to without needing any physical guidance. We use a kennel both for travel in the car and for sleep at home. At first, she was a bit unsure about the kennels we use as she seemed unfamiliar with them, though she quickly warmed up to them and grew to have a very positive association with them. Once she was comfortable with them, she had no trouble entering the kennel willingly whenever she was asked, and would even choose to go into the kennel in her room on her own for naps when it was left open. She did whine a bit while in the kennel on her first night with me, but since then she has been very calm and quiet any time she is in the kennel, and seems to be very content with relaxing inside of it.



 

Pupdate 6/15/2023





Athena and I visited the Santa Monica Pier today, where we put her skills to the test at this highly distracting location! There were large crowds of people, other dogs, loud music, and an abundance of Athena's most tempting distraction, birds. Despite the bustling environment, and high amount of pigeons, seagulls, and other birds here, Athena was able to maintain excellent focus and self-control! She was able to perform each of her commands while off-leash here, and did a great job with everything that was asked of her. We also had the chance to film some fantastic footage that will be used in putting together her final video!


Athena stuck right by me in the Heel position while off-leash, and she was able to ignore all the distractions around her as we walked around the pier, through crowds of people, and passed by birds and other dogs. She was confident and comfortable with performing Extended Sit, Extended Down, and Extended Place, even when numerous distractions were around. She never broke any stationary positions, and was able to stay still for multiple minutes even while I was at a distance from her. She also excelled with Come to Sit, and was very consistent and reliable with her recall and positioning for the command each time. We also had many opportunities to practice her greeting manners here, and she did a great job with this and was polite to everyone she met. She was very happy to say hello to and receive affection from all the nice people!


Overall Athena's confidence and ability to focus and perform commands have improved drastically since her visit here with me last week. Last week she seemed a bit nervous and overwhelmed when in busy places like this, though today she was happy, calm, and able to have a great time! The progress she has made in this short period is outstanding, and she is now able to enjoy the freedom and fun that comes with having excellent obedience while off-leash. Places such as parks, beaches, hiking trails, and other fun locations are all great places to put Athena's new skills to use to have safe and enjoyable fun without the hassle of a leash! Though it's important to note that while her off-leash skills are great, it's still a good idea to comply with leash regulations and have a leash attached when in places that require it, or as a safety measure when close to potential risks such as when nearby busy streets. Though at this point in her training whenever she is leashed it hangs loose and it does not need to be used to guide her, as she has gained an excellent understanding of each of her commands and the e-collar! Great job Athena!



 

Pupdate 6/16/2023



Today was Athena's last full day with me, so we spent the day putting all of her learned skills to use to have a great time together! We visited a park and she had a blast playing fetch with me while off-leash, and she did a fantastic job with listening to me and performing each of her commands. She had no trouble sticking by me in the Heel position as we walked around the park, and did excellent with each of her stationary commands of Extended Sit, Extended Down, and Extended Place. Her recall and positioning were consistent and reliable for Come to Sit, and she was even able to be recalled from great distances while we were playing fetch or while she was out exploring during breaks. Whenever needed, she also had no trouble refocusing back on me when given the Off command. We also practiced some more with her self-control skills by throwing the ball around and asking her to ignore it unless given the go-ahead to chase it with the release command.


The park had various distractions present, such as lots of other dogs playing nearby, groups of people and children, and small animals like squirrels and birds. Athena paid them no mind as we practiced her commands, and never broke any commands or positions despite the nearby presence of distractions. She showed an excellent level of self-control, patience, and obedience, which allowed her to have so much fun and freedom in a way that is safe and enjoyable for us both. She also got to say hello to lots of nice people today, and she displayed very polite greeting manners with everyone. There was lots of happy tail wagging and kisses to be given, but she was able to control her excitement and did not try to jump on anyone or otherwise behave impolitely which was great to see!


Over the course of these two weeks with Athena, she has learned and grown so much! Her progress has been outstanding, and she is now very well-behaved and well-mannered both inside the home and while out in public. While she is still as loyal and loving as ever, she now has the confidence and independence to not feel clingy or anxious when alone. With the skills she has learned, she no longer defaults to the undesirable behaviors she once commonly displayed, and a clear line of communication has been developed with her so that she can continue to learn right from wrong throughout her life. Training and practicing commands with her daily is an excellent way to engage her mind, provide physical and mental exercise, and keep this smart pup happy and healthy! She is very eager to please, and with her ability to show self-control and maintain patience and focus in any environment, she is such a joy to bring along on all sorts of adventures. Athena is a wonderful dog, and she has a very bright future ahead with her family as a well-trained canine companion!



 








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