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  • Writer's pictureMcKenna Caskey

Cloud | Golden Retriever | Aliso Viejo, CA | In-Training

Meet Cloud! She is a beautiful 9 month old Golden Retriever from Aliso Viejo, CA. She has joined OffLeash SoCal's Two-Week Board-&-Train program to work on her obedience, severe leash pulling, home manners, and overall confidence in new environments and around new people. She knows sit, and will come some of the time, however it is difficult to ask her to perform obedience in public. Stay tuned for his 14-day transformation!


Pupdate 2/12/2023

Cloud and I spent some time at the park getting to know each other and seeing what obedience cues she would perform. Cloud was very nervous, and kept pulling towards where her family had left. I got to see just how badly she pulled, and have rope burns from the leash. She was a good girl during the drive home, however she did get carsick in the crate. This can be normal for pups after pickup. 

Once home, I let Cloud into the yard to decompress, explore her surroundings, and go potty. I let her hang out in the baby-gated area to settle in before bringing her back out to the yard to sniff around some more. She still seemed anxious and was pacing.

Cloud and my dog got to sniff on opposite sides of the babygate, and they seemed interested in each other. I let the two of them mingle in the yard later in the evening, however Cloud became overwhelmed when Krüger attempted to play, and defensively snapped at him. He ignored her afterwards, and laid down next to me. Once Cloud settled down, she laid down by us as well. During their second intro, Cloud seemed a bit more confident and the two of them play-bowed at each other, however when Krüger attempted play, she got overwhelmed and defensive again. I did not correct Cloud's behavior, as she was simply voicing her discomfort with the situation, and Krüger responded well to it. He is used to dogs needing to 'warm-up' to him. With all of the changes in her surroundings, it is pretty typical for Cloud to not want to play right away, and her nervousness should subside in the next day or so.

Today was mostly spent forming a bond, and letting Cloud acclimate to her temporary 14-day home. It is a lot to take in for a pup, however she was comfortable enough to eat the majority of her dinner. Through the course of the night, Cloud seemed to become happier and more outgoing.


Pupdate 2/13/2023

Cloud had an eventful first day-of-training! We met up with fellow OLSC trainers and their dogs at Whittier Narrows Recreation Park which offered a huge amount of distractions and stimuli. Cloud wanted to say hello to all the pups, however we worked on her self-control by introducing the cue “off!” which can be used for distractions or anything Cloud may be interested in. To introduce “off!” I would provide a ‘leash-pop’ with a prong collar to simulate a correction and bring her attention back to me. 

The prong-collar was also essential in introducing “heel”, where Cloud is expected to maintain speed and position with her head beside my left knee. If Cloud pulled ahead or wandered in a different direction, I would give the cue “heel” and then swiftly change direction. Cloud caught on quickly, and began to realize where the ‘sweet spot’ was, and to pay attention to me instead of letting the environment get the better of her. After a few corrections, she was heeling well (without the rope-burns on my hands)! 

The ecollar was also introduced at low-level stimulation when paired with Cloud’s cues. I would provide the stimulation as I stated the verbal. The idea is that Cloud will associate the stimulation with a task-at-hand, and condition to working after receiving it. Low-level stimulation would also be provided when doing the ‘name-game’, or bringing her attention to me upon hearing ‘Cloud’. 

Whenever Cloud responded to any cue correctly, I would mark the behavior with “yes!” and offer reinforcement. Since Cloud was a little too anxious to accept treats, I provided praise and affection. 

Cloud was also introduced to extended sit, where she is expected to hold her “sit” position for longer durations. I would gradually increase the length of time before releasing her with the cue “break!”  

The training session at the park became a bit overwhelming for Cloud after a while, so we ended on a positive note before heading out. 

After the park session, Cloud attended me on a walk with a regular-client, Kona. Cloud maintained her heel well, and walked nicely the entire walk. She was very in-tune with verbal corrections, although she needed a little help with prong collar and ecollar stim. Cloud was much more relaxed and confident during her walk with Kona. The new park, the number of new dogs, all the new stimulation, and newly instigated consequences paired with her actions at Whittier Narrows was a lot to take in. She was able to settle down in the kennel on the drive to Kona, and the walk was much less distracting. It offered a quiet place to work on her obedience. We practiced stop-to-sit (where Cloud sits in a ‘heel’ position when her handler stops). We also practiced varying our pace, to test how well Cloud was focusing on me. 

Cloud was very happy and excited to come ‘home’. In a sea of new-ness, something familiar was appreciated. She still responded (a bit less) defensively to Krüger’s play attempt, but she engaged in playful behavior afterwards (Krüger erred on the side of caution, and avoided her again). She seems much more comfortable in his (and my) presence, and is pacing much less than yesterday. She is even becoming playful with me, to the point of jumping up (which is corrected by lifting my knee as she jumps, and ignoring her until she’s got four-on-the-floor). She elects to sit on the bench behind me while we are out in the yard for some well deserved rest & relaxation. 

Later in the evening when Krüger and I returned from dinner with my family and my evening walk with Rascal (another regular client), Cloud and Krüger played and ran around the yard together. Cloud would still overreact a bit, but she is much more lighthearted about it, and they easily turn it into silly antics. She finished both her meals, and seems to be settling in very well. I am glad she is coming out of her shell and feeling more comfortable and confident!


Pupdate 2/14/2023

Cloud continues to grow more comfortable and settled in my home, has been eating well and has regular bowel movements.  She whines a bit when in the baby-gated area and in the kennel. When she does this, I will wait until she’s quiet before giving her attention, affection, or free-time. This decreases the behavior by not reinforcing it. She is mingling well with my dog, and they had a few good play-sessions in the evening.

We returned to the park to practice her obedience more. Her heel is looking better, and she is staying next to me more consistently. I am needing to use leash-pressure less as she becomes more familiar with walking correctly and the ecollar stimulation. Cloud will still pop up from her sit when initially asked for an extended sit, particularly as I am moving away. In addition to holding her sit for increased durations, we worked on increasing distance using a 15-foot leash. She is working on building her confidence while I am further away from her, and may be attempting to follow me as a source of security. When this happens, I will re-cue the behavior with a verbal and/or visual cue paired with a low-level ecollar stimulation. I mix up releasing Cloud from her sit or walking back up her so she doesn’t always know what to expect. Sometimes dogs will break their cue early in anticipation for their release word, and changing sequences helps combat this. 

Cloud was also introduced to “down” and “extended down”. I would use either leash-pressure or food-luring to shape the behavior, and mark with “yes!” as soon as her elbows touched the ground before offering reinforcements in the form of treats, affection, and praise. It took her a bit of time to understand what I was asking, but she caught on quickly afterwards. After learning down, I also increased the duration and distance gradually. If Cloud had a hard time maintaining her cue for either, I would decrease the amount so she could be successful before increasing it again. 

We have been practicing “door manners” at home, where she is expected to sit and wait for an invitation (“break!”) rather than bolting passed me and through the threshold. We have been practicing when Cloud is coming out from the kennel, at the door to the yard, when we enter/exit the front door, and at the babygate. 


Pupdate 2/15/2023

Today Cloud and I worked on her obedience cues in the home. When they are first learning, it can be beneficial to build on their understanding in lower-distraction environments. In addition to extended sit and extended down, Cloud was introduced to the command “place”. Place is where a dog is asked to go to a definable object. Once they do, they can be cued to sit or down (or they can choose a position if a cue isn’t provided). To teach “place” I guided Cloud onto a mat-style dog bed, which is kept in the gated area. Food lures were used to entice her to the correct spot. Once the behavior was being readily offered, I introduced the visual cue of an open palm, facing up, and gliding towards the object. To prevent confusing with the “down” visual (palm facing down and arcing towards the ground— I usually point my middle and index fingers as well), her handler should glide their “place” gesture parallel to the ground, or upwards towards an elevated platform. As “a definable object”, place can be used for elevated platforms, which are very easy for a dog to distinguish. Cloud will have “place” on the mat-bed for “food manners”, and the cot by the front door for “door manners” where the door is left open (which she will learn later in her program). 

Cloud is already quite good with “food manners” and will wait until cued to eat, however she stares intensely at the food the whole time, and has a habit of breaking her position when offered other verbal cues. When working on “food manners”, I would prefer Cloud to focus on me, and eventually perform other obedience cues while her bowl is down, prior to being offered “break!” (when she’s allowed to go eat). 

Later in the day, Cloud and I walked to TeWinkle Park, which is just outside my neighborhood. Cloud was fitted with her ecollar, and a 15-ft-leash (longline) attached to her buckle-collar. This allows Cloud the opportunity for error, and we focus on problem-solving and ecollar stimulation rather than leash-pressure when mistakes are made. Cloud did well, and I was able to cue her back into the correct position with verbal cues, or using my hand to “target” and guide her. If Cloud starts to veer off course or speed ahead, I will cue with “ah-ah!” followed by “heel”. When she is in the correct spot again, I will cue “yes! good heel!” and provide and ear-scratch or verbal praise. She was distracted by the ducks, children, dogs, and squirrels, but was good about refocusing on me. 

At the park, we also worked on “placing” up onto various objects, such as rocks or park benches. I want to build her confidence to leap onto things, as this will help greatly with “car manners” later on in her program. 

Cloud also got to meet a fellow golden retriever named Honey, and a yorkie during her outing. They frequent the park in the late afternoon, and I bump into them regularly. She was a little shy at first, more so with the humans, but warmed up quickly to some affection and sniffing. 


Pupdate 2/16/2023

We started our morning off with some in-home obedience training, including home manners. In addition to practicing her other cues, Cloud was introduced to come-to-sit. For this cue, the dog must not only recall, but loop behing their handler’s right side, and sit in the “heel” position on their left. This is a complex behavior which can take a bit of time to master. To teach this behavior, I used a leash connected to Cloud’s flat-collar and helped guide her with gentle leash-pressure. 

 Afterwards, Cloud attended me on a walk with Kona in the afternoon. Cloud was on her ecollar and longline (attached to flat collar), and it was kept dragging for the entirety of the walk. The longline is an “emergency brake” as Cloud becomes familiar with her training, and more composed around distractions. Cloud gets very nervous around loud noises, even if they are in the distance. Noises will be a focal point over the weekend, to ensure she can remain calm and perform her obedience when faced with them. Currently, Cloud loses focus and becomes rather ‘darty’. 

After our walk with Kona, Cloud and I met up with other OLSC trainers and their dogs at La Mirada regional park. Cloud was on the same equipment as her walk with Kona, however I had to step on the leash a couple of times when she got spooked. We practiced heel, place on more challenging (higher & novel) objects, increasing duration & distance with extended cues, and come-to-sit. Cloud gets scared sometimes if a leaf gets stuck on her longline when it’s dragging, and fixated on “noisy” trucks across the street. 


Pupdate 2/17/2023

Cloud has a bit of an upset stomach today. She did not eat much of her breakfast, and threw up what looks like bile & fur. She is still active and playful, and we did the rounds of our usual in-home practice. We are working on solidifying the different visual and verbal cues to help prevent confusion. Cloud also has trouble responding to a cue from where she is, and will try to approach me before offering what I’ve asked. 

I introduced Cloud to “car manners”, and since she has become familiar with “place”, it was easy for her to figure out she can leap up over my tailgate and into her travel-kennel. She gets a bit overly excited, and tries to enter the car before given the “load up” cue. We want the dogs to sit and wait patiently for an invitation. 

After working on car manners, we stopped by the Petco in Costa Mesa to expose Cloud to a new environment and new distractions. She pants heavily when in a new place due to stress, so gradual exposure is key. She did well in Petco, however she exhibited some of the behaviors we had been working on correcting in the home. She heeled very well, and got to practice “greeting manners”, where she sat nicely while people pet her. 


Pupdate 2/18/2023

Cloud and I worked on home manners and obedience in the morning after breakfast. She seems to be getting her appetite back, and her poops look normal. We worked on differentiating cues, and holding her extended positions for longer.

In the afternoon, two other dogs came to my home for a meet & greet. The four dogs played together for about 45 minutes— Cloud had a blast.

Later in the day, Cloud and I went to Home Depot in Costa Mesa to introduce her to more distractions, including loud noises, groups of people, machinery, new objects, and new smells. She was very nervous in the beginning, so we practiced “heel” around the store while she acclimated to the new & numerous stimuli. Cloud performed her obedience once she got settled in, but was still unnerved by loud noises at times.


Pupdate 2/19/2023

Cloud and I returned to a local park to practice her obedience and work out some kinks she exhibits during her training. To help Cloud be successful, I wanted to work her in a mildly distracting environment outside of my home since she gets nervous. The main issues she has are loud noises, creeping toward me when asked for down, and offering come-to-sit when told to do different cues. Her heel is looking very sharp, and her turns are improving although she still struggles occasionally with left-hand turns in towards her when making U-turns. She was reluctant to “place” on some objects, but we continually tried until she was performing place consistently on them. Cloud is improving on her distance/duration cues, but will still pop-up from time to time. 

Cloud performed well with the distractions around her, and even held her extended sit and heel as an unruly little dog kept approaching and following her. The small dog was untrained and offleash, and had just been rescued by its owners after it jumped into the pond. 

Cloud is getting better about dropping things she shouldn’t get ahold of vs. turning it into a game of keep-away. Since she isn’t always on her ecollar, and rarely has a longline on while in the yard, it is sometimes a two-steps-forward-one-step-back struggle. However, she has gotten to the point where a sharp “ah-ah! off!” is enough to get her to drop what she’s got. 

Cloud was introduced to a 145lb Newfoundland, who will be boarding here for the remainder of Cloud's stay. He is a very sweet boy, but at 15 months old, he is also goofy, obnoxious, and unaware of his size. They play well together, however Cloud needs to correct him when he's being too forward. If the Newfie doesn't take Cloud's hints, I will put him (and everyone else) in an extended-down so they can calm down and practice obedience when in an excited state.


Pupdate 2/20/2023

Cloud finished her dinner from yesterday when I left it in her kennel overnight. She was less enthusiastic about breakfast this morning, but finished it later in the day. 

Cloud and I went to The Block Outlet Mall in Orange to test her obedience today. It was packed with people celebrating the holiday, with special vendors displaying their wares. It was very overwhelming for Cloud, so after practicing heel, we just sat and people-watched as she rehearsed extended sit and extended down. She is still thrown off by loud noises, and even some odd not-so-loud ones. She was fine with things like strollers, shopping bags, dogs, and children, but had a difficult time with things like popcorn machines and rideable-toy-motorcycles. She was more at-ease when given something to do. 

After about hour and a half at the mall practicing her obedience and acclimating to the bustle, Cloud performed her obedience well, but hesitated when asked for down. She wanted to stay close to me as a security-blanket since she was still quite nervous. She also took some encouragement before placing on some objects. During greeting manners, Cloud held her sit well, but was obviously discomforted by the encounters, as she would lean as far away from the people as possible. Overall, Cloud is progressing in her training, however building up her confidence among crowds and new places continues to be her greatest hinderance. 


Pupdate 2/21/2023

Cloud and I returned to Home Depot to work on her obedience around loud noises and strange machines. She was nervous in the beginning. We practiced longline-dragging heel throughout the store to get her more comfortable, then we practiced extended sit, down, & place. When she would hear an unexpected, loud noise she would sometimes break cue. Noise and crowd desensitization continues to need attention. 

Cloud performed her obedience well after some time adjusting, and come-to-sit is one of her favorites. She is getting into the habit walking slightly passed me and sitting ahead, so we are working on correcting position. 

When leaving public areas (Petco, the mall, or Home Depot), Cloud has a tendency to try running out into the parking lot. This is dangerous, so I make sure I’m holding the end of the longline when near entrances. This may be a “get me out of here!” gesture, however it is important to work her at the entrances before leaving. We do not want to reinforce her ‘flee’ response, instead we want her to work through it and learn to cope. 


Pupdate 2/22/2023

Cloud worked on polishing up her obedience and manners in the home today. I want to make sure she understands what is asked and how to follow-through with cues before we dove into very distracting environments. This will help Cloud feel more at ease in new and distracting places since she can be confident in what’s expected and continue to build on that confidence as she’s reinforced for correct behaviors. 

We have been practicing Cloud’s “door manners”, and have been introducing her to manners at the front door. During door manners at the front door, I have Cloud “place” on the cot behind the couch near the entryway. This allows Cloud a solid position and command while working on impulse control, we well as security with being alone & in one spot. Cloud had a difficult time with me leaving her line-of-sight, and required a few corrections. As soon as she broke her “place”, I would cue “ah-ah!” and guide her back to the cot. I would repeat the steps, but decrease duration, distance, or time out of sight so that she could be successful. 

Cloud is doing great with other home manners, including car and food manners, however her greeting manners still need some work, since it take a bit more time for dogs to get over fearful/anxious behavior around certain triggers. 

We worked on extended place, sit, & down a lot today, and she has been getting much better about holding her cues for long durations. We will begin to expect greater duration in public moving forward since she has had ample time to rehearse in lower-distraction environments. 

We also worked on brushing today, and working on desensitization and acceptance. Grooming is an essential part of a dog’s wellbeing. We also worked on body-handling, with exercises that might be required during a vet exam (checking paws, ears, mouth). 


Pupdate 2/23/2023

Cloud continued to work on obedience and manners in the home. She discovered the wet sandy area of the yard, and that digging is fun, so she has been wearing her ecollar more while playing outside. She has been holding her place well, but broke it when someone came by to visit. The added distraction of a guest inside the home was something Cloud needed several corrections for. I had her “place” on the cot by the couch with my dog so they could both practice impulse control and manners. 

Later in the day, we found a break in the rain and went to Fashion Island in Newport Beach. With the crummy weather it wasn’t very busy, so this was a perfect opportunity to practice obedience in a mall setting. Cloud was less nervous than when she was ‘flooded’ at the mall earlier this week, so she was quicker to adjust and performed her training better. The practice in low-distraction-home-environment most likely helped as well. Regardless, Cloud was still nervous entering a new area, and took a bit of time to adjust. 

We focused on placing by fountains. Cloud was a bit antsy about the water sounds, so I wanted to build her exposure and confidence. Her biggest issue today was going into a down when asked for a sit. She darted ahead of me during heel when she heard a loud noise, and was hesitant to place on a couple 'higher' objects. She was also reluctant to 'place' on the car, as kids we're playing ping pong inside the store— which made her nervous. We pushed through her anxiety and she was successful in performing the cues asked after some repetition.

Cloud received many compliments!


Pupdate 2/24/2023

Cloud and I went to Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrence to work on her obedience around distractions in a busy indoor mall. With the crummy weather all day, this was the best place to test her training and to see how her nerves handled crowds. Cloud was very nervous inside the mall, and had a hard time focusing. She would confuse some of her cues, or break them early to get next to me or another familiar person. After she had some time to adjust, Cloud performed her obedience well, but would still break cues when too overwhelmed (such as a massive crowd of people very close to her as seen in the video). 

At one point, a balloon popped when Cloud and I were directly in front of the store. Cloud was very startled, and bolted ahead and away from the very close & very loud noise. She composed herself quickly and recalled well, however her nerves were shot for quite some time after the ordeal, and she was trembling. 

I took Cloud to a more quiet nook, and we sat together for a while waiting for her anxiety to level off. I wanted her to get back to a baseline state-of-mind before leaving the area. After she calmed down, she still remained a bit on-edge, and was constantly scoping around looking for ‘danger’. Although Cloud can perform her obedience well, her nervous personality remains a challenge in busy areas. 


Pupdate 2/25/2023

Although it was raining the entire day, Cloud and I practiced in-home obedience and manners. We polished up her understanding of cues, increased duration and distance, and had other dogs as a distraction.

Cloud and I walked to the local park briefly offleash, but our outing was short-lived due to hail. Cloud did well, and is much more confident in lower distraction environments (although she loves rain, and it provided a good distraction as well).

Cloud can’t wait to show her family what she’s learned!


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