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Koko | Labrador Retriever | Downey, CA | In-Training


Meet Koko, she's a five-month-old Labrador Retriever from Downey, California! This sweet and playful pup is here with us for our Two-Week Board and Train Program, where we will be teaching her basic obedience as well as overall manners. She doesn't have much knowledge of any basic commands yet, and has a short attention span which causes her to be easily distracted. She comes to us with some undesirable behaviors that are common with puppies, such as playfully biting people, pulling on the leash, jumping up on people, and climbing onto furniture around the house. She also tends to have some anxiety when experiencing new things and while in certain environments. Over the next fourteen days, we will be working on improving her confidence, obedience, and manners both on and off-leash to set her on the right path to becoming a well-behaved pup. Stay tuned for her transformation!


 

Pupdate 4/16/2023



Today Koko and I spent the day bonding at the park and getting to know each other! She had a good time running around, exploring, and playing with me at the park. She was very excited to meet me, and was constantly jumping up on me to try and get my attention. This is something that we will be working on during our time together, as teaching a dog to be polite and have good greeting manners is very important. This is especially true for larger breed puppies like Koko, as she can accidentally knock people over or injure them if the jumping habit remains as she grows into her adult size.


After she had a chance to explore her environment and become more familiar with me, I tested her knowledge of commands by asking her basic positions such as come, sit, and down. She didn't respond to any of these commands, and was more interested in sniffing around the area and trying to eat things off the floor instead of paying attention to me or listening to anything I said. She did come towards my general direction a few times when I encouraged her with some extra excitement, though her recall was not reliable and she would immediately wander off again. She also didn't seem to have any concept of heel, and was running around me and pulling on the leash constantly to go where she wanted. She may be small now, though as she gets older the pulling can become a bigger issue if it is allowed to continue, so working on building her engagement with me and awareness of where I am as we walk will be one of the primary focuses in our upcoming training.


Koko also didn't seem to have any understanding of leash pressure, and would often try to ignore the pressure and continue pulling away when it was applied in an attempt to guide her. As she progresses in her training, she will come to learn what the pressure means, and will begin to understand that her actions are what determine when the pressure turns on or off. When she is asked to do something such as to come over to me, the pressure will turn on, and the moment she makes the right choice and follows through with what is asked of her, it will turn off. This is something most dogs pick up on fairly quickly, so she should begin to show progress in her understanding of pressure within a couple of days. Leash pressure is also useful as it provides clear physical direction for her to follow, so getting her to first understand this concept will allow us to gradually introduce new forms of pressure such as with the e-collar.


After our time at the park, it was time to head home and get her acclimated to the home environment she will be in during her stay with me. She seemed to lack confidence about jumping into my car when it was time to leave, and needed to be given lots of encouragement and assistance in order to get her into the back of the car. When transporting dogs, the safest way is for them to ride in a secure kennel. Though Koko seemed to have some fear and anxiety about the kennel, and refused to go in on her own so it became a struggle to get her inside. Once I did get her inside the kennel, she calmed down a bit and had no issue being in there for the ride home. Upon arriving home, we encountered another obstacle. There is a set of stairs that must be climbed up to get to my residence, and Koko seemed to lack confidence and was afraid to climb up them. She needed a lot of reassurance and physical help to climb up the stairs for most of the way, though towards the end she was able to slowly make it up the rest of the way alright on her own. Once we got inside, she had a chance to unwind and relax a bit since she seemed to be overwhelmed by today's events. I've noticed she tends to pant excessively regardless of physical exercise or heat level, which can be an indicator of anxiety in dogs. After she had a chance to calm down and get settled in, I asked her to go into the kennel that's in her room. She put up a similar fight as earlier with this, and she refused to go into the kennel willingly, so she had to be physically guided into it in order to get her inside. Once inside, she did settle down for a nap and seems to be doing well now. She didn't want to eat very much today, but that is likely due to the stress of being in a new environment away from her usual home. Her fears and anxiety may pose a challenge for now, though as she becomes more comfortable and confident through training, these issues should improve over time.



 

Pupdate 4/17/2023





Koko and I spent today training in quiet areas around my neighborhood, where she could have the best opportunity to learn and focus without too many major distractions. I introduced her to the come to sit command today, which is a good command to begin with as it builds engagement and encourages her to come to me when recalled. The goal for come to sit is to be able to call her from a distance away, have her approach my right side, circle around my back, and end in a sit on my left side. When we start working on heel, having her be familiar with the come to sit command will be helpful, as once the maneuver is complete she will be in a perfect position to begin walking in a heel on my left side.


Since she is brand new to the come to sit command and recall in general, I first began by teaching her the basics of recall. I kept the distance between us short by being only a couple of steps away, and when I gave the command I applied gentle leash pressure to guide her toward me. Whenever she followed the leash and came to me willingly, she would be given praise and reward to encourage her to come whenever she was called. After many repetitions, she started to show progress in understanding what was being asked of her, and was able to come to me when called with minimal leash pressure needed to guide her. Once she understood she was supposed to come to me when called and was getting more consistent with it, I added the next step of this command by guiding her around to my left side, then into a sit. She needed constant leash pressure to guide her to the correct position each time, but she started to get the hang of sitting when asked rather quickly. As the days go on we will continue working on this command together, and over time she will begin to understand it better and become much more consistent with it.


We also worked on getting Koko to stop pulling on the leash while walking, which is a good first step in working towards getting her to walk in a heel position. When using a flat collar and leash, she was pulling heavily and did not show much understanding that she was the one causing the pressure she felt from the tension in the leash. To help her learn this concept easier, I switched the leash from a flat collar to a prong collar. This makes the action of pulling less comfortable, which discourages her from continuously pulling. After just a few minutes of walking with the prong collar, she quickly realized that walking nicely alongside me not only meant it was more comfortable as there was no pressure for her, but she also received praise and reward for this behavior, which further encouraged her to stop pulling. We also worked on building her engagement with me as we walk, as it's important that she checks in with me regularly and pays attention to where I am going. As she transitions away from her habit of being the one to lead the walks by pulling, and instead learns to follow along in a heel, she will need to focus on my movement so that she can always stay in the proper position. I introduced this concept to her by making lots of turns and sudden stops, which encourages her to focus on me as she cannot predict where I am leading her.



 

Pupdate 4/18/2023



Today Koko and I spent the day introducing her to the place and heel commands, as well as continuing to practice come to sit. We began by introducing the place command while at home with minimal distractions, and as she began to show progress we eventually moved the training outdoors to a local park where we continued practicing place and her other commands with slightly more distractions present.


The goal for the place command is for her to jump or climb onto an object such as a bench, a bed, or another type of platform or seating area, and then hold a stationary command such as sit or down. I introduced the command today by asking her to perform place on a bed inside my home. She knows the bed is comfortable and safe, and is familiar with jumping onto it. By practicing with something easy and familiar like this, we can increase her understanding of the command and have greater chances of success when introducing her to brand new place objects outside of the home. Despite her having no issue climbing onto the bed when she chooses to on her own, she was a bit hesitant about performing place on it when asked. She needed a lot of encouragement and a bit of leash pressure to help her understand what I was asking of her. After many repetitions, she began to show some understanding of the place command, but was not consistent about jumping up onto the object when asked the first time. Once she did jump up, I would ask for a sit which she was able to do, though she did struggle to hold the position for more than a few moments before she would get up or jump back down. To increase her chances of success, I kept the duration short by only asking her to stay sitting for about ten seconds before she was given the release command and praise. Once she was able to jump onto the place object more consistently when asked and was able to hold a sit for at least ten seconds, we took a walk to a local park to continue our training there.


The park we visited was rather quiet today, but still had some distractions such as grass, small animals, and a couple of people and dogs in the distance. The park also has a wide selection of objects that can be used to practice place with, such as a playground, benches, and picnic tables. I started her off by asking her to place on a large, low platform within the playground. Despite being able to jump onto the bed which is much higher than the platform, Koko showed extreme hesitation towards placing on the platform and refused to climb onto it on her own. With some leash pressure and lots of encouragement, she finally got all four paws onto the platform and was able to sit when asked. Once she got into a sit she didn't have much trouble holding it, though was again very nervous and hesitant about jumping back down when recalled or given the release command even though it was only a couple of inches off the floor. With many more repetitions, she did gain some more courage and had an easier time climbing onto the platform when asked, though was still not very consistent with it and often needed leash pressure to guide her onto it. This command seems to be a struggle for her, as she lacks confidence and tends to be scared of new things, so for now we will continue practicing with easy place objects like we did today until she becomes more comfortable. The goal is to have her be able to jump onto any object she can physically reach on command, and for her size, she should have no issue with jumping onto standard-sized benches and seating areas. We will also be working on gradually adding duration and distance from her so that she can learn to hold stationary commands and place for longer periods of time as well as while I am not standing right beside her.


While at the park we also continued our work on come to sit, and further built upon her understanding of loose leash walking and heel. She has shown some progress for the come to sit command, and is able to sit nicely where I ask her to more often than not, though more work will need to be done as she is still not very consistent about coming to me when called and needs constant leash pressure to guide her towards me and into the proper position at my side. She wasn't pulling on the leash nearly as much today while walking, which shows yesterday's lesson was helpful for her and is a great sign of progress. Now that she is able to focus and is not busy constantly pulling ahead anymore, I began using the heel command paired with pressure to remind her where I want her to be any time she veered off a bit too far. I'm not looking for a picture perfect heel just yet, though ensuring she stays on my left side and close to my leg as we walk will build up her understanding of what it means when I ask for a heel. Whenever she is in proper position, she is encouraged with praise and reward, and when she strays too far she is reminded to heel and brought back to the position. We also practiced making lots of turns, which she did struggle with at first and sometimes wasn't paying attention which caused her to hit the end of the leash, but she quickly caught on and began focusing more so she could turn with me. As she gets better about staying near me and following my lead, we will gradually increase the standards to which she is held, which will clean up her heel positioning over time. Since the pulling issue has lessened, we transitioned away from the prong collar to a slip lead instead. The slip lead provides clear directional leash pressure for her, which allows me to have an easier time guiding and communicating to her through the leash. She seems to be getting the hang of the meaning of leash pressure now, which will make our training going forward much easier. I also introduced the e-collar today during our session by paring the stimulation from the e-collar with the leash pressure and verbal commands. This is to teach her that the e-collar means the same thing as the leash pressure, and once she has a solid understanding of this we will gradually be able to start weaning off leash pressure to achieve the goal of eventually having her be able to listen and perform all commands while off leash!



 

Pupdate 4/19/2023




Koko and I worked on all of her commands today, including the introduction of the down command. We began our training at home, where we could introduce her to down in a calm and distraction-free environment. We then took a walk over to a local outdoor shopping strip, where we could continue our training in a busy and distracting area to test her focus and new skills.


Down can be a tough position for some dogs to perform on command, as it's an instinctually vulnerable and submissive position. Koko tends to have trouble feeling comfortable enough to lie down on her own in public places, as she tends to be over-excited or experience anxiety while in highly stimulating environments, making it hard for her to relax or sit still. To have a greater chance of success in teaching her the down command, we began the training in a quiet room of my home, where she can feel as safe and relaxed as possible to encourage learning and understanding. I began by asking her to perform a sit, which she has a good understanding of now and is able to do so on command, and then used gentle leash pressure to guide her into the down position. Once she followed the leash pressure and touched her elbows to the floor, she received lots of praise to reward her. After many repetitions, she began to understand what was being asked of her, and began to lie down on command with minimal leash pressure or guidance needed. We also practiced place some more while inside the home, where we continued to practice with the bed as a place object. She had an easier time performing place on it today, and was able to perform both sit and down on it when asked.


After our training session at home, we took a walk to a nearby shopping strip, where there were lots of people and other dogs walking along the sidewalks, as well as loud cars and buses passing by. This environment was a bit overwhelming for Koko, and she was very distracted during most of the session here. She was able to maintain focus here and there, though would quickly break commands to focus on nearby distractions. When walking along more empty areas of the sidewalk she was able to follow my instructions closely and walk very nicely in a heel with almost no leash pressure needed. Though any time a person or dog walked by us, she would break heel and try to pull directly towards them in an attempt to jump up on them and greet them. When this happened, I told her the verbal command "off", and then reminded her to return to heel position as we continued walking. Off is the general command used when she is doing something we don't like, and is similar to how others might use "no" or "leave it". The goal for the off command is for her to immediately stop whatever she is doing, and instead pay attention to what is being asked of her. By not allowing her to pull to get what she wants, she did get a bit frustrated and would bite at the leash, and try to jump on or nip at me. Sometimes dogs will act out like this to protest, with hopes that they can get what they want if they throw a tantrum. In this case, she hoped that by acting out I would give up on asking for a heel, and allow her to pull towards the people or dogs. It's important to not give in to this behavior, as it will reinforce and encourage her to behave badly to get out of having to do what is asked of her. After passing by many people and going through the same process each time, she finally started to understand that she was not going to be allowed to run up and greet everyone she saw, and had an easier time remembering to remain in a heel even as we passed by other people.


We also worked more on come to sit and place while at the shopping strip. She did a good job at come to sit for the most part, though would again get frustrated and throw a tantrum if I recalled her away from a distraction. When focused, she was able to come right to me when called and only needed occasional light leash pressure to guide her into the proper position once she got to me and was able to sit nicely at my left side. Though if she was busy smelling something on the floor or looking at something interesting nearby, she would ignore the recall command and needed to be guided towards me with the leash pressure to get her to come over. She would often try to fight this, and protest by jumping up and biting and pawing at the leash, which would get her tangled in it and make applying leash pressure to bring her towards me more difficult. In these moments the e-collar was a handy tool, and she has a good understanding of what the e-collar stimulation means now. After trying to protest a few times, she learned that even if she disrupted the leash pressure, the e-collar would still be present and could be used to bring her toward me, which discouraged her from trying to fight the leash when recalled. As for place, she was a bit more confident with this today, and was able to jump onto a few different low place objects when asked, with only light leash pressure needed to guide her. She did refuse to jump onto higher objects such as benches though, and needed a lot of encouragement and physical guidance to help her up. I also tested her skill with the down command she learned earlier, though she was a bit too overwhelmed with the environment to focus, and was not able to lie down on command and needed to be physically guided into a down position. Overall she has made good progress today, and has made clear the areas of her training that will need some extra work during our time together.



 

Pupdate 4/20/2023



Today Koko and I visited a Home Depot, where we could work on her commands with added distractions. She was hesitant again about jumping into the car when it was time to load up for the car ride, but after some extra encouragement, she was able to jump into the car on her own for the first time! Unfortunately, she still refuses to go into the kennel in the car willingly, similar to how she is behaving with the kennel at home. When it's time to enter the kennel, she will get nervous and try very hard to prevent going in and needs to be physically guided in each time. Though once she's in the kennel, she doesn't seem to have any issue with settling down nicely for naps and car rides. The goal is to help her develop a positive association with the kennel during our time together, and help her work through the fear she has about going inside. This will teach her that the kennel is a safe and relaxing space for her, which will encourage her to go into it willingly and not put up a fight about it.


When we arrived at Home Depot, Koko seemed very overwhelmed with the amount of people, shopping carts, and other distractions present there. We walked straight through to the back of the store where it was quieter, and she was able to calm down a bit after a few minutes. Once she was able to focus, we began working on heel in the back of the store. She did a good job with heel, and was much better about maintaining focus on me and following alongside me as I walked and made turns. She also showed a good understanding of the e-collar today when working on heel, which allowed us to practice with using the e-collar and leash pressure interchangeably. We practiced loose leash walking, where she was given only the verbal command and hand signals paired with the e-collar stimulation for guidance and reinforcement of the heel position. Overall she did a good job with this and was able to walk nicely in heel without needing any leash pressure for the majority of the time. I did notice she seemed to still need some leash pressure when we made turns sometimes though, so to help her practice today I did use some minimal leash pressure to help indicate which way we were going when I noticed she wasn't paying close enough attention to make a turn properly. As she gets more familiar with heel and the e-collar, she will eventually not need the leash pressure to help her know where to go.


While in the back end of the store, we also worked on her come to sit, down, and extended sit commands. She did a good job at come to sit today, and seems to be getting the hang of this command and the maneuver. Though she is still not yet completely reliable when around distractions, and still needs occasional leash pressure to guide her. As for down, she was able to lie down on command, though did need a bit of physical guidance to help her most times. She didn't try to fight it nearly as much today, and was usually quick to follow the command once she was guided a bit. We kept the duration for the down command short today, by only asking her to hold a down for around ten seconds at a time. This increased her chances of success each time and helped her to build a positive association with performing the down command when asked in public places. We were able to add some more duration to her sit command though, as she has a good understanding of sit and is more comfortable performing it. We gradually began adding more time with each repetition until she was consistently able to hold it for about thirty seconds. Whenever she broke command before she was released, the time would reset and she would be asked to immediately return to the position and reminded to hold it again. Not allowing her to get up or break position whenever she feels like it teaches her discipline and obedience, and helps her to understand that she needs to hold positions until released or given a new command. This will help us work towards the goal of having her hold each stationary command for at least two minutes.


After the successful training around the quiet areas of the store, Koko and I made our way to the busier areas of the store to test her focus and comfort level around the higher amount of distractions. She seemed to be better prepared for the distractions than earlier now that she was warmed up to training, and she had a much easier time listening and following directions. She was still rather anxious and over-stimulated at times, but she was able to follow through with everything I asked of her. At first she was a bit unsure of the big shopping carts some people were pushing past, and sometimes would pull a bit on the leash to try to get away from them. Though after she understood she could safely walk past them without anything bad happening, she became more comfortable remaining in heel position and not letting it scare her away. She was able to perform come to sit without much issue, though was a bit less precise with her positioning than usual due to her not being as focused. She was able to hold a sit for about thirty seconds here also, and did not get up even as people and shopping carts moved by. She also did much better about not pulling towards anyone as they walked by, and knew that she needed to stay by me in heel even if there were lots of people she wanted to greet nearby.



 

Pupdate 4/21/2023





Koko and I visited a park today, where we met up with some other OffLeash SoCal trainers and their pups! We practiced each of her commands there, and she showed fantastic progress with each of them. She also was able to hop into my car on her own today, and was able to enter the kennel in the car willingly which is a great sign of her becoming more comfortable. She was also a bit more confident today, and didn't seem too overstimulated or anxious about the park's environment. When we get to the point in her training when we begin working on her off-leash skills, this will be an important aspect to note, as her ability to properly follow commands and instructions in different environments is situationally based. While in a calmer environment such as a park, she seems to have an easier time relaxing and keeping her focus, allowing her to listen and follow through with what is asked of her. Whereas in busy places with many major distractions she tends to easily become overwhelmed and anxious which could make off-leash training stressful and possibly dangerous if there are risks nearby such as busy streets. When the time comes to begin working off-leash, the environments we train in will be chosen carefully to increase her chances of success as well as to keep her safe. With continued training and exposure, her tolerance level to a variety of distractions and environments will gradually increase, though until she is ready for those kinds of situations, I feel it will be best to keep her on leash unless in a safe and calm area.


While at the park, she was excited to see the other dogs and trainers, but was able to control herself and behave in a polite manner around them. She was able to walk nicely in a heel with a loose leash, even as we walked alongside the other trainers and their pups. She did try to sniff them now and then, though she quickly listened when told "off", and understood she had to remain in the position that was asked of her. She did need some light leash pressure on occasion when making turns in a heel, though overall she responded very well to the e-collar while practicing heel and was quick to correct her positioning without additional guidance when asked. She also made some great progress with performing place today, and was able to jump onto a low platform on the playground with little to no hesitation. This was a great step for her, as the last time we practiced with a playground platform similar to this, she was very scared of it and refused to go near it let alone consistently perform place on it willingly. She wasn't quite sure of it the first time I asked her to place there today, but after a bit of encouragement she was able to conquer her fear and perform place on it easily with each repetition after that point. She's not quite ready to place on higher objects just yet, but with more practice she will soon gain the confidence and skill needed. She was also able to perform down on command again today, and oftentimes did not need any leash pressure or physical guidance to assist her. She did try to nibble on the leash or my hands sometimes when being asked to lie down, though would quickly stop when told the off command and was able to settle into the down position whenever I asked her to. We worked on adding some extra distance to each of her stationary commands, and she was easily able to hold sit, down, and place for around a minute today which is a great improvement from her previous times. She was even able to remain in a sit or down while the other trainers and their pups walked around and worked on their training around her, and didn't seem too distracted by them apart from wanting to watch them sometimes. She was also comfortable with me taking several steps away from her, and was consistent with holding her positions while I was at a distance of around five to six feet away. More practice will need to be done before she can comfortably hold her stationary positions at greater distances though, as she does tend to get insecure and want to come towards me if I move too far away from her.



 

Pupdate 4/22/2023



Today Koko and I visited an outdoor shopping mall, where we could work on each of her commands in a moderately distracting environment. It wasn't overly busy here, but there were some common distractions for us to test her focus and discipline around such as groups of people walking around and smells from various restaurants. She seemed to be pretty comfortable and calm at this location for the most part, though she did have a few moments where she had some anxiety and frustration. The mall is close by to a busy street, and whenever a particularly loud car passed by or horns were honked, Koko would get nervous and not respond to commands for a few moments until she could calm down and regain focus. She also got a bit frustrated at one point with the come to sit command, and began jumping up at me as well as biting and pawing at the leash in protest of having to come to me when asked. This started when some nearby people were calling to and talking to her, and she got distracted by them and wanted to go over to them, and then became upset that I was asking for a recall. I worked her through this by ignoring her tantrums and doing many repetitions of come to sit until she finally calmed down and was able to perform the command without protest, at which point she was rewarded with lots of praise. Once she got it out of her system and remembered that this behavior is not effective in getting what she wants, she was able to do much better job with the command and did not have any more outbursts or need constant leash pressure to guide her. I have included a clip of us working through this behavior in the video today to share what it looks like and how we handled it.


Over the past week, we have been working on building up her tolerance for new environments and distractions, as well as her understanding and consistency with each command. Each day we have been gradually increasing the difficulty by working around new types of distractions, slowly weaning off leash pressure, as well as adding more distance and longer durations for her stationary commands. While at the mall Koko and I spent time walking around working on cleaning up her heel with no leash pressure used. She showed great improvement with this today, and even during turns she was able to focus and follow alongside me as we switched directions even if the leash was hanging loosely. She also did a good job of stopping when I did, instead of continuing on or stepping out in front of me. She was able to walk past groups of people and resisted the urge to try to approach strangers as they passed, and was also able to ignore other dogs that were walking nearby. She did lag behind or slightly veer off a few times when she tried to sniff things on the floor now and then, but would quickly stop what she was doing and catch up with me and return to position when reminded of "off" and heel. As we continue working on heel, these moments of her breaking position will greatly decrease as she learns discipline and patience. She is beginning to understand that if she can refrain from getting distracted when asked to do something, she will be free to sniff around and explore once given the release command, which acts as a nice break between commands as well as a reward for a job well done.


We also worked on introducing her to some new place objects, and she was able to jump onto a flat seating area with no hesitation or anxiety about it which was great to see. We practiced with a few different types of objects, but she was a bit nervous about some of them, like ones that were higher up than she is used to or that were not flat solid surfaces like slotted benches. She was able to jump onto them after a few tries with some extra encouragement and assistance, but she was still nervous and uncomfortable and wasn't able to hold positions for as long as she normally could. She also needed some leash pressure when asked to perform a sit or down on these place objects, and needed to be constantly reassured and reminded to hold her position. We kept the durations short with the objects she wasn't quite comfortable with, to help build her confidence with each successful attempt. I included a clip in today's video of us working with one of the place objects that she was hesitant about. When on place objects she was more confident in and while on the solid ground, she had no problem performing sit and down with no leash pressure, and was able to hold these positions for about a minute and a half, which is almost reaching our goal of two minutes! I also made use of a long leash today to allow me to create additional distance between us while still having the leash attached if the need for it arose. She seemed comfortable with me stepping back to about ten feet today, though if I went any further than that she would tend to get up and break command to get closer to me or wander off, so we kept the distance to the maximum range she could reliably work with today.



 

Pupdate 4/23/2023





Koko and I visited a local park today, where we continued practicing each of her commands. We focused on adding extra distance and duration to her stationary commands, as well as working on her heel, come to sit, and other commands with no leash pressure used. The park was pretty busy today, and there were lots of other dogs, people, and small children running around playing nearby. She was interested in some of the distractions, though for the most part was able to maintain focus and she didn't seem too overwhelmed by the environment here. The biggest distraction for her today was the grass, as it had lots of interesting smells that Koko was curious about and wanted to stop to sniff, so she had an easier time paying attention and following commands while on the pathway or other areas away from the grass. We practiced place on a few different objects at the park, and Koko was much more confident today and was able to perform place on several different benches and other objects. She showed no hesitation towards most of them, but was a bit unsure of the picnic benches at first. After introducing them to her and making a few attempts with extra encouragement, she was able to jump onto it and perform place on the benches with no leash pressure or further assistance needed. She was also able to perform sit and down anywhere I asked with no leash pressure today, and was consistent with holding them for around two minutes without having to be constantly reminded. She does sometimes delay for a few moments before performing down, though with more practice she will learn to follow through a bit quicker over time. She was also comfortable with me being about fifteen feet away as she held her stationary commands, and did not break command to get up even as I walked around her at that distance. This means that today she has reached the goals we have set for distance and duration, which is great to see! Going forward we will continue working on cleaning up these commands and improving her reliability and consistency in performing them.


She did a good job with heel today as well, and was able to follow along with me as we walked around the park. I made sure to keep the leash loose, having it there simply as a safety measure but not being used in any way for her training. Instead, we worked on only using the e-collar stimulation, verbal commands, and hand signals to guide and reinforce her. This allows her to make mistakes such as walking too far ahead or veering off to the side, and causes her to have to problem solve to correct her positioning herself when she makes mistakes, rather than being guided back to position with the leash. She has a solid understanding of where she needs to be when asked to heel, and was able to correct her positioning any time she was asked. She did sometimes stop to sniff the ground, or pause to look at something in the distance, though she was able to snap out of it and continue following along in a heel when reminded.


She also did a good job with come to sit today, and didn't protest when asked for a recall like she did yesterday, which is a good sign of progress. I made sure to reward her with a lot of praise each time she successfully performed come to sit, to encourage her to continue performing the command properly and consistently each time. She was able to come all the way to me when asked, and did not need leash pressure to guide her in my direction. We worked on adding distance to the recall command as well, since she struggles to perform the command at greater distances. The goal is to be able to recall her from at least fifteen feet away, and at this point her limit seems to be a little under ten feet. If I recall her from too far of a distance, she does still come directly to me more often than not, but she will sometimes delay a bit, or come to a stop in front of me or at my right instead of circling around and finishing with a sit on my left. She could still use some work on her exact positioning, as she does sometimes sit a bit too far behind or ahead of me, or at an angle. We practiced not using any leash pressure to guide her around my back and to my left side, though she seemed a bit confused sometimes and wasn't able to follow my hang signals or positioning of my feet to guide her, so subtle leash pressure was sometimes needed to help her sit in the correct spot. This is an easy fix though, and now that she seems to be getting better at performing the command overall we can begin working on completely weaning off leash pressure as well as cleaning up her positioning as the week goes on.



 

Pupdate 4/24/2023



Koko and I visited another park today, where we continued working on each of her commands around moderate distractions. We practiced each of her commands with no leash pressure, and spent some extra time focusing on improving her come to sit. She did get distracted by the grass and other dogs at times, but overall was able to do a good job about keeping her focus and not breaking commands. We also practiced working on her heel both on and off the grass without using any leash pressure. When walking along pathways or on concrete, she did a very good job with heel and very rarely needed to be reminded to fix her positioning as she knew to stay right by me even as I walked in unpredictable patterns by making turns and changing the pace. I was even able to drop the leash completely and have it drag along the ground as we walked around, and she never strayed too far from me or left the heel position. While practicing heel on the grass however, she was more prone to wandering off a bit as she would often get distracted by various smells or want to play in the grass. She was able to walk in a heel while on the grass, though she needed to be reminded regularly to correct her positioning and given constant motivation to stay in heel to keep her focus on me.


She is starting to show more progress with come to sit, though she was much more consistent with the command when recalled from a stationary position. If I asked her to sit, down, or place, I could walk away about fifteen feet and ask for a recall, and she did a good job of coming right to me and sitting on my left side. However, if she was given the release command and allowed to walk away to explore, she wasn't quite as consistent or reliable when asked for a come to sit. She would often try to ignore the command the first time she was asked, and would sometimes try to continue walking away from me before reluctantly making her way in my general direction when she is asked again. To work on this, we worked her through many successful repetitions of come to sit by asking her to come from a stationary position. Once she was really consistent with that, we switched it up by giving her the release command and allowing her to walk away a couple of feet before asking for a recall again. With the successful repetitions of the command still fresh in her mind, she had an easier time remembering what she was supposed to do, and began to understand that the command should function the same regardless if she is stationary or if she is up and walking around. After many repetitions, she was much more reliable about coming to me whenever called, and she was excited to come running over to me anytime I called her. We gradually added distance between us with each repetition until she was able to complete a successful come to sit from around fifteen feet away. More work will need to be done with this command to ensure she stays consistent and reliable with this in various scenarios though, as it's the command she tends to struggle with the most around distractions when no leash pressure is used to guide her.


We also worked on place while at the park, and she was comfortable jumping onto most of the benches and other objects. There were a couple of objects that took a few tries initially, though she was eventually able to perform place on anything I asked her to without needing leash pressure to guide her. She was also able to perform sit and down with no leash pressure, and could hold her positions for two or more minutes while I was at least fifteen feet away. She did break command a couple of times to stand up when something distracting got too close, such as a dog or person walking or jogging by, though she would quickly return to position when asked, and after doing this couple of times, she was better about holding positions until released or given a new command even when nearby distractions. As we continue to work on this, moments when she breaks commands like this will become less common and she will be more reliable about holding positions.



 

Pupdate 4/25/2023





Today Koko and I made another visit to Home Depot, where we worked on each of her commands around the various distractions. Unlike our first visit here last week, overall Koko seemed more confident and a bit less anxious this time. We were able to walk through and train around the busiest parts of the store, and she was able to focus and listen to me when asked to do something. She was able to hold each stationary command for over two minutes here, while I was at a distance of about fifteen feet away. She did get a bit nervous around the big carts, machinery, and loud noises, though despite this she was able to hold positions and follow instructions for the majority of the time.


While practicing her stationary commands, there was one time when someone pushing a big cart got too close for her comfort, and she reacted by running to me and sitting at my side. Ideally, we want her to be able to hold positions and follow commands regardless of her surroundings, but when she does make a mistake or get freaked out by something, it's good to see that she chose to run to me for comfort rather than take off running in another direction out of panic. When we first began our training journey last week, when she had these moments of fear she would often try to run away from both me and whatever scared her, and would end up hitting the end of the leash and trying to pull on it before I could regain her attention and calm her down. This behavior change shows that her training is improving her confidence, and her ability to tolerate and ignore various distractions is getting better. Her choosing not to run away even when feeling nervous will be especially important when training off-leash.


She also did a great job with heel today, and we were able to continue our practice with having the leash drag on the ground. She was able to pay close attention to where I was walking, and had no trouble staying in the heel position as we made various turns and sudden stops throughout the store. There were a few moments where she would briefly stop to sniff certain spots on the ground or on a shelf, though quickly knew to leave it and return to position when given the off command and reminded to heel. After walking past the same distracting spots a few times, she quickly understood that she was not allowed to stop and sniff there, and was able to resist the urge and remain in a heel as we passed. She is at the point now where she has a solid understanding of the heel command, and is able to correct her positioning without the need for physical guidance or a leash. She responds well to the e-collar and knows to quickly fix her positioning whenever she feels the stimulation and is given the verbal command.


We also practiced some more with come to sit with no leash pressure, and she had a much easier time performing the command today, even when recalled away from a distraction. Now that leash pressure is not being used in our training, she seems to be much less frustrated and prone to protesting. Previously she would jump up on and bite at the leash whenever pressure was applied when she didn't want to do something, but now that the leash is not a factor she hasn't been behaving in this way. On occasion she does still get a bit frustrated or overwhelmed when around high amounts of distractions, which can cause a slight delay as she works to regain focus, but once she is able to listen and understand what is being asked of her she is quick to perform her commands without protest.



 

Pupdate 4/26/2023



Koko has been doing a fantastic job with all of her commands with zero leash pressure, and has been reliable with following instructions while the leash is dragging on the ground during our training sessions. She has proven to be ready for the next step in her training journey, training while off-leash. We began by testing her off-leash skills in a safe and quiet area of my neighborhood, away from any potential risks like busy streets or fast-moving cars. She didn't seem to notice the leash being gone, and was able to focus on me and follow through with everything I asked of her as we walked around and practiced her commands. She was able to stick right by me in a heel, and never strayed too far from me. She was also able to hold sit, down, and place on various objects for over two minutes as I walked around at a distance of about fifteen feet. She never broke any stationary commands today, and knew to stay right where she was asked to until she was asked to perform a new command or given a break. Koko also did a great job with come to sit, and was reliable about coming right to me and sitting on my left side any time she was recalled. She does a good job about following my hand signals to guide her for the come to sit, and is consistent with the maneuver most of the time. Every now and then she will sit a bit too far ahead or behind me on my left side, though that is a minor issue that can easily be cleaned up with more practice.


We also spent some extra time working on her overall manners today. This is something we have been working on little by little since day one. The manners we focus on are food manners, door manners, car manners, and greeting manners. The goal for food manners is to be able to set her food in front of her, and have her be able to hold a stationary command such as sit or down, and be able to wait patiently for at least two minutes until given the release command to eat. She has had an easy time with food manners, as she doesn't get overly excited about food and doesn't get very distracted by it. Her ability to hold stationary commands for longer periods of time gradually increased throughout our regular training, and she now has no problem waiting for at least two minutes before eating.


Door manners are another concept that came relatively easily to her. The goal is for her to be able to hold a stationary command within sight of a door, such as the front door, and be able to remain there even if the door is wide open or people are walking in and out of it. Only when given the release command or a new command such as heel or come, is she allowed to walk through the doorway. This prevents the issues of her trying to push past people at doorways, or running away out of doors if they are left open. She quickly developed an understanding of boundaries, and over time became able to hold stationary commands regardless if she was near an open door.


Car manners were a bit harder for her to master, though she has finally gotten the hang of it! During our first several days together, getting her into the car and especially into the car kennel was a major challenge. She was not confident about jumping into the car on her own, and needed to be lifted into the car each time. She also was scared of the kennel that she needed to ride in for safe transportation, and would not willingly enter it. With a lot of practice and encouragement over the last week, she gained the confidence needed to be able to jump into the back of the car all by herself, and is also comfortable with entering the kennel without fear or hesitation. Once she got over that fear, she also was able to willingly enter the kennel in the house, and would happily go in on her own accord for naps throughout the day and for sleeping at night.


Her biggest challenge in regard to manners is her greeting manners. She loves people, and gets extremely excited when approached by someone or when greeting them. She tends to express this excitement by wildly jumping up on people, which can cause painful scratches or injury to people. This behavior has been a challenge to move her away from, as her over-excitement made it difficult for her to listen to commands. The goal for greeting manners is to have her be able to hold a stationary command such as sit, and hold that position whenever being greeted by someone. We have been working on this any time we get the opportunity, and while she quickly learned not to jump on me, she would often get too excited when meeting new people and would try to jump on them if they got too close or started to pet her. Thankfully, I had some friends and helpful passerbys willing to assist in her training these past few days, and we worked on teaching her to be calm and polite during greetings by ensuring she only received praise and attention when she was holding the position I asked of her. She quickly understood that trying to jump on people meant she would be ignored, and that she could only get the attention and praise she was seeking by remaining in her stationary position. Despite this progress, she does sometimes still make mistakes. When being greeted by someone in a calm manner, she is able to hold her position and show her excitement in more polite ways such as tail wagging. Though if the person she is being greeted by is too energetic or excited, she tends to match their energy which can lead to her jumping up on them. As such, going forward it will be important to ensure that anyone she is introduced to understands to be calm around her, and to only give her attention when she is also calm. Allowing others to pet her while she is jumping or being too excited will only further reinforce this bad behavior.



 

Pupdate 4/27/2023



Today Koko and I made a visit to the Santa Monica Pier, where we could put her off-leash skills to the test around various distractions. There were crowds of people, lots of dogs and birds, and many new sounds and smells. She was a bit overwhelmed by the busy environment at first, but after working on her commands for a few minutes, she was able to settle down and focus on her training. We were able to practice each of her commands off-leash here, and overall she did a fantastic job and was able to perform each of her commands and follow instructions despite the distractions. We were able to record some great footage here that will be used in putting together her final video. I've included a sneak peek of part of the video in today's pupdate, so be sure to check it out!


Koko was able to perform sit and down on command, and was comfortable holding those positions for over two minutes while I was at a distance of about fifteen feet. She was a bit unsure of some of the place objects at first, and did need to practice with them a few times before she was confident in jumping onto them. It took a few attempts, but she was eventually able to jump onto the place object and successfully hold sit or down for the entire duration that was asked of her. Sometimes people walking by distracted her a bit, especially if they got really close or were talking to her as they passed, but Koko knew to hold her position and never broke any stationary commands.


She also did a good job with heel, though she did need to be reminded to remain in heel regularly. There were many distractions she was tempted to investigate as we passed by, that on a few occasions caused her to briefly lose focus and break the heel command momentarily. Once reminded of the command, she would quickly correct her positioning and return to heel, which shows she has a solid understanding of the command! When she did veer off a bit and break the heel position, it was only by a couple of feet and she never went too far or tried to run off. We were able to walk through crowds of people, past other dogs, and around various obstacles, and Koko had no trouble sticking right by me in a heel for the majority of the time. As she continues to get more practice with heel around lots of distractions, she will have an easier time ignoring them and be able to stay in heel position whenever asked despite the distractions in her surroundings. She also did a fantastic job with come to sit today, and was very reliable about coming right to me whenever she was called from any distance. She was also consistent and precise with her positioning by sitting perfectly at my left side every time. This was a command she had struggled with in the past, so her ability to perform it reliably even while in very distracting locations such as today is a great display of her training progress!



 

Pupdate 4/28/2023




Today Koko and I visited a busy outdoor mall, where we continued to practice each of her commands around various distractions. Koko seemed happy to be here, and was not showing any signs of discomfort or anxiety which was great to see! She has gained a lot of confidence during our time together, which in turn allows her to have an easier time relaxing and enjoying exploring various environments, rather than constantly feeling overwhelmed and nervous. There also were lots of people and dog lovers here today, which provided a good opportunity to work some more on Koko's greeting manners. I made sure to communicate in advance to anyone wishing to greet her, by letting them know that she is in training and to be calm when greeting her to help her practice sitting nicely when saying hello instead of jumping up. Thanks to this, Koko was able to remain calm and contain her excitement whenever greeting someone, and did a great job about holding her stationary position. She really enjoyed getting pet by all the nice people, and never tried to jump on anyone which was great to see!


Due to the mall's policy, Koko was required to have a leash attached to her collar while at the mall. Since she no longer needs a leash to perform her commands, it was there solely to comply with the policy and wasn't used to apply any pressure, allowing it to hang loosely as we practiced her commands. She did a very good job with heel today, and despite the bustling environment and various distractions here, she was able to stick right by me in the proper position. Koko was able to perform place on various objects here as well, and showed little to no hesitation towards any of them, including objects like slotted benches she had struggled with in the past. She had no trouble holding her stationary positions for the goal time and distance, and did not break command to get up at any point. Many people walked by her as she held her stationary commands, and some even reached out to pet her or talk to her as they passed, and apart from some happy tail wagging, Koko did not get overly distracted and knew not to get up until asked. She was also very reliable with her come to sit as well, and was quick to perform the command any time I asked for a recall from any distance. She was also very consistent with her positioning, and was able to sit right where she needed to be each time.


We also visited a dog-friendly restaurant here, where we sat on the patio for a snack break. There were several other dogs on the patio also, some of which were barking at her excitedly and encouraging play. Despite the loud and tempting distraction, Koko was able to ignore the other dogs for the most part, and followed my instruction to calmly lie down under the table I was at. There is a time and place for play, and Koko was able to listen and understand that a restaurant patio was not an appropriate place for it. She settled into the down position and relaxed there in the shade until it was time to get up and leave, having no trouble tuning out the various distractions such as the barking dogs, smells of food, and people walking by. Her tolerance for distractions has improved greatly during our time together!



 

Pupdate 4/29/2023



Today was Koko's last full day with me, so we used all of her learned skills in training to have a fun day together! We took a trip to another outdoor mall today, and she had a great time exploring the different areas of the mall. Her favorite spot was the grassy area in the center of the mall, where she got to play some fetch and relax in the shade! The mall was very busy today, but Koko didn't seem to mind the bustling environment and was excited to walk around and check out the area together. She got to meet lots of nice people today, and was very polite during her greetings. She knew not to jump on anyone, and instead showed her excitement and happiness with lots of tail wags and kisses. Koko was even able to remain calm when a group of children came to say hello to her, and she was able to contain her excitement and be polite around them despite their own excitement and energy.


The leash policy was more relaxed at this mall, so we were allowed to practice each of her commands while off leash here. As usual, she had no trouble walking in a heel position, even as we walked through big crowds of people and past distractions such as other dogs. She also had no trouble performing sit, down, and place here, and was able to hold each position for the goal time while I was at a distance away from her. She did a great job with come to sit again today as well, and was able to perform the command quickly and precisely each time she was recalled. There was one instance where she was given the release command while in the grassy area of the mall so she could sniff around and explore, and she began heading towards a group of people having a picnic on the grass. They had lots of yummy food that she was interested in, but despite the temptation, she came running back to me as soon as she was called, which was a great show of the progress she has made in discipline and obedience!


In the short two weeks Koko and I have spent together, she has made amazing progress with learning basic obedience commands, and is learning to be confident, calm, and focused in many different environments and situations! Her training has truly paid off, and she is now well-trained, well-mannered, and able to enjoy the freedom and fun that comes with being allowed off-leash. The days of her misbehaviors such as jumping on people, pulling on the leash, and biting at people are in the past. She has a solid understanding of all her commands and the e-collar, and is able to follow any instructions given to her regardless of any distractions. This will provide her family a clear line of communication with her, which can be used to continue her training going forward. She is eager to please and quick to catch on to what behaviors are desirable and which are not, so by simply giving her praise for good behaviors and addressing the bad behaviors appropriately, she will continue to learn right from wrong. Koko will continue to grow into her adulthood as a wonderful and well-behaved companion!



 







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