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Layla | Labrador Retriever | San Pedro | In-Training



Meet Layla, a sixteen-month-old Labrador Retriever from San Pedro, 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. This sweet and playful pup has some general knowledge of a few basic obedience commands, but she is easily distracted by her surroundings and often struggles to maintain focus when in public environments. While she is generally a friendly pup, she sometimes barks at people she doesn't know, and has a low tolerance for other dogs invading her space. She also tends to pull on the leash while walking, and tries to chase after small animals such as birds or squirrels. Layla is also prone to experiencing some anxiety and nervousness when she is feeling unsure about her surroundings. Over the next fourteen days, we will be working to improve her manners, confidence, 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 9/10/2023

Today Layla 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. We worked to begin developing a trusting relationship between us, which will be important for her training going forward. She seemed happy to meet me and explore around the park with me, though I noticed she was quite easily distracted by her surroundings, which seemed to impede her ability to listen or follow through with what was asked of her. She often struggled to focus on me or any commands for longer than a couple of moments before redirecting her attention to something else she decided was more interesting.


Layla was usually able to perform Sit when asked, though despite having an understanding of the command, she often needed to be asked several times before she followed through with it. When she eventually listened and sat down, she was quick to lose focus and stand back up and walk away after a couple of seconds. She was able to Come when called sometimes, though again despite her understanding of the command, she often chose to ignore her name and the recall command the first several times she was called, especially if she was distracted by something else. She didn't seem to have any understanding of the Down command, and seemed uninterested in laying down when prompted to. Layla appeared to have some understanding of the Place command, and was able to climb onto a few low objects around the park, however she seemed to lack confidence about jumping onto most objects that we attempted the command with. She was also pulling on the leash a lot and veering off in different directions as we walked, and didn't seem to have much understanding of the Heel command. She did sometimes walk alongside me for brief periods of time, though these moments were fleeting and she was prone to wandering back off as soon as something caught her attention.


After we had a chance to get to know each other at the park, it was time to head home and get her settled in! Layla was a bit hesitant about jumping into my car at first, though when given some extra encouragement she was able to jump up without any issue. She also seemed comfortable with entering the kennel when asked, and was happy to settle down quietly for the ride home. Upon arriving home, she did seem a bit anxious at first, but after spending some time together and playing with some toys, she quickly calmed down and was able to explore the environment and become familiar with it. We went for a walk around the neighborhood in the evening, and while she was a bit unsure about all these new changes, she seemed to calm down after a few minutes and enjoyed getting to explore the area. Layla also ate nearly all her food at dinner time, and was comfortable going potty in my yard. So far she appears to be settling in very nicely, which is great to see!



 

Pupdate 9/11/2023





Today Layla and I took a trip to a park, where we met up with some other OffLeash SoCal trainers and their pups! This was a great opportunity to work on Layla's training while around some distractions, and get a feel for her behavior around other dogs. Overall she did an excellent job, and seemed to be quite neutral towards the other dogs' presence. She did seem interested in a few of them at first and wanted to approach them initially, though she quickly seemed to understand that she and the other dogs were going to be focusing on training rather than meeting or playing. The other trainers and their pups were all busy practicing their commands nearby, and Layla seemed content with ignoring them to focus on her own training. She didn't seem to mind being close to the other dogs, and didn't display any concerning behavior towards them, which was great to see! She did become slightly distracted when a person's dog barked at her as they walked along a nearby path, though apart from looking in their direction, Layla didn't react to this and was able to break her focus away from the dog when prompted.


In today's session, we focused on improving her reliability with the Sit command and introducing the Heel and Off commands. Since she is already familiar with the Sit command, this was an easy introduction to training with me and she seemed eager to practice this once we began. The goal is for Layla to perform a Sit when asked, even if distractions are present around her. Another goal for this command is for Layla to be able to hold this position for extended periods of time, and not get up or break that position until released or given a new command. Yesterday, Layla showed a decent understanding of the Sit command, though she was sometimes unreliable with following through with it when she was distracted, and struggled to hold the position for longer than about ten seconds before getting antsy, impatient, or distracted. So today we focused on encouraging her to follow through with the command once asked, and provided emphasized reward for remaining in the position until released. Any time she broke the position before being released, she was immediately asked to return to it, which helped her understand that she needed to wait until asked to get up. With many repetitions and practice, she was eventually able to consistently hold a Sit for about thirty seconds, even with distractions nearby, which is good progress!


The Heel command isn't completely new to Layla either, however she has shown to be unreliable with sticking in this position when prompted and is prone to veering off or pulling on the leash when she wants to go somewhere. The goal for the Heel position is for Layla to walk directly alongside her handler on the left side, and not leave that position unless released or given a new command. This precise positioning can take some time to master, though consistent practice will teach Layla that pulling is no longer effective in getting where she wants to go, and allows her handler to take the lead instead. We introduced the Heel command by keeping the leash short but loose, and walking around along the pathways at the park with Layla on the left side in roughly the Heel position. Whenever she began to pull ahead or veer out of position, she was reminded of the verbal command, and leash pressure was applied to guide her back to where she needed to be. We also practiced making lots of sudden turns and stops, which encouraged her to engage with me regularly and pay close attention to my positioning so that she could follow along without falling out of position. Whenever in the correct position beside me, the leash was loose and lots of praise and rewards were given to communicate that this was the desired behavior we were looking for. She caught onto this pretty quickly, and after some time practicing she seemed to have an easier time staying focused and remaining attentive to her positioning for longer periods of time. She has a ways to go before she masters this command, but she is making great progress!


The Off command is a versatile command we use to communicate to Layla that she needs to stop whatever she is doing, and pay attention to her handler. This command is similar to "no" or "leave it" and can be used in a wide variety of situations, such as if she becomes distracted by something, is sniffing or eating something she's not supposed to, is jumping on someone or something she's not supposed to, refusing to let go of a toy or other object, etc. Today we mainly used it when she became distracted by the presence of other dogs or when she became invested in a particular smell in the grass as we practiced her other commands. This command was introduced by giving the verbal command and pairing it with leash pressure to grab her attention, then rewarding her once she shifted her focus away from whatever she was previously doing. Bonus points if she provided eye contact or otherwise engaged directly with me after the command was given. In many cases, it's also beneficial to follow the Off command with another command, such as asking for a Sit or Heel directly after the Off command is successfully performed. This helps to keep her focused and discourages her from returning back to whatever behavior she was previously engaged in. She caught onto this command fairly quickly as well, and the more we practiced the more likely she was to respond to the command when asked.



 

Pupdate 9/12/2023



Layla and I visited a local park today, where we focused on introducing the e-collar as well as the Come to Sit command. We also continued practicing her other commands, including Heel, Off, and Sit. Layla was quite excited and distracted by her surroundings when we first arrived at the park, though after she had some time to adjust to the environment and we began her training, she was able to settle into a more focused mindset. She was able to effectively ignore most of the distractions around us, including groups of people, children, and even other dogs nearby. Layla seemed to be most interested in the small animals such as the birds and squirrels around the park, and was prone to trying to pull on the leash to get to them. The Off command was effective in interrupting this behavior and helping her to shift her focus away from them. Asking her to perform another command directly after the Off command was helpful in keeping her engaged with me while small animals were visible nearby.


Pressure is a fundamental tool used in basic obedience training. The idea is that whenever pressure is applied, be it from a leash or an e-collar, it is paired with a command to communicate, guide, and reinforce the desired behavior. Pressure is applied, and the pup then needs to problem-solve and perform a specific behavior. Once the desired behavior has been displayed, the pressure immediately stops and a reward is then given. Leash pressure is the most basic form of pressure, due to the clear directional guidance it provides, allowing the pup to easily follow the pressure once it's applied. Leash pressure is a concept that Layla is already familiar with, which gives her a great head start on her training journey! The next step is introducing the e-collar, and helping her become familiar with the sensation so we can open the doors for communication with this tool. By pairing the stimulation from the e-collar simultaneously with leash pressure, she will come to understand that these two forms of pressure have the same meaning. With time, we will eventually be able to use these tools interchangeably or in place of one another, which leads to the opportunity for training without the need for a leash! While she isn't quite ready to be off-leash just yet, she caught on very quickly to the e-collar and is making great progress in understanding it which is fantastic!


Come to Sit is an important command to begin practicing early on in Layla's training journey, as it will be our main form of recall. Having a solid recall is important for any pup's safety and obedience training, though this will be especially crucial for her to master if she is to be allowed off-leash. The goal for Come to Sit is for Layla to come directly to me when called, and circle around to perform a Sit on my left side. While Layla has some general understanding of the Come command already, she is often unreliable with listening when she is distracted. When she does come when called, she will often wander off again shortly after approaching. The Come to Sit command when performed in its entirety ensures that she not only comes when called, but also requires her to Sit beside her handler and not break that position unless released or given a new command. By having her Sit on my left side facing forward, we are setting her up for success to begin walking in Heel, as she is already in the desired position. We introduced the Come to Sit command today by combining the verbal command "Come" with leash and e-collar pressure to grab her attention and guide her towards me. Once she followed the guidance and came over to me, she was then guided around to my left side where she was asked to perform a Sit. With each successful repetition, I made sure to give her lots of praise and reward to build up a positive association with the command and the action of coming to me when called. As we practiced more, she began to rely less on the leash pressure to grab her attention and guide her, which is a good sign of progress! She would sometimes sit slightly out of the desired position once she got to me, though for her first day with this command, she did a great job!



 

Pupdate 9/13/2023





Today Layla was introduced to two new commands, Place and Down. We also continued to practice her other commands, including Sit, Heel, Come to Sit, and Off. We began our training session while walking around my neighborhood, where the distraction levels were minimal to provide Layla with a calm environment to learn in. Once she showed understanding of these new commands, we made our way over to a local park, where we continued her training with a higher amount of distractions present. Overall she did a good job of staying neutral to her environment, and seemed to have an easier time maintaining focus around common distractions such as people, other dogs, grass, and even small animals. She also seems to be developing a good understanding of the e-collar, and responded very well to the stimulation when paired with leash pressure and verbal cues.


The goal for the Place command is for Layla to jump or climb onto a designated surface, such as a bench, a bed, or other defined object, and hold a stationary command while remaining on the Place object. This command is useful not only for while out in public places, but also while at home, as it encourages Layla to remain calm and stationary regardless of her environment. We introduced this command today with a dog cot as our place object, as Layla is already familiar with this object and is comfortable with climbing onto and relaxing on it in her free time. Starting off with a familiar object can help increase Layla's chances of success with this command, and as we practice more we will introduce her to a variety of other Place objects to build up her confidence and skills. Layla was happy to climb onto the dog cot when provided light leash pressure for guidance, and was comfortable with performing a Sit once on it. After a few repetitions, Layla quickly began to understand what was being asked of her when the Place command was given, and relied less on the leash pressure to guide her, instead focusing on the verbal cue and hand signal provided.


The other command introduced to Layla today is the Down command. The goal for the Down command is for Layla to lay down completely when asked, and remain in that position until released or given a new command. This command can be difficult for some dogs to perform on command, due to its instinctually vulnerable nature. Introducing this command in a calm environment where Layla can feel relaxed and safe is key to building her confidence and increasing her chances of success going forward. To introduce this command, we used leash pressure, physical guidance, and occasional food motivators to guide Layla into the Down position while the verbal command was given. Once she followed through and laid down completely, she received lots of praise followed by a break shortly after. She did try to resist the guidance at first, though using treats sparingly throughout the process helped grab her attention and motivate her to follow through with what was being asked of her. We kept the duration for this position very short at first, to keep the training fun and rewarding for Layla. We then gradually increased the duration by small intervals and rewarded her for her patience and confidence in holding the position. As we continue to practice this we will continue increasing the duration gradually so she can learn to remain in this position for extended periods of time.



 

Pupdate 9/14/2023



Today Layla and I took a trip to the Santa Monica Pier, where we practiced all of her commands, including Sit, Down, Place, Heel, and Come to Sit. This location is a popular destination, and is consistently full of a wide variety of distractions, including crowds of people, birds, other dogs, music, and much more. Now that Layla has been introduced to all of the commands in this program, the next step is working to increase her consistency with commands and improve her confidence and focus levels while in different types of environments. Layla did seem a bit nervous and overstimulated when we first arrived, though as we walked around and explored together she seemed to feel more at ease and comfortable. She did sometimes lose focus to various distractions around us, most commonly due to birds or interesting scents around the pier, though she was able to shift her focus back to her training when prompted with the Off command, which was great to see! Despite the busy and bustling environment, after having some time to adjust to her surroundings Layla was quite consistent with her commands and was able to follow through with everything that was asked of her.


Layla was able to perform all of her stationary commands today, including Sit, Down, and Place. She seemed very comfortable with performing Sit when asked, and only occasionally needed light leash pressure to grab her attention and guide her into position. Layla was a bit less confident with performing Down at first, especially if major distractions were nearby, though with a bit of practice and extra encouragement, she was able to perform Down with little to no physical guidance needed. We also introduced Layla to a few new Place objects today, and while she was hesitant at first about jumping or climbing onto them, with plenty of motivation and encouragement, she gained the confidence needed to perform the command with any object I introduced her to. She did need some physical guidance on the first few tries, though once she remembered what to do and was comfortable with the object, she was able to jump up without any physical assistance needed. Layla was able to hold her stationary positions for at least forty-five seconds consistently, though after about a minute she was sometimes prone to losing focus and breaking the position, especially if major distractions were present nearby. As always, we made sure to stay consistent on our end by always ensuring she returned to the position asked of her in the event she broke it or got up before being released.


Layla also did a good job with Heel and Come to Sit today, and the progress she has made so far is definitely starting to pay off! She did try to pull on the leash a bit when we first arrived, as she was very eager to sniff around and check everything out, though she was able to fall into the Heel position once prompted. She did need regular reminders to remain in position at first, though after a few minutes of practice, she seemed to have a much easier time following alongside me without losing focus as frequently. She was eventually able to walk alongside me in the Heel position for good periods of time without attempting to veer off, pull ahead, or otherwise leave the position, which made walking with her much easier. Layla also did a good job with Come to Sit, and seems to be developing a good understanding of the command. Whether she was recalled from a stationary position or while on a break, Layla was able to focus and come right to me whenever I called her. She oftentimes didn't need any leash pressure to guide her toward me either, and was very responsive to the verbal cue. She could still use some more work with her positioning for the Sit once recalled, as she would sometimes try to Sit a bit out of the desired position, though this was easily fixed by providing additional guidance with the leash and providing a clear target for her using hand signals.



 

Pupdate 9/15/2023





Layla and I visited a local shopping strip today, where we practiced all of her commands. While not as busy as yesterday's location, this environment provided a variety of distractions to test her focus around, including groups of people, other dogs, and car noises from the nearby street. Overall Layla did a good job of staying focused, and seemed to be quite confident and calm despite the new environment and busy surroundings. Upon first arriving, I gave her some time to familiarize herself with the area by sniffing and looking around which seemed to help her feel more at ease. Once we began training, she did sometimes become distracted by her surroundings from time to time, particularly when passing by restaurants or interesting scents along the sidewalk, though she was able to refocus when given the Off command. Apart from the occasional distracting scent, Layla seemed to have no trouble ignoring most distractions including other dogs and people as they passed by.


Layla has continued to make great progress with each of her commands, and was able to follow through with everything asked of her today. We spent some time focusing on improving her ability to hold stationary positions for extended periods of time when around distractions. With practice, she was consistently able to hold Sit, Down, and Place for at least one minute today, even while distractions were present around her. She seems to have gained a lot of confidence with performing Place also, and when prompted she was able to jump onto many kinds of objects today without hesitation. As always, we stayed consistent in ensuring she remained in the position asked of her until released or given a new command before getting up, and rewarded her for patient and calm behavior.


We also continued to work on Heel and Come to Sit, both of which she seems to have a solid understanding of at this point. Whenever the verbal cue for Heel was given, Layla was able to find the correct positioning at my side and understood to remain in that position until told otherwise. Her positioning did sometimes need to be slightly adjusted if she began drifting off a bit, though she did not try to pull on the leash or completely leave the position once the command was given. She did rely on the leash to guide her into the position sometimes if she wasn't fully focused, though she was able to walk alongside me with a completely loose leash for a good portion of the time. She did a great job with come to Sit, and was very responsive to the verbal cue anytime it was given. Upon hearing the command, she always came directly to me regardless of what was going on around us. She also seems to be more familiar with the maneuver to my left side for a Sit, and was oftentimes able to complete the command in its entirety with little to no physical guidance. She did sometimes sit slightly out of position, though when asked to correct herself she was usually able to adjust herself without needing the leash to guide her.



 

Pupdate 9/16/2023



Today Layla and I took a trip to an outdoor mall, where we practiced all of her commands around a variety of distractions. There were groups of people walking around, a few other dogs, as well as birds and interesting scents along the ground. Overall Layla did a fantastic job with staying focused and on task during training, and she seemed to feel confident and calm with her surroundings despite being somewhere brand new. She was able to follow through with every command asked of her, and didn't seem to take much notice of the distractions around us. Every now and then she became distracted by one of the birds, though she didn't try to chase any of them and was able to look away and refocus when asked.


While working on her commands, it was clear to see that her progress is coming along very nicely! She was always very willing to perform commands when asked, and showed excellent understanding of the verbal cues, hand signals, and e-collar stimulation to communicate with her. With this in place, the next step in our training journey is to help Layla become consistent and reliable with all of her commands, even in the absence of leash pressure. So today, we practiced her commands with a long leash, which can be used to simulate being off-leash and provide her with physical freedom to make her own choices while still having her safely tethered. When asking for a command, we first give her a "freebie" by using only a verbal cue and a hand signal. If she does not respond and follow the command with those alone, then the e-collar is used to provide reinforcement and direct communication. At this point, she was typically able to respond and perform the command, though if she seemed to be confused and couldn't quite figure out what to do, only then we would apply light leash pressure for direct physical guidance. By using only the e-collar at first and reserving leash pressure for only when she truly needs it, we can gradually teach her to not rely on the leash for guidance when performing commands. Eventually, this will lead to the leash becoming unnecessary during training, and allow it to either hang completely loose and unused, or be removed entirely! Removing leash pressure from Layla's stationary commands was the easiest task, as we have already been gradually weaning her off the need for physical guidance and assistance while practicing. She was able to perform Sit, Down, and Place all without the leash being used at all today, and did not need any leash pressure to ensure she remained in the position either. She was also able to hold each position for nearly two minutes today, even with distractions passing by around her, which is fantastic to see! Layla also did well with Come to Sit even without leash pressure used, and she never needed any leash pressure to grab her attention or guide her to me when called. Usually, she would come immediately upon hearing the verbal cue, though if she happened to be distracted by something else, the e-collar stimulation was always able to reinforce the recall. Upon getting to me, she was often able to complete the maneuver around to my left side for a Sit all without any physical guidance, though she did sometimes Sit a bit crooked or too far away. When this happened, I asked her to reposition herself by repeating the command with e-collar stimulation and emphasizing the hand signal to guide her where I wanted her to be. More often than not, she was able to correct her position on her own, and did not need the leash to guide her into position, though rarely there were instances where she couldn't quite figure it out and needed light leash pressure to show her the way. Layla did great with Heel as well, though similar to Come to Sit, she did need light leash pressure from time to time if she couldn't quite find the position on her own. She never strayed too far from me even when given ample freedom with the long leash, and was able to walk alongside me in the Heel position with relative ease. Only occasionally did she lose focus or begin veering off, at which point the same process would be used to encourage her to correct her positioning.



 

Pupdate 9/17/2023





Today Layla and I visited a local farmer's market, where we continued practicing all of her commands around distractions using minimal leash pressure. This eventful location was a great place to practice her listening skills when in a busy environment. There were crowds of people, many other dogs, and many interesting scents from nearby food stalls. Layla was quite excited upon arriving here, though she didn't appear to feel anxious or overwhelmed at all, which shows the great progress she is making in her confidence and desensitization to busy environments! Once she had a few minutes to take in her surroundings and become familiar with the environment, she seemed to settle down into a focused mindset, ready to learn and train! She didn't pay much mind to any people or other dogs around us, and didn't let them distract her from her training. She did still lose focus every now and then, especially when walking past a particularly intriguing scent, though she was able to leave it alone and refocus when prompted.


We continued practicing each of her commands using the least amount of leash pressure possible, and overall she did a very good job! She did exceptional with her stationary commands, and was able to perform any position asked of her, without needing any leash pressure to guide her. She was able to patiently wait in the position asked of her for at least two minutes, and consistently was able to stay until released or given a new command. However towards the end of our visit here she did get a bit tired, and sometimes struggled to hold the Sit position for extended periods of time, as she would tend to want to lie down shortly after being asked to Sit. While lying down may be more comfortable for her at that moment, allowing her to break or ignore the specific command asked of her whenever she feels like it will be detrimental to her obedience progress. So whenever she broke the Sit command by laying down, we reinforced the command by reminding her to return to the correct position asked of her. Once she returned to the Sit and held it for at least a few seconds, then Down command could be given, which she happily settled into. While this may seem like a minor detail, staying consistent with ensuring she remains in the exact position asked of her will help her training progress in the right direction. The only time she is freely allowed to pick between Sit or Down while holding a stationary position is when she is asked to perform Place without being given a specific position. For example, if we simply asked for Place and do not specify a position, she would be free to pick whatever is most comfortable as long as she does not jump or climb down from the object until released or recalled. However, if we asked her specifically to Sit while on a Place object, then she would need to hold that Sit until told otherwise.


Layla also did great with both Come to Sit and Heel today, despite the abundance of distractions around us. Her recall was always very reliable, and she didn't need any leash pressure to guide her toward me once called. No matter what she was doing or what interesting things were nearby, she always kept an ear out for this command and would come right to me anytime it was given. She also was able to complete the maneuver to my left side for a Sit without any leash pressure quite consistently, though a couple of times she did need very slight leash pressure to guide her if she ended up a bit out of position and was unable to correct herself with other forms of guidance. She did a solid job with Heel today as well, though she did need light leash pressure on occasion if distractions began to get the best of her. Overall she was very responsive to the verbal cue, hand signal, and e-collar when used with this command, however, if she wasn't paying close attention she would sometimes begin to veer off out of the Heel position. Usually, upon hearing the verbal command again and feeling the sensation from the e-collar she would understand her mistake and move back into position, though every now and then she struggled to find the position again on her own and needed brief guidance from the leash.



 

Pupdate 9/18/2023



Layla and I visited a park today, where we practiced all of her commands around distractions using minimal leash pressure. The park was quite busy today, and provided plentiful distractions to practice around, such as groups of people, other dogs, and lots of small animals. Overall Layla did a great job of maintaining her focus even while distractions were present nearby. She also showed excellent impulse control while we were training, as there were multiple instances where small animals or dogs were running around nearby. While these were a bit distracting for her at times, she understood not to try to run off or chase them despite the temptation, and was able to ignore them when prompted with the Off command.


We continued working with the long leash today and practiced adding additional distance between us during stationary positions and recall, to help her learn to be confident and reliable with these commands even if her handler is more than a few feet away from her. When creating distance from Layla as she held stationary positions such as Sit, Down, or Place, she would sometimes be tempted to get up and follow me if I moved away too quickly or too far from her. While it's great that she chose to come to me instead of wandering off, we still asked her to return to the original position to remain consistent with her training and not reward her for leaving positions without being prompted. As we practiced more, she became better about remaining in the position asked of her even if I stepped away or walked around at a distance of about fifteen feet. For Come to Sit, we gradually increased the distance she was recalled from over many repetitions, to build up her ability to be recalled from further distances. We practiced recall both from stationary positions and while she was busy exploring around while on breaks, which encouraged her to always keep an eye and ear out for the recall command, no matter what she was doing.


Layla was able to perform all of her commands with very minimal or no leash pressure today, which was great to see! The only times she seemed to really rely on leash pressure was when major distractions were present and she wasn't quite focused enough to perform the command without some form of physical guidance. This mainly occurred with Heel, or during the maneuver to my left side for Come to Sit. For the majority of the time while walking around, Layla had no issue sticking right next to me in the Heel position without any leash pressure being used and needed only occasional reminders if she happened to fall slightly out of position. Typically she was focused enough to reposition herself with the verbal command reinforced with the e-collar stimulation when needed, though every now and then she struggled to pay close enough attention to her positioning and needed slight leash pressure to remind her where to be. Similarly with Come to Sit, for most of the time she was quite consistent with her maneuver, though on some occasions she would sit out of position and need a bit of guidance to remind her where she needed to position herself.



 

Pupdate 9/19/2023





Today Layla and I visited a park, where we continued practicing all of Layla's commands around distractions using minimal leash pressure. We also met up with some other OffLeash SoCal trainers and their pups, which was a great opportunity to work some more on Layla's obedience, socialization, and etiquette while around other dogs. The park had an abundance of small animals as well, such as flocks of birds and squirrels. Layla was quite hyper and easily distracted when we first arrived, especially when the small animals were nearby, though after she had a moment to familiarize herself with her surroundings she became more focused and less likely to become distracted.


She did sometimes struggle with the Off command when small animals were nearby, as she was very persistent about staring at them, though she understood not to break the command asked of her, even if they were close by. At one point when we were taking a break, she did try to chase some pigeons that walked up very close to her, though she immediately stopped and came back to me when called, which was a great display of her self-control and ability to listen even while in a prey-driven mindset! The Off command was very successful with the other dogs, and she was able to break her focus away from the other dogs and give her full attention to me when asked, no matter how close they were or what they were doing. We practiced having the other dogs walk around and practice commands within a couple of feet of her, and she seemed to have no issue remaining calm and listening to commands.


Layla did a great job with her stationary positions today, and as usual she was confident with performing Sit, Down, and Place whenever and wherever she was asked to without needing any leash pressure. She was able to hold each position for extended periods of time, and remain in position while I was at a distance from her. She showed great confidence and patience with this today! Layla did a solid job with Come to Sit as well, and her recall was very reliable even while at a distance and without leash pressure, though there were a few instances where she needed very slight leash pressure for the maneuver to my left side for a Sit. After taking some time to focus on repetitions of Come to Sit, she did become more consistent with her positioning and was less likely to need the leash to guide her. For Heel, Layla did need a bit of time practicing and warming up with this command before she was consistent with it, as the distractions around her often caused her to lose focus and be unable to maintain the Heel position as we walked when leash pressure was absent. She never tried to pull on the leash, though she was prone to veering off to the side or walking slightly ahead of or behind me. After spending some additional time practicing Heel using light leash pressure, she was able to remember what to do, and gradually needed less and less guidance from the leash until she was eventually able to walk alongside me consistently without needing it to guide her.



 

Pupdate 9/20/2023



Layla and I visited a mall today, where we practiced her commands around distractions using no leash pressure. This location provided a variety of common distractions, such as groups of people, interesting scents and sounds, as well as a few other dogs. Overall Layla did a fantastic job staying neutral to her surroundings, and after a few minutes to familiarize herself with the new environment, she quickly settled into a focused mindset for training. She seemed to have no issue focusing her attention away from distractions when prompted, and showed excellent engagement with me as we practiced her commands. While at the mall we also visited a dog-friendly restaurant, where we sat on the patio together for a quick meal. I asked her to perform and hold the Down command beside my seat during our time here, to ensure polite behavior and discourage her from sniffing around the table for food or moving around. She was definitely intrigued by the smells of food at first, but once given the Off command she understood that it was not for her, and she was happy to relax and settle into the Down position for several minutes until it was time to leave.


We worked on each of her commands today without using any leash pressure, and she did a great job! Her increased focus at this location allowed her to have an easier time concentrating on verbal cues and hand signals for guidance, so the leash remained loose and unused during our training. She was usually quick to respond and follow through with commands the moment the verbal cue was given, though in cases where she needed extra reinforcement, the e-collar and hand signals proved successful in grabbing her attention and guiding her through the commands. She did excellent with her stationary positions, and had no trouble performing and holding Sit, Down, and Place for extended periods of time, no matter what distractions were present around us. She did great with Heel as well, and seemed happy to tune out her surroundings and focus on me and her positioning beside me. On occasion she did start to veer out of position slightly, though once reminded of Heel she was able to fix her positioning when prompted without needing the leash. Layla was also very reliable with her Come to Sit, and always seemed eager to come right to me when called, no matter how far away I was or what interesting things may be around her. She was also consistent with the maneuver to my left side for the sit, though the couple of times when she made slight errors she was able to reposition herself without the leash needed to guide her.


While at the mall we also practiced some more with Layla's Greeting Manners, as there were several nice people who wanted to come say hello to her! Greeting Manners are something we have been working on little by little whenever the opportunity arises, both at home and while out in public. The goal for Greeting Manners is for Layla to be calm, confident, and polite when being greeted by someone, regardless if it is someone she already knows or someone completely new. During greetings, we ask Layla to perform a stationary position such as Sit or Down, as this encourages her to maintain a calm demeanor and discourages her from impolite behaviors such as jumping. If she gets too excited and breaks the position, tries to jump on them, or otherwise behaves impolitely, she is given the Off command to interrupt the behavior, then asked to return to the position asked of her. Before allowing someone to approach Layla, it's important to inform them that she is in training, and that they can help by only petting her or giving her attention when she is calm and stationary, and to step away and ignore her if she is not. It's important that while she is behaving impolitely she is not given any attention, as this would reward and encourage the bad behavior. By staying consistent with this, she is learning that behaving impolitely is no longer rewarding to do, and that listening and behaving politely allows her to have fun and receive lots of affection! Before we began practicing these manners, Layla also had a tendency to occasionally bark at people who were approaching her if she was unsure of them or feeling anxious. To work on this, we have been working to build her overall confidence, paying close attention to her body language to ensure she feels safe and happy, and working to build a positive association about new people. If Layla appears to be feeling unsure or uncomfortable around a specific person who wants to greet her, we don't force her to say hello to them unless she wants to, and we advocate for her space by asking the person to keep a polite distance and ignore her until she calms down. Usually after about a minute or so with them being neutral to her, she realizes that they are not a threat, and will be back to her usual self showing relaxed behavior and interest in greeting them. At this point, we can approach and allow the person to give Layla some praise, affection, and maybe a couple of treats, which all goes a long way in creating a positive experience and teaching her not to be afraid of new people. With this practice, she now seems to be a lot more comfortable around strangers, and is not prone to the same anxiety and nervousness she once experienced.



 

Pupdate 9/21/2023

Layla 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 Layla's most tempting distraction, birds. As usual, when first arriving at a new or busy location, we first gave Layla some time to explore around and become accustomed to her surroundings, which went a long way in helping her feel calm and confident. Despite the bustling environment and large amount of birds, Layla was able to maintain excellent focus and showed great self-control regardless of what was going on around her! She did a fantastic job with everything that was asked of her, and was able to perform all of her commands with ease. We also had the chance to film some fantastic footage that will be used in putting together her final video, so be sure to check out the sneak peek in today's video!


We began the session on leash as usual, and continued our training by practicing all of her commands without any leash pressure. She did an excellent job staying focused and performing all of her commands without any leash pressure at all, and she quickly proved the leash to be unnecessary, so we went ahead and removed it and continued practicing her commands as we normally would. While this location is on the busy side in terms of distractions, it is far from any major risks such as busy streets, so we were able to safely test her skills and continue her training while completely off-leash. Layla didn't seem to mind the absence of the leash at all, and if anything was even more attentive and engaged with me than ever before! Despite her newfound physical freedom without having the leash attached, she always made great decisions and understood to not go off on her own or ignore any commands given to her.


Layla stuck right by me in the Heel position even 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 Layla's confidence and ability to focus and perform commands have improved drastically since her visit here with me last week. Last week she sometimes seemed a bit nervous, overwhelmed, and quick to lose focus 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 spots will all be great types of locations to put Layla'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 thus far, 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 near busy streets. However 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 Layla!



 

Pupdate 9/22/2023



Today Layla and I continued her training at various distracting locations, and practiced all of her commands both on and off-leash. We started the day off with a trip to a pet store, where we practiced all of her commands with a loose leash around various distractions, such as treats, toys, and other dogs. Then we visited a dog-friendly café, to continue working on Layla's ability to remain calm and stationary while around tempting distractions such as human food or drinks. Finally, we made a trip over to a local park, which was a fun and safe location to practice her commands while off-leash. We also played some fetch, and she had a great time running around and playing without the limitations of a leash. We also worked on teaching her to drop the toy after she retrieved it, which she caught onto pretty quickly. Whether Layla was on or off leash, she did a fantastic job with all of her commands and maintained excellent focus and listening skills no matter where we were or what was going on around us! Some distractions were more challenging to ignore than others, such as small animals or yummy foods, but despite this, Layla was able to show self-control, make good decisions, and refocus when she was asked to.


Layla is not only excelling with her skills and manners while out in public, but she has also made a huge transformation in her behavior inside the home as well! House manners are something we have been working on little by little each day since day one. Even seemingly mundane day-to-day tasks can provide excellent opportunities for training! These manners include areas such as Food Manners, Door Manners, and Car Manners. The goal for Food Manners is for Layla to be able to hold a stationary command while her food is prepared and set in front of her. She is then asked to remain in that position until she is released before she can get up and eat her food. Teaching her to wait for her food in a polite manner improves her patience and self-control and is a great way to reward her for a job well done once she is released from the stationary command! Layla already had some prior training when it came to Food Manners which gave her a great head start, so mastering manners around her food bowl came naturally to her. To build upon this training, we also worked to improve her manners around other types of food-related situations, for example discouraging counter/table surfing, begging for human food, and grabbing food that falls on the floor unless given permission to eat it. Practicing these things is a great way to sneak in training throughout the day, and also work to build good habits that will keep her safe and healthy.


Layla didn't have quite the same head start with Door manners, though she caught on very quickly and now fully understands the expectations set for her. The goal of Door Manners is for Layla to hold a stationary position while near a door and remain there until released or given a new command such as Come or Heel. She is asked to hold the position at the location asked of her, and not get up or walk through the doorway even if the door is left open, if someone is knocking, or if people come in or out of it. This practice teaches important boundaries, and prevents impolite and possibly dangerous behaviors such as trying to escape through open doors, shoving past people when walking through doors, and rushing over to jump on or bark at people who enter through the door. She was quick to understand these manners, and with daily practice, she has become very well-mannered around doorways in various kinds of situations. We have also been working on teaching her not to bark excessively at doors or windows if she hears something outside, as this is another great way to implement the Off command.


Car manners make transporting Layla easy, safe, and as hassle-free as possible. Since Layla and I travel in the car almost every day, this is another area of her training we have been practicing organically during her time with me. The goal for Car Manners is for Layla to be confident and willing to jump into the car when prompted without needing any physical guidance. Once in the car, the goal is for her to willingly enter the kennel when asked, without needing to be lured inside with treats or physically guided inside. Since Layla was already very comfortable with entering a kennel due to previous training, she never had any issue going inside and settling in quietly, so we mainly focused on building her confidence about jumping onto high objects to improve her Car Manners. Her confidence steadily increased as we practiced the Place command with other types of objects during our daily training sessions, and within a few days, she was consistently able to jump into the car or any other high object when prompted without needing additional assistance or motivation.



 

Pupdate 9/23/2023





Today was Layla'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 listening to me and performing each of her commands regardless of what was going on around us. We also spent some more time teaching her to drop the toy when asked, which overall she did an excellent job with, as she knew dropping it would lead to rewards and more fun! While working on 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.


I'd also like to take a moment to talk about ways to motivate and reward Layla to encourage success with her training. Layla, like many Labradors, is a very food-motivated pup, though food has to be used carefully in training to avoid it becoming bribery. When first arriving with me for her board and train, Layla often refused to listen or perform any commands unless a treat was directly in front of her. She was also quick to lose focus and patience if not constantly receiving treats during training. So gradually weaning treats out as a required motivator was one of our main goals for her training. Food is a great way to teach and reinforce new commands and behaviors, though problems can arise if the pup is only willing to work when food is involved, as the food can eventually run out! As such, we introduced physical and verbal praise as our main rewards, as we can never run out of love and affection! Layla is now very motivated by praise alone, and can reliably perform any command when asked, as well as remain patient and focused even without any food involved. This said, food is still a great way to reward and motivate her when used appropriately, as it is something she always enjoys and is willing to work for. I like to start out our training sessions with a warm-up, by taking a portion of her regular kibble and having her perform tricks and commands to work for the food as a reward. This gets her training off to a great start by getting her engaged and focused on me, and also provides her with a fun and positive experience, which is important especially when in an unfamiliar or busy environment. Once she's in a good mindset for training, we put away the food, and instead reward and motivate her with praise. If food is used at all after this point, it's used sparingly and mainly reserved for breaks, as this creates a clear reward instead of a bribe.


Over the course of these two weeks with Layla, 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 no matter where we go. She has gained so much confidence, and has learned how to be calm, focused, and happy in all kinds of situations that once were challenging for her, such as when in new environments, around new people, or around other dogs. With the skills she has learned, she no longer defaults to the undesirable behaviors she once commonly displayed, such as barking, pulling, or ignoring commands, and instead has learned to listen to her handler for guidance when in uncertain or exciting moments. 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 work, and is such a joy to bring along on all sorts of adventures. Layla 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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