Sequoia | Golden Pyrenees Mix | Azusa, CA | In Training
Sequoia is a nearly 3 year old Golden Pyrenees Mix from Azusa, CA who is joining OffLeash SoCal's Two-Week Board and Train Program to address her nervousness and general obedience. Sequoia is a big girl but very timid. She tends to have selective hearing with her parents, jumps fences and has attempted to run away. We will address her confidence and obedience all at once by building a strong foundation for her to rely on. Stay tuned for Sequoia's Two-Week transformation.
Today with Sequoia, was all about diagnosing her specific characteristics so we could form a unique training plan. Sequoia is a very timid dog, but she is also very strong. This combination of characteristics make Sequoia resistant to change in the moment. And so the first step toward her obedience is showing her how to trust my leadership in the form of leash pressure. I can then shape the behaviors that we want to reward going forward as we expose her to new distractions.
Today with Sequoia was about using the prong collar and the leash to shape her obedience behaviors. Later on as we are able to name those behaviors with our commands and she is reliably performing them, I will begin to add the stimulation from the e-collar. Until I actually add the stimulation for the obedience, I am having her wear the E collar periodically just to get comfortable with it. So far, Sequoia does listen very well and when it comes to responding to the prong collar, she is not bothered by it physically at all. So long as my voice is encouraging, she is willing to keep working for me. She does get timid around things in the environment, but with gentle encouragement, and my guidance using the directional information of a leash, I am able to help her overcome those obstacles.
I will begin adding the e-collar as soon as possible likely tomorrow or the next day depending on how well she does in the morning.
Today with Sequoia, I continue to shape the obedience using the prong collar and leash pressure. Sequoia is getting more and more sensitive to what I am asking her to do. This is positive and it shows me that we will be ready to move on to the e-collar stimulation tomorrow.
Sequoia has shown me that she is quite nervous around heights and on the landing immediately outside the front door to my apartment. She gets very uncomfortable but this gives us plenty of opportunity to practice any time we're coming and going and every time that she has an opportunity to practice, she gets better and better. I would like to point out that while dogs that are strong are quite difficult to hold accountable and even to encourage through tough and stressful situations. The more that we hold her accountable in the beginning and the more consistent we are then the less she needs that extra help and the easier it is for her to police our own behavior and to find confidence when she does feel insecure.
Today with Sequoia I was able to introduce the e collar stimulation as reinforcement to encourage following through with our commands. Sequoia is a sensitive dog but with the context of the leash I have created over the first few days we are able to work through any turbulence or trepidation. Sequoia does attempt to slow progress occasionally, but all we have to do is be encouraging and positive while not allowing her fear to win the day, and she will choose to be brave. The concept is simple, however the execution can be complex as I have stated, that with a strong dog that is experiencing fear or nervousness, it is very easy to allow them to reinforce their own poor choices when they panic or are uncomfortable. If they are able to get away with not having to fully follow through with our commands, they learn to give into their anxiety when they feel it. So for Sequoia, as has been the plan from the beginning, what I continue to do with the collar stimulation now is to hold her accountable in those moments where she would rather choose anxiety over finding her calm.
Today with Sequoia I went to a local park to work on her obedience with a fellow trainer. Sequoia needs to be acclimated to new environments when she encounters them. In order to build her confidence and comfort level spend some time working on obedience in order to help her find stability and familiarity in the routine. By taking Sequoia out to new places that are more her speed and giving her our gentle praise and guidance we are able to help her find peace and with that relaxation comes true enjoyment of her surroundings rather than stress. It is important to not allow her to continue with bad habits but we also need to be careful not to overwhelm her. Patience is our best friend with timid dogs and so far Sequoia is coming out of her shell every day more and more.
Today, Sequoia and I went to the Home Depot so that we could work on her obedience around distractions in public. Sequoia did very well, even though she is so timid now that she understands the signals that we are communicating with--the stimulation from the E collar, my body language and commands--it is easier for us to find that balance between motivation and boundaries. Sequoia was able to tolerate the sounds of heavy machinery and equipment. She was able to tolerate the loud conversations of people nearby. She was able to tolerate the slippery floors, the new smells and many more . There are certain environments where it is inappropriate for Sequoia to be off leash for the foreseeable future only because it wouldn’t be fair to her to put her into a situation where we expect her to be able to tolerate that level of pressure (for example a crowded street fair etc) that being said, we can certainly enhance her ability to tolerate environmental stress and make her more comfortable with relaxing and ignoring the various experiences that she does find frightening overtime through this process of repetition in training.
Today with Sequoia, we were working on making her heeling more automatic. During that process Sequoia displayed some really undesirable behaviors. Sequoia would jump on me. She would snap at the air, and otherwise try to avoid what I would ask her to do. All of this was because I was no longer giving her the directional information along with the reinforcement that a prong collar provides. By switching to the flat collar along with the stimulation of the E collar she had to remember where she needs to be and she does have enough repetitions to where I feel comfortable asking her to answer those questions but it also means having to hold her accountable when she decides she doesn’t want to participate or she doesn’t want to listen. For her case I spent some time with that flat collar, gentle pressure and the E collar stimulation to guide her into the position so that I could reward her and encourage the best efforts that she was finally making.
Today we worked on continuing to build her heel command as well as the place command and being generally more comfortable in new environments. When she is calm and relaxed it is very easy for me to get good behavior out of Sequoia, but when she decides she wants to quit or becomes overwhelmed she will shut down completely or try to jump up on me snapping her jaws wildly. This kind of behavior is fear driven and I don’t feel threatened, but it is still unacceptable and the focus of my training in conjunction with the obedience in general. Her feelings are understandable and worth calming and comforting but her responses need to be reconditioned as we move forward so that we can have productive sessions of learning rather than working through a tantrum or trying to calm down panic and anxiety. Besides her poor reactions she is learning the obedience behaviors well and I hope to expose her to more dynamic distractions tomorrow while we work on the same things so she can grow and feel more confident.
Sequoia and I worked on problem solving skills and not allowing her to quit when she feels overwhelmed. Sequoia did struggle at points but the end result was a far stronger understanding of the obedience than previous days. I didn’t give her any extra guidance from the leash unless absolutely necessary, and with her nature in times of stress the added leash pressure can sometimes make the situation worse. Today we primarily relied on body language, voice commands and the stimulation from the e collar. Sequoia did try to shut down and avoid the stimulation at times but we were able to work through it.
Today with Sequoia, I worked on her door manners and her extended sit. Being able to hold obedience behaviors for extended periods of time can be challenging for our dogs and we need to be encouraging during the learning phase of training. Talking to your dog is good and absolutely encouraged! Telling your dog they are doing good when they are doing good is the only way they will know they have performed adequately so remember to pay the dog for their hard work. It can be easy in the moment to get in our own heads paying attention to the task at hand so do remember to praise the dog and use your voice to be soothing and encouraging. Today while working on door manners Seaquoia did very well holding her obedience for an extended period and I would like to see that success continue. Making training a part of everyday living makes it easier for Sequoia as well as her humans, so remember the training is new language for communication and living in harmony, not an obstacle or extra chore for the day.
Today Sequoia and I worked on all of our obedience in preparation for filming our final video tomorrow. Sequoia may be on leash to be safe but her level of understanding is to the same standard as an off leash dog. Sequoia is enthusiastic about obedience and it is our job to harness this enthusiasm and pay her appropriately. Remember that boundaries are only a piece of the puzzle but we must always reward and encourage our dogs to get the best of them. We want every experience to be 90 percent rewards and 10 percent reinforcement. Consider any potential stress we have to expose Sequoia to and create opportunities to reward her. For example if we need to reinforce our heel command, when the dog is looking enthusiastic and working hard we can immediately reward with “break”. Look for reasons to reward the dog rather than relying on the boundaries alone.
Today Sequoia and I filmed her final video at the Santa Anita Mall. She did well! Sequoia definitely had her moments of struggling but we were able to overcome. The most important piece of advice I can give in regards to her personality is to be patient and take the time it takes to learn a complete lesson. Because she has a tendency to quit and want to shut down she can stifle her own growth. It is our responsibility as good leaders to show her that her most favorite (and often inappropriate) behavior isn’t acceptable but instead she must follow through with what we have asked for. When Sequoia has the time to get acclimated and also is given adequate encouragement AND boundaries, she surpasses expectations and is quite capable of calm, obedient and well mannered behavior.
Today with Sequoia I met up with other trainers to work on active relaxation. If we encourage our dogs to relax when we take them out and spend some time in public spaces until they maybe take a nap or want to lay down, we are building a more confident dog. The idea is if the dog can relax in public then they are more capable of self soothing and finding their calm. For Sequoia this is particularly important. While she does require leadership and guidance, Sequoia is also capable of growth in moments of stress. We want to encourage her active relaxation as a way to enhance her ability to stay calm when it counts.
Today with Sequoia I spent some time troubleshooting all of our basic behaviors. You’ll find that it’s a good habit and a good practice to be in to communicate with your dog in a regular routine sort of way. We don’t want training to be a big special event. We actually want it to be totally mundane, and as as natural as any other form of communication. Make sure that when you are speaking to your dog that you’re using consistent tones of voice, and you’re using consistent phrasing and pronunciation of words, because it’s really easy for a dog to get confused with even slight variations. It’s one of the double edged swords in dog training. Their mind is very plastic and it’s really easy to teach them lots and lots of commands, but at the same time if we’re not careful simple commands can become confusing because they’ll think that were saying something else. Instead of getting frustrated with your dog, thinking that they may be being disobedient, it’s always a better idea to be a little bit more reflective and make sure that in the first place we said exactly what we mean and we’re being very precise our language. Have fun!