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Sparrow | Cattle Dog Mix | Santa Monica, CA | In-Training


Meet Sparrow, he's a six-month-old cattle dog mix from Santa Monica, California! He's here with us for our Two Week Board and Train Program, where he will be learning basic obedience and manners, as well as receiving potty training. He is a very sweet and loving pup, but he does have some anxiety around new people, and tends to be nervous when in new environments. He has some general knowledge of basic commands, but is easily distracted by his surroundings and struggles to listen or follow through with what is asked of him. He also likes to pull on the leash while walking, and has bad habits such as jumping on people, stealing shoes, and chewing on carpets and clothing. Over the next fourteen days, we will be working to improve his manners, confidence, and obedience to set him on the right track to becoming a well-behaved pup both on and off leash! Stay tuned for his transformation!


 

Pupdate 5/21/2023



Today was Sparrow's last full day with me, so we put to use all of his learned skills to have a great final day together! We visited a nice park where he had a great time exploring, playing fetch, and practicing his commands all while off-leash. His recall is now very consistent, and he is able to come right to me and sit on my left side any time he is asked, even when around distractions or from a large distance. He is also able to consistently stay in the heel position, even when passing by groups of people, other dogs, and other kinds of distractions. He also does a great job with holding his stationary commands, and can easily perform sit, down, and place when asked and remain in that position for over two minutes, even when in highly distracting areas.


He has done a wonderful job learning all of his manners as well, and is able to be very polite and well-behaved both in public and while at home. He can wait patiently for his food, wait by doors without running through them, and enter his kennel on command. His greeting manners were a challenge for him at first, though his overall confidence and ability to remain calm around new people has improved drastically. By making every greeting a positive experience for him, he learned that meeting new people can be safe and rewarding, which lowered his anxiety levels and encouraged him to be calm and happy around new people instead of fearful. He is sometimes still slightly wary of strangers approaching him at first, though he will quickly warm up to them and happily say hello to them and receive their attention and praise! While jumping up on people when greeting them in public wasn't common for him, he did have a habit of jumping on people who entered the house. With his new skills in commands and manners, this behavior is no longer an issue. He now understands that jumping on people is not polite, and that doing so will not be rewarding for him. He can also be asked to hold a stationary command, such as laying on a dog bed away from the door, which will further discourage him from becoming over-excited and jumping on people in these situations. He also knows not to chew on furniture, shoes, or carpets, and can easily be communicated with to teach him right from wrong.


He has also done very well with his potty training journey, and has successfully been housebroken! He is able to wait for long durations in between potty breaks, and understands that indoors is not an acceptable place to go potty at. Once taken outside, he is quick to do his business, and understands what is being asked of him when told to go potty. He has also learned not to mark while indoors, which is fantastic! He will still mark on trees or bushes on occasion while out on walks, though he does not do it excessively and understands when told not to mark on something.


In the short two weeks Sparrow and I have spent together, he has made amazing progress with his basic obedience commands, and is on the right track to being confident, calm, and focused in any environment or situation! His training has truly paid off, and he is now well-trained, well-mannered, and able to enjoy the freedom and fun that comes with being allowed off-leash. He has a solid understanding of all his commands and the e-collar, and is able to follow any instructions given to him. His new knowledge from this training has provided a clear line of communication with him, which can be used to continue his training going forward. He is eager to please and quick to catch on to what behaviors are desirable and which are not, so by simply giving him praise for good behaviors and addressing the bad behaviors appropriately, he will continue to learn right from wrong. With this, Sparrow has a bright future ahead as a wonderful and well-behaved companion!



 

Pupdate 5/22/2023





Today Sparrow and I visited a local park, where we introduced him to the come to sit command. The goal for come to sit is for Sparrow to be able to come directly to me when called, and perform a sit on my left side. Having a solid recall and the ability to hold stationary positions are important for every dog to master for obedience training, so introducing this command early on will help him become familiar with it quickly. This command is also a great way to begin establishing an understanding of leash pressure, which will also be an important concept for Sparrow to learn in order for him to progress in his training. Before we can properly introduce the e-collar, which will be a foundational tool in his training, he will first need to have a solid understanding of what leash pressure means.


The idea is that when the pressure is felt, either from the leash or the e-collar, it is paired with a command, and the pressure will remain until he follows through with what is being asked of him, at which point the pressure will immediately turn off and reward will be given. Leash pressure is a good introduction to this concept, as the pressure is directional, and dogs are often quick to figure out that they can turn off the pressure and receive reward when they simply follow the pressure being used to guide them. Once Sparrow shows clear understanding of this, the e-collar will be introduced and paired with the leash pressure. This will teach him that these two forms of pressure mean the same thing, allowing for the opportunity to begin weaning off the leash pressure, and opening the door for training without the need for a leash.


The park we visited today had minimal distractions, which was helpful for today's lesson as it provided Sparrow with a good environment to be able to focus and learn in. As he progresses in his training and becomes more familiar with the commands, we will gradually increase the amount of nearby distractions by visiting busier locations. We began introducing the come to sit command by asking him to come while in an open field at the park, then applying leash pressure to guide him towards me. The moment he stopped pulling on the leash and chose to turn around and come to me, the pressure turned off and he was rewarded. He was able to understand what was expected of him fairly quickly, and began coming to me when called with only minimal leash pressure needed, as he knew good things would happen when he listened.


Once he understood that he was supposed to come when called, the next step was to guide him to where I wanted him to be after he came over to me. This was done by calling him over, guiding him with leash pressure around to my left side, then asking for a sit. When he was able to focus, he was often able to sit on command with only minimal leash pressure needed, though sometimes he struggled to pay attention and would quickly get back up immediately after he sat down and needed to be reminded to return to the sitting position. Whenever a stationary command is given, such as sit or down, the goal is for Sparrow to not only perform that command when asked, but also to hold that position until given a new command or the release command, "break". Towards the end of our session today, he was consistently able to hold a sit at my side for about twenty seconds, which is a good start! We will be working on increasing the duration little by little each day, so we can work towards our duration goal of two minutes!



 

Pupdate 5/23/2023



Today Sparrow and I visited a park, where we met up with some other OffLeash SoCal trainers and their pups! Training while nearby other dogs and people not only provides important socialization, but also increases his tolerance and ability to focus when around these types of distractions. He was somewhat unsure of the other dogs at first, but after seeing that they were ignoring him and focusing on their training, Sparrow was happy to do the same. He did sometimes whine and get a bit distracted by them a couple of times, but overall he didn't seem too concerned with their presence and would quickly redirect his focus onto me when asked to do something. Sparrow was nervous around some of the other trainers at first also, but with some time and reassurance, he did warm up to them a bit and didn't seem as afraid anymore. He also had the chance to work with another trainer today, and while he was very unsure of him, he did calm down a bit and was able to successfully perform come to sit with the other trainer, which was great to see!


After practicing with the other trainer, Sparrow was warmed up and ready to learn something new! We began the introduction of the heel command, where the goal is for Sparrow to walk on my left side, with his paws at my heels. Teaching this precise positioning also discourages pulling ahead, veering off, or lagging behind, which makes walking around with him much easier. Practicing heel also encourages engagement with his handler, which helps keep his attention in the right place, rather than on any distractions in the area. Walking in the heel position is also very beneficial for dogs prone to nervousness or anxiety, as when in this position they are provided with clear leadership and direction. This allows them to not have to worry about the stress of making decisions on their own, and instead they can put their trust in their handler to lead them during the walk. Sparrow is already developing a close bond with me, and is showing lots of trust in me which is great! I noticed a huge change in his mood and behavior as we began practicing heel, and he seemed a lot more relaxed and happy once he understood he was to follow my lead.


We began by keeping the leash rather short, which restricted his ability to wander off or pull too far ahead as we walked. Whenever he tried to veer off or pull on the leash, leash pressure was applied and he was reminded of the verbal command, heel. The moment he chose to stop pulling and follow its guidance to walk nicely at my heels without tension in the leash, he was rewarded and praised. Sparrow caught onto this pretty quickly, and after just a few minutes he understood what was being asked of him for this command. He stopped trying to constantly pull on the leash, and understood that he was to follow me and stay on my left side, allowing him to walk nicely with a loose leash for a good amount of the time. We also practiced making lots of turns and sudden stops, which encouraged him to pay extra attention to what I was doing and where I was going, which is necessary in order for him to remain in the heel position properly. Once he got the hang of this, we began practicing heel as we walked by distractions, such as the other trainers and their dogs. As expected, Sparrow was a bit less focused when around them and did need more reminders and guidance to stay in the heel position, but overall he did very well and was able to return his attention to me after each reminder.


After the session at the park practicing heel and come to sit, Sparrow seems to have developed a solid understanding of leash pressure. He understands when the leash pressure is applied, he is being asked to do something and needs to follow the instructions being given in order to turn it off and receive praise. This understanding allows us to begin the introduction of the e-collar, which will eventually be the main tool we use in his training. We took a walk around the neighborhood, and continued working on heel and come to sit, which he is familiar with. Each time that a command was given and leash pressure was applied, stimulation was given with the e-collar as well. He didn't quite understand the e-collar stimulation today when used on its own, so we will continue pairing these two forms of pressure together to build up his understanding of it. With time and practice, his increased understanding will allow us to begin weaning out leash pressure, and eventually the e-collar will take the leash's role as the main form of reinforcement and guidance in his training.



 

Pupdate 5/24/2023





Sparrow was introduced to two commands today, down and place! We began our session at home to provide Sparrow with a good environment to focus and learn. Once he learned the foundations of each command, we then took a walk to some different areas of my neighborhood where we could practice his new skills around more distractions. We focused on these two new commands today, but also spent some time working on heel and come to sit to help continue his progress with them. The goal for the place command is for him to be able to jump or climb onto an object such as a bed, a bench, a seating area, etc., and then hold a sit or down while on the object. This command will be especially useful for Sparrow to learn, as he is prone to jumping up on people that enter the house. The place command will provide a task for him to focus on, and holding a stationary command on a designated place object can help break the habit of becoming over-excited or jumping up on people. We began the introduction of the place command at home, with a bed that he is familiar with and enjoys relaxing on. I guided him over to the bed with leash pressure, and used a hand signal to direct him towards the bed as I gave the verbal command, place. Once he was on the bed, I asked him to hold a sit. Each time he successfully followed the instructions, he was rewarded with praise and affection. With some repetitions of this, he began to understand the command, and was happy to place and sit on the bed when asked. We then introduced him to a different place object, the dog cot. The cot is easily accessible and low to the ground, which makes it easy for dogs who are new to learning place. The cot is also transportable, so it can be used in places outside of the home. He was a bit more hesitant about the cot at first, but with some guidance and reassurance, he was able to climb onto it and hold a sit.


The down command is simple in concept, but can be hard for some dogs to perform on command as it is an instinctually vulnerable and submissive position to be in. Introducing this command in a comfortable environment is an important factor for him to learn it, as we want to build understanding, trust, and a positive association with the position. Since he is comfortable with laying down on the bed in his free time, we began working on this command while he was on this comfy place object. After being asked to place and settling into the sit position, I then guided him into a down with some leash pressure, and rewarded him as soon as he followed the pressure and laid down all the way. With many repetitions, he began to understand what to do when given the down command, and was able to lie down on the bed with little to no physical guidance needed. We then practiced this command on some different surfaces, such as on the floor, in the yard, and on the dog cot. Despite the different surfaces, he was able to lie down in each of these places without much guidance needed, which was a good sign of his understanding.


Once he was able to perform both place and down with relative ease at home, we took the session outside where there would be some distractions to work around. Some areas of my neighborhood get quite busy with people and dogs walking around, and there is some construction going on nearby which provides some noise distraction as well. We brought the dog cot with us, and continued his training of place and down. He was a bit more hesitant of performing these commands while in a less familiar environment, and was prone to getting distracted anytime he could see someone walking by or when there was a noise. We worked him through this by staying consistent and continuing to hold him accountable despite the change of scenery, and with some guidance from the leash pressure combined with the e-collar he was able to perform the commands when asked. He struggled to hold the positions at first, and would sometimes quickly stand back up or jump down from the cot, but with more repetitions, he was able to hold sit, down, and place for about thirty seconds. With time we will continue adding more duration to these commands to get him accustomed to holding them for longer periods of time even if there are distractions nearby.



 

Pupdate 5/25/2023





The past few days of our training have been spent introducing Sparrow to his new commands, and he has proven his ability to perform each of them reliably when in distraction-free environments! The next step is to begin testing his new skills in obedience around an increased amount of distractions. The more he is exposed to distractions, the more familiar and tolerant he will become of them, allowing him to have an easier time ignoring possible distractions to focus on listening and following instructions.


So today, Sparrow and I visited the Santa Monica Pier, where we met up with some other OffLeash SoCal trainers and their pups! The busy environment of this location had a wide variety of distractions for us to practice Sparrow's commands around, including crowds of people, loud music and noises, other dogs, and flocks of birds. He was a bit overwhelmed by all the commotion at first, but after some time he seemed to calm down a bit, and was happy to focus on performing his commands instead of worrying about what was going on around him. He was able to walk nicely in a heel for much of the time, though there were a few distractions that regularly caught his attention, so he needed to be reminded to stay in position often. He did a great job with place today, and was able to jump onto various benches and platforms with no hesitation, which was great to see! He also was able to perform sit and down without issue when asked, and was able to hold them consistently for about forty-five seconds, which is impressive considering the amount of distractions that were present!


The biggest distraction for him today was people, as he would quickly lose focus on his commands and show signs of fear and anxiety if a person or group walked too close to him or tried to approach him. When this happened, he would actively try to move away from them or hide behind me, even if it meant breaking a position such as sit or heel. The goal is for him to eventually work past this fear, and learn to be calm and able to follow through with commands even if there are strangers nearby. I made sure to reward him with lots of praise and affection any time he was able to successfully hold a position when someone passed by, which helped him understand that following my instruction was both safe and rewarding for him. It's also important to advocate for his personal space when he needs it, as allowing someone to approach him or try to pet him when he is in this state of mind will lead to a negative experience for him. We want to help him build a positive association with people, so for now we will need to be selective about who is allowed to approach or greet him, and create controlled situations during greetings so we can have the best chances of success to work him past this fear.


Also to update on his potty training, he has been doing a fantastic job thus far, and has had not had any major potty accidents inside the kennel or around the house. He is able to patiently wait until it's time to go outside, and is very comfortable with going potty in the yard or while on walks. He seems to understand what is being asked of him when told to "go potty" and will immediately begin sniffing around for a place to go when the phrase is used. He is able to sleep through the night in his kennel, and not have any accidents or need to go potty. During the day he also seems to be comfortable with waiting about six hours in between potty breaks. The only issue he has been having is marking behavior, which is a separate issue from potty training. A true potty accident typically happens when the dog is not physically able to hold their potty, or when they do not understand that the house is not a suitable location to relieve themselves when they have to go, leading to fecal accidents or full bladder release, which has not happened with Sparrow as of yet. Marking is typically a territorial or anxiety behavior, and is most common with young male dogs who are not neutered. There are a few spots within the house that if left unattended, he will frequently go to and mark with a small amount of urine, such as on a piece of furniture or against a wall. While this is a separate issue from potty training, it is something that does need to be corrected, so we will be working on discouraging him from continuing this.



 

Pupdate 5/26/2023



Today Sparrow and I visited an outdoor mall, where we continued to practice each of his commands around distractions. He did a fantastic job with heel today, and was great about paying attention and engaging with me regularly. He was able to follow my lead and make turns and sudden stops with me, and was not trying to pull on the leash at all. He did sometimes veer off just slightly when he wanted to smell something, but he was often able to correct his positioning when given the verbal command paired with e-collar stimulation, allowing him to walk with a completely loose leash for most of the time! Similar to yesterday, he did have some moments where he would move out of the heel position in an attempt to get away from people as they passed by us. Though the distance at which he was comfortable with people walking by seems to have improved, and he was able to ignore people that walked by for the most part unless they got very close to him.


He also did a great job with place, sit, and come to sit today! He was able to jump onto any place object I asked him to without hesitation, and did not need any guidance from the leash to assist him. He was able to jump onto benches, platforms, and other objects with ease. He was also able to hold sit while on place or on the floor consistently for about a minute today, which is great progress! He was sometimes able to hold it for longer periods, but only when there were minimal distractions in the area. He was able to hold position without getting up when people walked by several feet away, though if someone walked by too close he would sometimes try to sniff them or slightly move from his position. Whenever he was able to hold a sit when people passed by he was given lots of praise to communicate that he was doing a good job! He had no trouble coming to me when called, and was sometimes able to come to me and perform a sit on my left side with no leash pressure needed to guide him at any point, which is great progress. With some more practice, he will soon be able to perform come to sit each time using only the verbal command, e-collar, and hand signals.


The command he struggled with the most today around distractions was the down position. He seemed anxious, and had trouble staying in the down position for very long any time there were people nearby. When the distractions were limited, he was able to hold down for a minute or longer consistently, though when people were walking by he was much less focused and prone to getting up from the position before he was asked. Each time this happened, he was immediately asked to return to the down position, which helped him to understand that he needs to stick with the command that was asked of him, and that trying to break position on his own accord will not be successful. With some more practice, he was able to hold down for slightly longer periods of time around distractions, though he was still quite antsy so more practice will be needed to help him achieve longer durations with this position.


 

Pupdate 5/27/2033





Today Sparrow and I visited an outdoor shopping mall, where we continued to practice each of his commands around distractions. We focused on improving his durations for his stationary commands, and working to improve his focus around distractions.


He did a great job with heel, and was able to walk around alongside me in the heel position even as we passed by groups of people. He did a great job about engaging with me regularly, and was able to follow my lead as we made turns and sudden stops. We practiced walking past large groups of people, and while he did show some signs of nervousness, he was able to stay in the correct position and did not try to hide behind me or move away from anyone even when people walked by close to him. I made sure to reward him with lots of praise and affection any time he was able to ignore people passing by, which encouraged him to focus on me and the instructions being given to him.


For his stationary positions, he had no trouble performing place on many different objects! He was happy to perform the command, and seemed comfortable holding both sit and down while on place objects. We practiced his durations by testing how long he could reliably hold his stationary commands, and he initially could hold his positions for about one minute, but with some more practice he was reliably able to hold sit and down for about a minute and half, which is close to his duration goal! With more practice, he should soon be able to consistently hold place, sit, and down for at least two minutes, even when nearby distractions.



 

Pupdate 5/28/2023



Today Sparrow and I visited a dog-friendly indoor mall, where we continued to practice his commands around distractions. The mall was quite busy due to the holiday weekend, so it was a great opportunity to work on socializing him and getting him used to common distractions such as groups of people and other dogs! He did struggle with heel at some points today, and needed a bit more leash pressure than usual due to his anxiety around the high amounts of distractions present. He is getting better about ignoring groups of people as we pass by them, but he was still quite nervous and would sometimes try to veer off or pull ahead slightly, and was sometimes too unfocused to respond to the e-collar or verbal heel command. After practicing for a while longer, he was able to calm down a bit and follow my lead, and began engaging with me more regularly, though still needed regular reminders to maintain the heel position when we were in busy areas. We walked around many different areas of the mall, and whenever the distractions were slightly fewer and at a comfortable level for Sparrow, he had a much easier time listening to what was being asked of him, and was able to remain in the heel position with a loose leash. Sparrow did a great job with come to sit, and he was very reliable about coming straight to me when asked, and was consistent with sitting on my left side with little to no leash pressure needed to guide him at any point. He also did a great job with place, and was able to jump onto and hold sit and down on various benches and other seating areas for nearly two minutes, even when groups of people or dogs walked past nearby. He seemed to be more comfortable and less nervous while holding stationary positions on a raised object, and was more prone to breaking position when he was on the floor or ground. When on the ground he was still able to perform sit and down readily when asked, though he would sometimes briefly stand up before he was asked to, and needed to be asked to return to the position again. He was able to ignore most people and other distractions for the most part, though there were a few times where someone walking by caught his attention or made him feel uneasy.


We also practiced using the full length of the average-length leash, and creating some additional distance between us, which will help him build confidence and teach him to be comfortable holding positions even when I am not directly beside him. The further away I got from him, the more prone he was to breaking the position, though with some practice he became comfortable holding positions while I was about five feet away at the end of the leash, which is a good start! Over the coming days we will continue gradually adding distance between us with a longer leash as he holds stationary positions, to help us towards a goal of fifteen feet!



 

Pupdate 5/29/2023





Sparrow and I visited a local shopping strip in my city today, where we focused on adding distance between us for his recall and stationary commands. We switched out the average length leash we have been using for a long leash, which provides the ability to create additional distance between us while still having him safely tethered to a leash. The shopping strip was moderate in distractions today, and had a good amount of people and other dogs walking around but was not overwhelming for Sparrow. Overall he did a great job focusing on me, and was able to listen to everything I asked of him. He seemed to be quite confident today, and did not shy away from oncoming people as they passed by, which was great to see!


We began our training session by practicing heel as we walked along the sidewalk of the shopping strip, and we made many frequent sudden stops and turns to encourage engagement and focus. He did a great job with heel today, and was able to respond well to the verbal command and e-collar, so the leash was rarely needed to help guide him to the correct positioning. We then practiced having him hold sit, down, and place while taking several steps away from him. At first, he was only comfortable with me stepping back to about six feet away, and if I moved back any further he would feel the need to get up and follow me, which would cause him to break the position. So we practiced taking very small steps away, and slowly adding more distance between us. Whenever he broke position, I would immediately bring him back to where he was originally asked to sit or lie down at, and I would return to the same distance away from him. This teaches him that getting up and breaking command would not get him what he wanted, which was to be close to me and receive praise. Each time he successfully held the position until asked, he was given the break command and he would come to me to be rewarded with lots of praise and affection, which encouraged him a lot! After practicing this for a while, he was comfortable holding positions while I was a little over ten feet away, which is close to the distance goal we have set! With some more practice, he will soon be able to hold stationary commands while meeting both the distance and duration goals for his training! We also worked on creating more distance between us for his recall command, come to sit. He does a great job about coming to me when called and sitting on my left side when at the end of the standard length leash, which is about five feet. Though in order for his recall to be reliable and applicable in different kinds of scenarios, it's important for him to be consistent with his recall at greater distances also. To practice this, we began using the command when I wanted him to come to me after holding a stationary command. Since he was comfortable holding the positions at about ten feet away, this is the distance we worked with for come to sit as well. At first, he was able to come to me when called but would sometimes veer off a bit and would need some leash pressure to guide him all the way to me and around to my left side. Though with some more practice, he remembered what to do, and had an easier time performing the command even when recalled from about ten feet away after a stationary command.


Once he got the hang of this, we practiced recalling him away from distractions at a distance while he was walking around, exploring, and distracted. The goal is to teach him that listening and following through with commands will be very rewarding for him, more rewarding than any distractions, and that trying to ignore commands will not work in his favor. To do this, we went to a grassy area with some trees, which Sparrow was very eager to sniff around at. He was given the release command, and permission to sniff around and explore the area using the full length of the long leash, which is about fifteen feet. After he was fully invested in the distraction, he was then asked to perform a come to sit. At first, he did try to ignore the command and continue sniffing, so he did need some leash pressure to guide him to me. Though once he understood what was being asked of him, he became eager to come right to me and perform the command when called, as he knew he would be praised for listening and following through! We also practiced his recall as people walked or dogs walked on the sidewalk nearby, which he would sometimes take an interest in and become distracted by, providing additional types of distractions to practice with. With some more practice, he began to be much more consistent with his recall, and rarely needed any leash pressure to get his attention or get him to come to me, which was great to see! He has definitely made a lot of progress with this, and is on the right track to developing a solid recall in different types of scenarios!



 

Pupdate 5/30/2023



Today Sparrow and I visited an outdoor mall, where we focused on practicing his commands without leash pressure, worked on stationary commands and come to sit, and practiced his greeting manners. This mall was another location that he seemed rather comfortable at, and while there were distractions present, he did not become overwhelmed by them and was able to maintain his focus for the majority of the time. While walking around the mall, we practiced heel using only the verbal command, e-collar, and hand signals. Removing leash pressure completely allows Sparrow to problem solve and use his knowledge of the command to maintain the proper positioning. Overall he did a fantastic job with this today, and while he did sometimes make mistakes and veer off or walk slightly ahead of me at times, he was always able to correct his positioning once asked, without any guidance needed from the leash. These mistakes were more common when around higher amounts of distractions as expected, but for his first day with zero leash pressure, he did very well! This shows he has a solid understanding of the command, and is on the right track for being able to perform this command while off leash! He is also doing much better about walking past distractions such as people and other dogs, and each day he has become more reliable about staying focused and in the proper position when distractions are present.


We also continued our work with his stationary commands and come to sit while at the mall. He is able to perform sit, down, and place with no leash pressure needed which is great! He understands each of the verbal commands, along with the hand signals and e-collar to guide him. We focused on working towards our distance goal, and within a short period of practicing this, he was able to consistently hold each position while I was about fifteen feet away! He also was able to hit the duration goal today, and was reliably able to hold each position for at least two minutes, which is awesome! He was even able to hold these stationary positions as groups of people and other dogs passed by, which shows his understanding and obedience. He did struggle a bit with come to sit a few times without any leash pressure though, so this is an area we will spend some extra time on in the coming days. He's great about coming right to me when called which is great, though if he is a bit too distracted he will sometimes walk past me or sit in the incorrect position, so more practice will be needed to help him become more consistent around distractions when leash pressure is not being used.


We also had the chance to practice his greeting manners today, as we met up with some of my friends while at the mall. I had Sparrow at my side in a heel when approaching my friends, and he seemed quite nervous of them at first once we got close to them, and he tried to hide behind me slightly. Though after he had the chance to smell them from a distance and watch us talk and interact for a few minutes, he became much more confident around them and was not shying away from their presence anymore. Once he was calmed down a bit, I asked Sparrow to hold a sit beside me, and allowed one of my friends to calmly approach him to say hello. He was able to hold his sit patiently, and didn't try to jump up on them or move away. My friend began to pet him under the chin and he held his sit and he even started wagging his tail! He was then very happy to remain in the sit position as he was given praise and affection by each of my friends as they came to greet him. This was great progress to see, and hopefully with some more positive interactions like this, he will be able to overcome his initial fear and anxiety around new people.



 

Pupdate 5/31/2023






Today Sparrow and I focused on cleaning up each of his commands and improving his overall consistency, reliability, and focus. While training around my neighborhood, he did exceptionally well and did not need any leash pressure to follow through with any of his commands. Since the leash was not needed here, we removed it and continued his training while off-leash! He didn't seem to notice the absence of the leash, and did a great job with performing each of his commands. He was able to stick right beside me in a heel as we walked, and was able to perform and hold place, sit, and down consistently for at least two minutes while I was about fifteen feet away. The quiet areas around my neighborhood were a great place to begin his off-leash training, as there is a low risk of potential dangers such as cars or busy streets.


After our session in the neighborhood, we visited a local park to continue his off-leash training around more distractions. The park we visited is a great area to practice off-leash commands, as it is another low-risk environment. At the park, there were lots of people, children, and other dogs walking around and playing nearby. We focused on improving his consistency with recall around distractions, and cleaning up his positioning for the come to sit command. He was able to listen closely and follow through each time he was asked to come to me, and was typically able to come all the way to me and sit beside me when called the first time, and did not need the command to be repeated. He was able to direct his focus away from nearby distractions and leave them when asked, and was comfortable with being recalled from a distance of over fifteen feet away. Though once he got to me, he would sometimes sit behind me or a bit too far away from the proper position at my left side. To correct this, I encouraged him to follow my hand signals closely, asked him to adjust his position each time he made a mistake, and rewarded him with lots of praise each time he performed the command correctly. With many repetitions of this, he became much more consistent!

His overall confidence has improved significantly in the short time we have spent together so far, and he is no longer quite as nervous or constantly overwhelmed by the various distractions around him when in busy environments. By exposing him to and creating positive experiences around a variety of situations, environments, and distractions, he has become more socialized and accustomed to them, and is much less likely to overreact to stimuli. Though it's important to understand that he still has a long way to go in this journey, and there are still many triggers for him that can cause moments of anxiety, nervousness, and fear. Distractions such as sudden loud noises, dogs barking at him, and strangers getting way too close seem to be the most common triggers for Sparrow. When he is caught off guard or becomes scared by these triggers, he temporarily loses all focus and is prone to trying to run, hide, flinch, or otherwise react negatively. This can cause him to break or even temporarily ignore commands, such as heel, stationary commands, or recall. If he is on leash, the situation is manageable and he can be safely restrained if needed, though if he is off leash and unable to respond to commands or the e-collar in that moment, there is a risk he could run off or get into dangerous situations. Due to this, it will be best to restrict off-leash time to only when the environment is safe and free of any major risks. While he does not need leash pressure for guidance to perform his commands any longer, it will be best to keep it attached to him as a backup safety measure when in risky environments.


 

Pupdate 6/1/2023



Today Sparrow and I visited the Santa Monica Pier. We met up with some other OffLeash SoCal trainers here, and we were able to record some great footage of Sparrow performing his commands that will be used to showcase his training progress in his final video, so today's pupdate will be a fun sneak peek into that! This location is well known for its busy and bustling environment, and has a wide variety of distractions including crowds of people, other dogs, loud music, and lots of birds! Despite all the commotion in the environment, Sparrow did an amazing job of staying calm and focused. Since this location is away from busy streets and other risks, we were also able to practice his commands while off leash here! He did a fantastic job, and he had no trouble performing all of his commands or following any instructions given to him. Overall his anxiety was considerably lower than it was during our first visit here last week, and he was definitely feeling more confident and happy which is great to see! He was able to hold positions such as heel, sit, and down while large groups of people walked by, even if they were just inches away from him! He would sometimes look at them or sniff them briefly as they passed, but this is a massive improvement to his previous behavior around this kind of distraction. He didn't seem to feel the need to flinch or break position to get away from them, and instead was comfortable with staying in the position that was asked of him until he was released or given a new command. He did sometimes veer slightly out of the heel position as we were walking around, though he was able to quickly correct his positioning each time he was reminded. While still not perfect, his heel has improved a lot recently, and even while around distractions he is needing much fewer reminders to correct his positioning, and is able to hold the heel position for longer periods of time without losing focus. Also to update Sparrow's potty training and indoor marking behavior, he has been doing a fantastic job with this! He has still yet to have a single potty accident inside the house, and he has not tried to mark indoors for over five days now! This is great to see, and shows he is understanding that marking and urinating on furniture, walls, or other objects indoors is not acceptable. He will still occasionally mark on trees while out on walks, though it is much better for him to do this activity while outdoors in the appropriate areas rather than on objects within the house. He is also able to hold his potty while inside for up to eight hours at a time, and is able to patiently wait in between potty breaks until it is time to go outside.



 

Pupdate 6/2/2023



Sparrow and I spent the day reviewing and practicing his commands off-leash, and continued working on his house manners. These manners include food manners and door manners, as well as car and kennel manners. Working on house manners has been a daily occurrence since he first came to stay with me, as even seemingly mundane day-to-day tasks with Sparrow can provide excellent training opportunities! He came to me with some undesirable behaviors common in dogs and puppies, but helping Sparrow to learn these manners has removed these behaviors from his normal routine, and improved his patience, politeness, and overall obedience.


The goal for food manners is for Sparrow to be calm enough to hold a stationary command such as sit or down, wait patiently as his food is prepared, and not rush in to start eating the moment the food is placed in front of him. The food in front of him is not only a great distraction to test his obedience and patience around, but is also a great reward for him when he is released to eat it! Once he was settled into my house, his appetite increased and he began getting very excited when he knew food was coming. While it's great that he was showing enthusiasm over his food, it brought along some issues during feeding time such as him jumping on me, counter surfing, or trying to push past me to get to the food the moment it was within sight. Each day we practiced these manners by first having him perform a sit or down, then preparing his food and placing the food bowl nearby while he was still in the position. If he broke position before he was released, I would stop him from running to the bowl, and immediately ask him to return to the position. He now is able to sit or lie down patiently when asked, and hold those positions until given the release command to go eat. While he is just as enthusiastic about his food, he now knows that being patient and polite is the behavior that will work in his favor, and that behaving impolitely will only delay the reward and is not worth attempting.


The goal for door manners is similar, as it includes having Sparrow hold a stationary command, this time while near a doorway or open door. In the beginning, whenever opening a door such as the front or backyard door, he would try to push past me to get through it first, and had no sense of boundaries. If a door was left open, he would also take the opportunity to exit through it if given the chance. To improve his door manners, we went through a similar process as food manners, by asking him to hold stationary commands as I opened doors and walked away or through them. If he broke position by getting up and following me through the doorway without being asked to, or tried to run through it when he thought I wasn't looking, he was immediately returned to the same spot, and asked to return to the position again. With time, he eventually understood that doors like the front door have an implied boundary, and that even if it was open, if he was asked to stay where he was then he needed to be invited through it in order to walk past that boundary. His ability to wait patiently by doorways also eliminates the behavior of pushing and shoving to get through first when walking with a person. He can be asked to sit or lie down, the door can be opened, and then when ready he can be invited to follow with the heel, come, or break command.


Car and kennel manners were less of a challenge for Sparrow to learn, and he picked up on them very quickly. He is very athletic, and never had any issue jumping into the back of my car when prompted, and has never needed any further assistance or guidance to do so. Sparrow was a bit hesitant about entering the kennel at first, but with a small treat he was easily encouraged to enter it. We used treats the first few times when getting him used to the kennel, and after only a few repetitions he had developed a positive association with the kennel and was happy to enter it any time he was asked to, even without any food motivation used. This is great for car rides, as he can simply be asked to enter it without any protest or physical guidance needed. This is also a helpful skill for Sparrow to use while at home, as he can be asked to enter the kennel at any time and he is eager to run inside and settle in for naps or to sleep. He knows the kennel is a safe and relaxing space, and is content to spend time in there quietly and calmly. The kennel is also a great tool for potty training, and has helped him learn to wait longer periods of time in between potty breaks with a significantly lessened chance of accidents occurring.



 

Pupdate 6/3/2023





Today was Sparrow's last full day with me, so we put to use all of his learned skills to have a great final day together! We visited a nice park where he had a great time exploring, playing fetch, and practicing his commands all while off-leash. His recall is now very consistent, and he is able to come right to me and sit on my left side any time he is asked, even when around distractions or from a large distance. He is also able to consistently stay in the heel position, even when passing by groups of people, other dogs, and other kinds of distractions. He also does a great job with holding his stationary commands, and can easily perform sit, down, and place when asked and remain in that position for over two minutes, even when in highly distracting areas.


He has done a wonderful job learning all of his manners as well, and is able to be very polite and well-behaved both in public and while at home. He can wait patiently for his food, wait by doors without running through them, and enter his kennel on command. His greeting manners were a challenge for him at first, though his overall confidence and ability to remain calm around new people has improved drastically. He is sometimes still slightly wary of strangers approaching him at first, though he will quickly warm up to them and no longer see them as something to be afraid of! While jumping up on people when greeting them in public wasn't common for him, he did have a habit of jumping on people who entered the house. With his new skills in commands and manners, this behavior is no longer an issue. He now understands that jumping on people is not polite, and that doing so will not be rewarding for him. He can also be asked to hold a stationary command, such as laying on a dog bed away from the door, which will further discourage him from becoming over-excited and jumping on people in these situations. He also knows not to chew on furniture, shoes, or carpets, and can easily be communicated with to teach him right from wrong.


He has also done very well with his potty training journey, and has successfully been housebroken! He is able to wait for long durations in between potty breaks, and understands that indoors is not an acceptable place to go potty at. Once taken outside, he is quick to do his business, and understands what is being asked of him when told to go potty. He has also learned not to mark while indoors, which is fantastic! He will still mark on trees or bushes on occasion while out on walks, though he does not do it excessively and understands when told not to mark on something.


In the short two weeks Sparrow and I have spent together, he has made amazing progress with his basic obedience commands, and is on the right track to being confident, calm, and focused in any environment or situation! His training has truly paid off, and he is now well-trained, well-mannered, and able to enjoy the freedom and fun that comes with being allowed off-leash. He has a solid understanding of all his commands and the e-collar, and is able to follow any instructions given to him. His new knowledge from this training has provided a clear line of communication with him, which can be used to continue his training going forward. He is eager to please and quick to catch on to what behaviors are desirable and which are not, so by simply giving him praise for good behaviors and addressing the bad behaviors appropriately, he will continue to learn right from wrong. With this, Sparrow has a bright future ahead as a wonderful and well-behaved companion!



 
















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