Yesterday we went to an AMAZING workshop at Dig It Dogs consisting of lots of different games and concepts to play with your dogs that help overall life skills, confidence, calmness, arousal management, impulse control, and much more.
I was a little apprehensive as there would be 4 dogs working at once and they were all new dogs to Zebby, plus we were in the agility arena where I have only done one training session with him before.
We went in to the first exercise, figure of 8 walking, and Zebby was wild, pulling on the lead, barking and screaming, panting, wild eyes. I did wonder if we were going to be able to manage. We retreated in to the waiting area where he couldn’t see any dogs and continued with the exercise, and with time his arousal came down and he started to relax. He had a break in the car while Guinness came out and then I swapped him and Guinness frequently as we tried each exercise.
Soon we were doing scentwork and I decided to take Zebby back in to the arena to try working around other dogs again. His arousal was still high as he went in, but lower than earlier, and as soon as we started the scentwork he really calmed down and focused. After he found each treat he came running back to me, tail wagging waiting for the next one, completely oblivious to the other dogs working around us, who had also all calmed down.
Throughout the day with each game he showed focus, confidence and thinking. Yes he was still distracted and struggled to focus at times when other dogs were close by, but in general it was really productive.
It really made me think about the training classes we go to and what we do at home and perhaps what we should be focusing on instead. We’ve been training in an obedience class weekly and it’s set up really well, with short exercises using lots of fun, but at the end of the day it is sit, down, stay, grooming, handling, loose lead walking, etc. Zebby and I have a great set up where we work in our own space in the hall and I always keep sessions short for him, but I feel like doing more training workshops such as scentwork and fun games would actually have a greater benefit for his overall obedience, as you need calmness and focus before you get obedience.
Zebby’s problem isn’t that he can’t do a sit or down, but that he can’t do it around other dogs and distractions. Yesterday really emphasised that it’s the proximity to other dogs that is his biggest weakness, but the workshops yesterday alone greatly improved his ability to work around other dogs.
There are a number of regular scentwork classes being run soon and I think it might be more beneficial to give obedience a miss for two months and focus on scentwork, as it clearly has such a bigger overall benefit for Zebby. Especially while he is at such a young, hormonal age. I’m also going to do more productive, short training sessions at home incorporating games to teach life skills, rather than doing more regimented training.
It’s a sign of a great workshops when you come away thinking hard, full of ideas and enthusiasm.