Monday, August 31, 2009


In addition to this adorable picture of Darcy and our four year old son (don't Pit Bulls eat children???) here's some dog training math:

1 Beggin Strip of work on the agility plank
+ 3 hours in the kennel
= kennel moved 5 feet and turned 180 degrees by Darcy

Partly because of this we decided to board Darcy at Windy City instead of keeping her home with the sitter that will be there over Labor Day when we are out of town. She would have to be in there a minimum of five hours so she would lose her mind. Or hurt herself. It's more money but I'd rather pay that than have a dog that is totally traumatized from being in the kennel so long.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Living with dogs is all about up's and down's, strikes and gutters. Today was one of the "down" days. No training done at all. The bad part was that Darcy had to be in the kennel for four hours and when we returned she had moved the crate about five feet, chewed the carpet pad from under the carpet and gave herself a huge bump on the top of her muzzle.

I'm doing Comfort Zone in a diffuser right by the kennel, classical music in the room and at least two stuffed Kongs in the kennel. I think we might add some Rescue Remedy to take more of the edge off. Obviously more training too. My goal is to cut up a hot dog a day and throw tiny handfuls into her kennel throughout the day so she is happy about going in the kennel. We will see how that progresses!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Today was the last Canine Good Citizen prep class and we skipped it. Such a good student. My reason sounds so silly too. While folding laundry I jacked up my shoulder and just didn't like the thought of wrestling a 65 pound dog for an hour after that.

To make up for it (a bit) we worked on walking down to the Walgreens near us. Once there we sat outside the door watching all the interesting people walk in and out. At first I just wanted her to associate good things with all these different looking people so I popped her a treat each time she looked at a person. Once she was relaxed I started working with her on basic commands like sit, down and stay.

To work on the walking on leash I found out that we can't use treats much because she ignores them. She is much more interested in finding out if every movement is possibly a squirrel. The method that works best for her is give her only a specific amount of leash and then when that leash she gets tight we come to a stop. As long as she walks on a loose leash she gets to keep walking forward and continue to explore the world. The first half a mile is torture but after that she gets much better.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Today in agility Darcy finally got over the A frame. She is such an interesting dog in that she is so goofy and confident in some situations but so freaked out in others. Loud noises, big trucks, all make her cower. But she walks up to every person on the street with total confidence. From experience with clients conquering these agility obstacles will not only tire her out but make her feel more confident.

One interesting thing I'm noticing about her is that especially towards the end of class if I use really high valued treats (ham this time) she takes them quite rough. Not too fun losing the skin off my fingers! I will have to work on finding some good rewards for her that don't get her too crazy.

The new experiene for me is being able to have a dog that can just hang out in a group class with other dogs. With Bella we always had to be hiding in the corner and avoiding all the other students with her reactivity. It's so relaxing to be able to actually talk to the other owners and not feel sheer terror when my dog looks at another dog. Dog reactivity is not a fun behavior to deal with!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


So now that I've caught you up I'll try to go day by day to keep track of the work that I've done with Darcy.

Today Darcy spent a half day at Windy City for day care. With our other dog Bella having such poor socialization skills I really want Darcy to continue to play well with other dogs. Plus she has so much more energy than I have time for so the day care helps with that.

My work with Darcy today consisted of doing a bunch of passes on an agility board that Stacey Hawk gave me to practice with. The board is about a foot wide and four feet long and has the same surface as the dog walk and A frame. I want to get Darcy comfortable walking across this board so the obstacles are easier for her. We just worked about five minutes on it but at the end was walking across with all four paws on the board.

With successes there are always pitfalls. Darcy's trouble being left in the kennel is not getting better but, as with everything, it is my fault for not working on it. Today I put her in the kennel for a few hours and when I got home the tray was out of the kennel, the kennel was moved about five feet and there was a ton of drool (I hope!) in the kennel. I really need to just put her in there for short periods of time while I am home so she gets comfortable with it. But even now as I sit here watching Spy Game on TV I'm still not doing it. I swear after I sign off I will put her in for a second... Best intentions are always the situation!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Darcy: In the beginning

One day while out running I started wondering what a chef cooks each night for the family dinner. Or how a preschool teacher educates his or her own children. Then I wondered if people would be curious how a dog trainer would train her own dog and Educating Darcy was born. My name is Lisa Collins and I am a Certified Pet Dog Trainer and owner of Collins Canine, Inc. On June 27th, 2009 we took a two year old Lab/Pit Bull mix named Darcy into our home. She has a wonderful temperament but didn't appear to have much training so we started from scratch. I thought I'd start this blog partly for my own documentation (so I remember how much work it is when we think about getting another dog!) and in case other dog owners are interested in how a dog trainer trains her own dog. In this first post I will catch you up to speed on what we've worked on in the last two months.

Here's Darcy's background. In January she was found stray by the Kane County animal control. They were having a hard time finding a good home for her so they enlisted One Tail at a Time to help. While waiting for her new home Darcy was boarded at All For Doggies, one of the facilities we train out of. I met Darcy there and when One Tail asked for a home to foster Darcy we immediately offered. When she got along wonderfully with our 8 1/2 year old female Rottie, Bella and our four year old son, Justin that sealed the deal.

We started with the basics like Sit, polite greetings (she's a jumper), and housebreaking. Sit was a breeze for her. Polite greetings are still a work in progress. Thankfully she rarely jumps on people except for my husband and I. Sixty five pounds of muscle coming through the air at you can be intimidating! To work on the jumping we focused on having her sit for EVERYTHING - getting her food, toys and any attention. We would also turn our backs and walk away when she would jump. Since she is such a social dog just turning away from her is all the draw back that she needs to stop the behavior. She's getting better which is all we ask.

The housebreaking has been interesting. Our other dog Bella has always had issues with that because she is a stress pee'er. When she feels uncomfortable (usually when she's left alone) she makes herself feel better by urinating. Some of us relax with a massage, she pees. Gotta love her! Darcy picked up the concept of eliminating in the back yard pretty quickly but she also enjoys using the carpeted upstairs so we need to put a baby gate up to block her from going up there unless we are there. Funny we just took the baby gate down from our four year old and now it's up again... My only concern right now is that she will rarely eliminate outside our back yard. We will go for three mile runs and she won't go until we get home.

Speaking of running, Darcy has been a wonderful and frustrating running partner. Wonderful in that her natural pace is just slightly faster than mine so she gives me a good work out but frustrating because most of the run she is either trying to chase squirrels or she is so freaked out from a loud truck that she runs into my legs. We are getting better at that too. On Tuesday we did three miles and it only took an extra 15 minutes of stopping each time she pulled on leash and also slowing down to a walk when there was a loud vehicle so I could praise her as it went by so she started making good associations with these scary things.

As far as formal education, we are on our fifth week of agility class with Stacey Hawk at Best Friends Windy City. We are also taking a Canine Good Citizen Prep class at The Anti Cruelty Society since from the moment I met Darcy I thought she would make a wonderful therapy dog. We take the test in a little over two weeks and as a CGC evaluator I fully expect us to fail but it's good practice anyway!

So that's all for now. In future posts I will go into more detail about how I am training her to do certain things so keep checking back!