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!

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