Sebastian - Basic Obedience Class

Cute, playful Sebastian
Sebastian being cute
Books helpful to me

"How can you discipline him, he so cute?" is what I hear frequently from friends and family. My response is that he can be cute AND well-mannered and that they will thank me when he's 130+ lbs. Somehow jumping on you isn't cute with adult dogs, especially big ones. With that in mind, we enrolled in Basic Obedience Class.

Below are my "Puppy-Logues" from Basic Obedience Class.

First Day at Basic Obedience Class - September 14, 2004
We had a little bit of a fuss getting into the safety harness and then smooth sailing into the car and on to class.

We started off indoors because all 8 dogs had to have their gentle-leaders (think of it as a halter for a dog) adjusted to them, and we had to have instructions on how to hold the leash while they've got the gentle-leader on.

At this point we said farewell to our puppy leash, and hello to our big boy 6 foot leather leash. Sebastian really didn't care about what leash I was using he was whining about that darn gentle leader over his muzzle.

Then outside we went to one of the large training enclosures. We needed to walk with our dog on our left, holding the leash with the handle around our right thumb, gripping a portion of the leash with our right hand, left hand on the leash further down, with slack from there to the dog. "Let's go" is the command to let the dog know we're ready to move. For me this works, because that's what I've always used, since I had Wolf. We did quite a few laps mingling around other dogs, reminding them "Let's go" when they were interested in the other dogs and not walking.

Then, we had to add something to our walk. We needed to stop, tell them to sit and then "OK" (the release from any command given) after they'd sat for 3 seconds. If they got up before that, we needed to sit them again and start over. We did this for quite a while.

The next section had us all lining up about 4 feet apart. Our job was to keep our dog's attention on us, to make us more interesting than the distractions out there. While we were doing that, another owner & dog would weave in and out between us with their dog and their job was to keep their dog focused on walking and not worrying about the other dogs. We each had a turn a the weaving. Sebastian did ok, then Sharon told me to walk faster and he did better. She said that some dogs need to go a little faster and he's one of them. Not like a speed walk, but faster than a stroll.

All the dogs did well at this.

Our homework:
1)   gentle leader on at least twice daily
2)   put a treat near the top of our nose and while holding it there, telling the dog "watch me", when he does for about 10 seconds, then treat him
3)   then put a treat near top of our nose and then outstretch arm straight out to side, so they follow it with their eyes
4)   put them in a sit next to us and have them stay there for 20 seconds before saying "ok", treat them when it works, start over when it doesn't

10 minutes twice daily for #2 thru #4

5)   don't forget to praise the dog while walking with them for how good they're doing on the gentle-leader, and remember to use the "happy voice". Not to worry what the neighbors think, talk to the dog! Like I've ever cared what the neighbors think :) Anyone who's ever seen me working with any tools outside already thinks I'm nuts because I 'talk' to the tools when they don't do what they're supposed to. Although, I think what nails it for them that I'm wacko is when I scream at bees to get away from me - like that does any good other than making me feel like I accomplished something.

This class was hard work and focus for both of us, but good! Patient consistency sounds so easy, doesn't it? Nothin' but hard work! :)

None of Sebastian's kindergarten friends are in this class (they might be in the Wednesday or Saturday classes). At 4 months, it looks like he's the youngest in this class. There's a St. Bernard that's 7 months (she's already 90+ pounds), and she's very sweet. There's 3 little dogs, but I don't know what breed they are. One boxer who appears to be an adult dog, and two medium size to large dogs (don't know what breed they are either). Sharon's pup, Stella, is going through the class with us, being handled by Jen.

We've got an appointment with Dr. Nichol today, so we'll find out how much the big boy weighs. My guess is between 45 and 50 pounds. We'll see! turned out to be 52

No class photos, both hands on the leash! But a photo from the previous Sunday, so you see how big he is:

Sebastian watching a plane   Sebastian playing

Second Basic Obedience Class - September 21, 2004
Sebastian is now 55 pounds, strong, sweet, willful and making statements. He doesn't like the gentle leader and saves up a big poop for in front of the kitchen sink to let me know. How's that for a statement!!
Deep breath, the mantra is "patient consistency" :)

He is doing better on the gentle leader, but we have some issues to correct. He likes to be in my space. We were second up to walk around the 'track' using the leader and having them sit on command for 10 seconds, release on "ok" and keep walking on let's go. Sharon noticed right off that "Sebastian has a space issue". She suggested just bumping him into his space and out of mine with my knee, which we did (and will keep doing as long as it takes). He was about 50% on a good sit during class, closer to 75% when we walk at home. He's also begun jumping on me since the advent of this gentle leader business. I step back as quickly as I can so he misses me and turn my back on him to settle him. Sharon believes he's entered a 'stage', which she calls the "flipping you the dew-claw" stage. It usually happens when they are six months, and he's a little early at 4 months. (The funny thing is that in the house, he's becoming an enjoyable young dog)

She also recommended that for now I switch off the leather leash to nylon so I can more easily slide my left hand up and down the leash depending on how much or little leash I need to give him.

Everyone in the class had progress from last week with walking on the leader and sit/stay. Two young girls each have very little dogs and have it tougher in some ways than those of us with big dogs. Because the dogs are so tiny, their correction is lifting/moving the dog with the leash. It is also a lot of bending down to get the treat above nose level for them to sit. Both listen well and work hard to implement what they learn. Most of the people in the class are there for real and not in the "if I buy the exercize equipment I'll lose weight whether I use it or not" mode. Most practice.

After the walk, we had to have them sit and back away from them to the end of our leash, releasing them from the sit with "ok" only after we were at full extension. I didn't get to issue the "ok", we were close, but not there. Sharon suggested I break his train of thought with "eh, eh, eh!" when I see him start to pop up. Duh! That works inside when I see him thinking about getting into or onto something that's out of bounds in the house. More practice!!

Then we had to put them in a sit and walk around them, only releasing them on the "ok". We did it once, and 'almost' several times, but not quite. More practice!!

Then we had to put them in a down and stay while backing away from them. Down is no problem for him, we've been doing that for 2 months. The stay is where we need work. Sebastian did ok on this, but again, more practice.

Our homework is the same as last week, with the addition of the down/stay.

Next week we'll be play "musical chairs", those popping up from a sit before 20 seconds go to the back and start over. :)

I've decided to take the approach that we may have to take this class again. That way, there's no stress on me (a recovering type A - a life long recovery process!) for us to finish at the head of the class - the most important thing is learning for both of us. If there's no stress on me, I'm not transferring any to him - the calmer I am, the calmer he is. We'll get there - one paw in front of the other :)

He has already learned a great deal, I've realized, as I'm mostly telling him "no" or "off" to new sets of things. That means he's listening and learning and we've got a base on which to build :)

No class photos, both hands on the leash! But photos from the previous weekend, so you see his growth:

Sebastian coming to his name   Sebastian posing for his 4 month birthday

Third Basic Obedience Class - September 28, 2004

By Thursday last week we had some improvement walking on the gentle-leader, but we also had the emergence of "Yukon Sam" about 3/4 of the way through our walk. Trying to jump on me, jumping at me, grabbing the leash in his teeth and various other forms of non-gentlemanly behavior.
I called Sharon on Friday for some additional tips. She reinforced turning my back on him and ignoring him until he settles - just standing still with my back to him for as long as it takes. She also asked me to consider, putting him on the regular collar at that point and giving him a sniff walk the last 1/4 of our walk, as she does with Stella. I thought it over, and the reason for our improvement on Wednesday and Thursday was because I was using turkey lunch meat as the "big guns" incentive treat for the gentle-leader. I didn't want to do the sniff walk, because I figured that he would start "Yukon Sam" even earlier in the walk (Malamutes are so headstrong), and I don't have any problem ignoring him until he settles. What I decided was to increase the frequency of our "big guns" treats during the walk.
Well, guess who is behaving more like a gentleman, during our walks? And no more statements in front of the kitchen sink, but he does vent his major annoyance with the gentle-leader when we get in by running around the coffee table, into the kitchen, around the island and back again. Venting is ok, statements are not welcome! :)

This week in class only 4 of us showed up because of the deluge from Jeanne. That meant we got a lot of individual attention.

Everyone is amazed at his growth. He seems about 2" taller than last week, his tail is filling out (fur getting longer, with more white under the black), and his body fur is starting to fill out with more white under the black on his neck and hind quarters.

Sharon said, "he is just so good looking and he knows it, too". I told her that I never tell him that, but maybe having a camera in his face every 2 seconds might be a giveaway. She agreed that just might be a "clue". :)

We each had to walk them around the perimeter of the room, with a sit stay in each corner. Sebastian and I were second up, and we needed to do 2 walks around until he was focused. Then he did fine on the walk, sitting on command, staying and continuing on "ok".
Then we had to go to the center of the room. I put him in a sit, dropped the leash and walked back past the end of the leash telling him to stay. The goal was for him to stay for at least a minute.
I corrected him several times when he was thinking about popping up and that worked, but my final correction didn't. But, guess what? He popped up at 55 seconds, so that is unbelievable progress over the week. I put him back in a sit and stay for about 5 seconds, and told him ok so that he could get the treat. (no treat for the 55 seconds because he didn't listen to my final correction - so this one got him his reward).
Then I had to put him in a down/stay, drop the leash and walk away. He popped up after about 10 seconds and we started over. Happened again and we started over. He stayed down (certainly not even close to show conformance down with him rubbing his muzzle into the carpet - still trying to get rid of the #$%@!# gentle-leader - and slow crawl towards me with his eyes on the treat in my hand) for over a minute. Major, major progress!

The new command we are adding is for "extra credit". The command is "Place". A dog's place is sitting on your left hand side. We have to put them in a sit, walk about 10 ft away, treat in right hand, left had slaps left thigh and call "Place". The dog is supposed to come to your right, circle behind you, and sit on your left hand side.
This is initially confusing for all the dogs & owners. We've got to get them going in momentum for the treat in our right hand and as they get near, pass it behind ourselves to our left hand so they follow it, bring the treat up so they then sit, and then reward them.
We did it in a very broken up fashion after about 5 attempts, and only after Jen did it with him. I was able to learn more watching her put it into practice with him. This one is going to take a lot of practice. Oh, I did have to bring out the "big guns" treat to take away his confusion and just follow the treat around me.

Don't know what we're going to be doing next week. Our homework is to continue improving walking on the gentle-leader (making "Yukon Sam" take a hike for good), sit/stay, down/stay and now "Place".

Photos from the weekend:

Sebastian getting big   Sebastian making a mess with water

Fourth Basic Obedience Class - October 14, 2004

Last week's obedience class was cancelled. The instructor, Sharon, had an accident with her dog. She called her pup, who obeyed and ran to her but unfortunately didn't stop and ran into her. The collision flipped them both over, but only Sharon was injured.

In the meantime, we had more time to practice. We've really been working on walking. Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday Sebastian had perfect walks, no appearance of Yukon Sam the Wild Man. Last Saturday was the first time he didn't fight me on getting the gentle leader on. Yukon Sam has made some repeat visits, though, and there have been subsequent struggles with the gentle leader, but we're making progress. Yesterday morning since ignoring him wasn't working, I kept putting him in a sit/stay every few feet because he was getting wild and jumping at me every few feet. That calmed him down. Tough work learning to be a gentleman. The weather change does crank them up, so I know I'm dealing with that. He's been doing great at sit/stay and down/stay for at least a minute. I hadn't been working with him on "Place" for about 10 days because it seemed to be confusing him, and I wanted to concentrate on exising Yukon Sam. Started it again yesterday and the little brat is doing well at it as if to say, "yeah, I remember this, what's the big deal?".

I switched to the Thursday class from the Tuesday class, so a new group of dogs, except that his puppy kindergarten pal Boomer is in this class. Boy did his eyes pop out of his head when Boomer's dad saw Sebastian. "It can't be, he was only little, smaller than Boomer". Sebastian is twice Boomer's size now :) Most of his recent growing energy is in lengthening fur and rippling thigh muscles, but he is standing 23" at the shoulder now. Boomer and Sebastian played off-leash early before the others arrived.

We were indoors because of the rain.

Sebastian & I were up first for sit/stay. First two attempts he popped up after 20 seconds (Boomer's back there, Mom!). Third attempt with multiple corrections was 59 seconds. Then down/stay - 3 attempts with him counting to 27 seconds each time. Then we had to walk around the perimeter with multiple sits. He did great at that. Sharon was very happy with how far he's come since class started. I told her we could do the place for her and she said great, that's what Jen was going to do with you now. Jen held Sebastian, bless his heart he sat as soon as she told him. I went about 15 feet away, held out the treat and called place. He ran to my right hand, followed the treat around and sat at my left side. Perfect, for a puppy version of completing the command. Sharon said it was obvious we'd been working hard.

Boomer was up next and did well, he's really been working with her. Then a big brown dog called Hershey was up. He did ok, but he's 11 months and at what Sharon called the "2nd stage" of adolesence. Then a little floppy bundle was up. Then a big black lab who is about 18 mos old ("3rd stage" of adolescent obstinance). Both Sebastian and Boomer were called to work here. While the lab was in a down/stay, we had to walk the perimeter and cut in front of him while the owner worked with him to keep his concentration on her. He kept improving. Then a little terrier, who did really well.

Then we played musical chairs. We would walk around the chairs and when Sharon called stop we had 10 seconds to sit down and put our dogs in a sit/stay. Anyone who didn't complete it was out. Everyone made it. Then 7 seconds, then 3 seconds. Everyone made it. Then the same thing with a down/stay. Everyone made it. Then the big black lab went into the middle in a down/stay with all of us walking around, sitting & putting our dogs in a down/stay.

Sharon and Jen applauded us all because we've all been working with the dogs. I asked petulantly, "so where's my treat"? Everyone laughed.

Our homework is to keep practicing. If next week is nice, we'll be going through the tunnel apparatus outside. Should be interesting.

Sharon will be offering a 4 week refresher course in the next few months as a tune-up to the spring Agility Course. We're on for that!

We're going to the puppy party tonight and Jen was happy because she wants to showcase Sebastian to new puppy owners as an example of what Puppy Kindergarten and Obedience Class can do. Cool, huh? Photos from last week:

Sebastian playing with the strap that came attached to a now destroyed supersized tennis ball   Sebastian the big boy - 23 inches at the shoulder

Fifth Basic Obedience Class - October 21, 2004

Not much walking this past week because of the rain, although we did wave to Noah when the Ark went past. As a result, we spent more time on sit/stay, down/stay and his favorite "place". Place he does very well, sit/stay I've been getting up to a minute out of him and for down/stay up to 40 seconds.

He's been teething, so he's been pulling out every toy he has every night and going toy-to-toy until he finds what works for him, in addition to alot of chomping on greenies. He's also firmly into the first stage of adolescence and flipping me the dew claw on certain things. One of those is stealing things from the back (yup, the back) of the kitchen counter (where I thought the kitchen towels were safe). He knows his paws don't belong up there, but he stays until I get right over to him and push him off, and then does a triumphant gallop into the family room. If you're familiar with the term "counting coup", this is what he's doing. (It refers to a practice of the Plains Indians who would ride up to an enemy, touch them with a tomahawk or knife or something and ride away unscathed and count it a victory. It is pronounced - "counting coo").

We've also been working on him spending more unsupervised time in the backyard. Why is this work, you ask? Well, at first I had to walk all the way down the deck steps with him (it's a full flight, although with 3 landings) so he wouldn't just play in the water in the trellises. This way he'd also remember that he's out there to pee and poop, not just play and then come in the house to poop next to the door he came through. We're seeing good progress on this, with mulitple days strung together without indoor cleanup needed! He's up to 30 minutes unsupervised time and I don't have to go to the yard with him, except for first thing in the morning or someday to play when it stops raining. This is wonderful, especially with the onset of the cold weather.

When we got to class, Sharon wanted to know where Sebastian was, and I didn't get it at first :) But she was teasing because he's getting so big. He was cranked and got a couple of the other dogs cranked while others were up to do their stuff. He settled a bit and played lovebug lap dog with Jen and the little girl on her lap. Lots of puppy kisses and giggling.

When we were up, he did great at walking - he was out of my space and just trotting along side very well. A bit of trouble focusing on sit and down during our walk. He was very rammy. Then we did sit/stay and despite multiple corrections around 30 seconds was the most he'd give me. On the down/stay 20 seconds was the most he'd give me. Sharon said she'd take it, because he's in the first stage of adolescence and his hormones are raging. Then, of course he did the tough command, "Place" really well. When he's not focused, sit/stay and down/stay seem to bore him, but "place" he loves.

Boomer did really well, as did Hershey and the other dogs.

Then, just as promised, they brought the collapsable tunnel inside and stretched it out on the carpet. This is a preview of agility training. You take your dog to one end of the tunnel and hand motion into it, giving the command "tunnel". They were all confused at first and had a bit of fear of the unknown. Some dogs running to their owners around the tunnel. But, everyone ended up going through.

Initially with Sebastian, he really rejected going in, so we collapsed the length of it to about 2 feet and with a big treat facing him, he went through. Then we lengthened it to about 15 feet and he went straight through. Then we did another, he went straight in (loves being in there), but layed down in the middle rubbing his muzzle into it in yet another futile attempt to get the gentle leader off. More coaxing and he came through.

We all did this mulitple times with the dogs more confident each time. Then, the tunnel was put at right angles so the dogs couldn't see the "light at the end". Sebastian was left until last because Sharon thought he'd be afraid, but he made a liar out of her. Straight in and through. There were two little kids at class who were "helping" each dog, and they really were. They got down at the end and called "Tunnel, Sebastian" or for whatever dog was going through. They had as much fun as the pups. Then of course, they needed their turn to go through and we all called "tunnel", but they didn't want any of our puppy treats at the end :) The little girl had Sebastian doing sit and down on command for her, every time she asked :)

After the "giant" crate is purchased for him, I'm going to get a tunnel for him for the back yard. The more there is for him to do out there, the less he'll be digging to China.

Next week is graduation, so we've got to work on our sit/stay for at least a minute. In any case, we will take the 6 week spring refresher course prior to agility training. Photos from last weekend:

Sebastian fairly clean after his mudbath   Sebastian with his 5 month old birthday present - a new cry baby dog

Graduation - Sixth Basic Obedience Class - October 28, 2004

Gosh, he was doing great walking this week and we increased the walks to about 1 1/4 miles.

Tuesday, I took him to the pet store to see how he'd do, figuring he's come a long way in his training. The first test was the automatic glass doors which puzzled him a bit, but he went through no problem. Next was his amazement at the wheels on the shopping cart. He watched them like a hawk until we got to the dog food isle, and then sniffing the different bags gained priority. He didn't help himself to the 'self-feeder' bisquet/treat bins placed at doggie mouth level, nor to the toys placed at the same level. He was a charmer to other shoppers who fawned all over him. He was good for me at checkout, and walked right up to those glass doors and on through the instant they opened. He did so well, I took him to pick up my mail. There were more people than usual at Mailboxes and multiple copiers were going, but he stayed right with me and sat when I told him to.

Sebastian loves 'his outside' and spends endless hours out there, either trying to bathe himself in the trellises or chasing & pouncing on things I can't see in the yard. At first I had to get the leash to get him to come in for bedtime, but he's coming in easily now. One of the things I picked up at the petstore was a dinosaur bone (probably a cow shin), but it's so stinking big that it reminds me of a dinosaur bone. I did this to give him something else to chew so the deck wouldn't turn to sawdust. He started on one corner of a stair, but I poured vinegar on it and gave him the bone and no other issues since, but I'm going to pick up tobasco sauce just in case the vinegar isn't a good enough deterrent.

He was wild at class, but did well walking. We started out with class outside, but all the dogs were rammy and not listening and we know they can do this stuff. Sebastian was too fascinated by our shadows to sit/stay and needed to bark at the straw-stuffed 'people' on the other side of the fence setup for Halloween. So, inside we went in hopes of the dogs focusing.

Boomer did great outside and inside. She was the star of the class. I wish I'd had a shot of Boomer with Sebastian, he's 3 times her size now and was smaller than her in Puppy Kindergarten.

The rest of the dogs, continued their stuff inside. Yukon Sam made his first classroom appearance and while Sharon liked my sharp vocal corrections, he was being a brat. Jen took him for a while and he did a bit better with her. Sharon encouraged me that I'm doing the right things, but he's still a baby, and the chillier weather really cranks the dogs. On top of that, I realized, it was a full moon.

He did do a 'place' for me, but the sloppiest ever, but it was something.

Other than Boomer, the other dogs were rammy and not listening as well. Since they've all done the requirements over the course of the 6 classes, they've all been graduated.

We ended up for fun with the tunnel. Sebastian was up first and this I knew he'd do, which he did instantly when I said 'tunnel'. Or did I say 'tunnel' after he started in :) Hard to tell, he was eager. Bishop, the black lab had a couple issues with it, but did go through. All the rest went through, multiple times. (He will have his own tunnel in a week or so :)

Then Sharon took some head shots of the dogs for their certificates. She got to Sebastian, he saw the camera, sat his butt down and looked up at her. What a ham!!!!!

We're taking the class starting again next week, and he's going to go to day-care twice a month for the continued socialization with other dogs and with people other than 'mom'. We really need the regimentation that class and goals for class provide, especially since he's going through his first adolescent phase. Sharon told me she's never seen anyone more dedicated. Hmm, I told her I have a tendancy to not do things half-way, but full throttle :)

He's about 24 1/2 inches at the shoulder, and about 70 pounds at 5 1/2 months old.

Photos from last weekend:

Sebastian still trying to get the tree down   Sebastian making a den with the deck furniture

Basic Obedience - Up A Notch

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