When I decided to put Lizzie into Obedience Training I had to convince the trainer that she could skip beginner class and go right into intermediate class.  I went on and on about how she already knows all the basic commands and would just be bored with the beginners.  So, with a bit of hesitation, the trainer agreed to try her in intermediate with the disclaimer that he will make the final decision after the first class and if need be, he reserved the right to put her in the beginner class.  That’s a lot of pressure, but I agreed.  I was told to bring a bag of her favorite treats.  I bought brand new treats for her just for class.

Last night was Lizzie’s first class.  We showed up a few minutes early and the class ahead of us wasn’t done yet so we waited outside.  We greeted the members of our class one by one as they showed up and were forced to wait in the parking lot as well until the classroom was available.  Lizzie made friends and played with all the dogs, sniffing out the one that would soon be her new BFF.   She landed on a black German Shepherd, named Zevra (or something like that after a TV show character).  Within seconds they were playing hard and panting.  Within minutes they had to be separated.  There were six dogs in the class, including Lizzie.  A Pit Bull, German Shepherd, Boxer, and two little fu-fu dogs.  The trainer called Lizzie and I into his office and had the others go in the classroom.  Since he knew the other dogs, he was monitoring Lizzie’s behavior from inside to see how she interacted with the other dogs.  He had her all sized up in minutes.  He told me she was an Alpha Dog and to notice that she pees like a male when dominant dogs are around.  Alone she pees like a female (ohh, that’s why she does that!). He went on to tell me of her stance and structure around each dog (he got all that from the window?).  He liked that she was playful and friendly.  It was a good place to start.  He said to keep her opposite the Boxer at all times as he is very aggressive and wants them to have plenty of time to get to know each other before putting them side by side.  He had me notice that the Boxer was the only dog required to wear a double pinch collar (I did notice he had a lot of bling around his neck).  All the other dogs just had choke collars, which is what he gave Lizzie as well.   He also said she wouldn’t be near her new BFF because they’d just play and be distracted and distracting the whole class.  He paired her with the Pit Bull.  Pit Bull’s get such a bad rap as being awful dogs.  This dog was a cream-puff.  Sweet and loving… and obedient.

The first command was sit.  Oh, we’ve got this in the bag.  She’s a good sitter.  LIZZIE SIT!  nothing…  LIZZIE… SIT!  nothing… I pull out one of the new treats and she didn’t like them!  What???  Why didn’t I try them on her first?  What a doof!  Now what? She doesn’t like the treats and I have a whole bag of them.  Of course by now all the other dogs are sitting and everyone’s waiting for me and Lizzie.  I was so embarrassed trying to pick up the collection of treats Lizzie spit out all over the floor.  The trainer came across the floor towards Lizzie and locked eyes with her. She was defiant as she stood her ground.  He stood in front of her and didn’t say a word.  He pulled out one of his treats and gave her the sit hand signal command, still without saying a word.  It was a staring contest and then, just like that, she sat.  He never said a word.  He gave her the treat (yeah sure, she ate his treats), rubbed her belly, and simply said good-girl.  She was all over him.  She got up and sat down, got up and sat down.  She was trying to please him.  He looked at me and said she knew how to do it all along, she just needed to know who was boss.  Clearly, it was him.  I smiled nervously and he said “now show her who’s boss” as he handed me a fistful of treats.   That’s when it became clear who the training was really for… me.  Crap.

From that moment on Lizzie sat, stayed and laid down on command.  As her and her new BFF made googly eyes across the room, the Boxer was now beginning to show aggression towards Lizzie.  I don’t think the Boxer liked all the attention Lizzie was getting from the Trainer.  We learned a few hand signals and how do deal with different behaviors.  Then the Trainer said he was going to bring out a perfectly trained dog to show us all how it’s done.  He brought out Roxy, another little fu-fu dog.  Roxy was indeed the most perfectly trained dog I’d ever seen.  She never missed a command, never missed a beat.  I asked how long she’s been training.  Five days!  No kidding… this dog has been boarding with him during school vacation and he put her in class every day.  I couldn’t believe it.  He said she’s had no previous training and was wild when she came in.  Wow, I was so impressed.  Lizzie has potential.

On our morning walk today, I used the choke collar and leather training leash.  I used the commands heel, sit and stay.  Lizzie did exceptional.  She turned with me instead of against me and whenever she got distracted I gave her a good yank and got her attention.  At one point I was sure I heard her say “what the hell?” but I kept hearing the Trainer’s words to keep eye contact and remember dogs learn by body language and vibes.  Do not give in to her, she will never train if you do. One good yank is all you need to get her attention.  It won’t hurt her, it will just get her attention.  Most importantly he said, a dog that serves it’s master well, is a happy dog.  The love to serve.

Next week I’ll be sure to have treats she likes…