Dog training tools
Pumpkin and Lola have become good friends and rough-housing buddies. See video below.
Two days ago I let go of his leash after a training session and we played fetch for a while. He doesn't bring the ball back directly. He first has to run around a bit, showing off with it. When he sees that I don't run after him like the other dogs do, he eventually comes back and drops the ball nearby. We have much work to do to get him to place it in my hand.
On another training angle...he has learned to touch the target stick in all directions as well as look at it on cue. He will also take and tug a canvas tummy on cue. His sit and down stays have improved to the point where I no longer need to use the Comfort Trainer or leash. His heeling often still requires the Comfort Trainer if he is in a distraction zone. We are also working on the "sleep" cue, where he'll lie on his side with his head down. He can hold that for about 10 seconds with me close by his face.
While he and Lola have become good friends, he still challenges Princess and Jasmin snaps at him every time he gets near her. She also goes after him when he plays with Lola. She really dislikes Pumpkin. Princess tolerates him, but only because I make her.
Pumpkin is settling into his routines and the girls are finally accepting his presence. Jasmin doesn't grumble as often and the scuffles between Princess and Pumpkin are almost gone; even when they're eating ice cubes, pizza or other "accidentally" dropped food stuffs.
I have taken to putting Pumpkin in a crate at night which has curbed his early morning carpet pissing. I also put him outside much more often.
He still doesn't like bathing but does put up with brushing, nail clipping and other grooming activities. In fact, he loves the individual attention.
Pumpkin is working well off leash, though by no means reliable with distractions. He has learned appropriate heeling and recall positioning. We've also accomplished more tricks along with starting the targeting game with a target stick. He's not very quick on the uptake with this exercise. It's tough opening up a brain that's been shut down for years.
Pumpkin is making good progress. He's still extremely stubborn and bull-headed, but I know that's mostly due to his breed. He loves to be underfoot; literally, which makes it hard at times to move about when cooking and cleaning.
Jasmin still hates him. She snarls at him whenever he looks at her or gets within 4 feet of her position. Lola tends to remain at a distance. If he gets too close to her (i.e. in her personal space) she will growl at him and move away. Princess will challenge him, especially when it comes to fetching toys or vying for my attention. They've had a few snarlies back and forth.
His training is coming along. I can now go off to about 20' of distance and drop the leash on stays and comes. His heeling is good provided he's wearing his Comfort Trainer, especially when there are distractions present. Pretty soon we'll have to do some work in public to get over this problem. I believe he's almost ready.
I've been working on teaching him the Speak cue. He actually responded, once. But, that's a start. He can twirl, sit-up and life a paw. We've also been working on Take and Drop. He was a quick study on that one.
We had a great training lesson today. Pics below.
I was able to drop the leash on sit and down stays as well as recalls. Pumpkin is picking up nicely on his basics. We've even begun the stand/stay which he really likes because it comes with a tummy rub.
I've had to separate him from the K9 visitors as he's become "amorous" with some of the guests. He does not try this behavior with my girls or they'll attempt to kick his butt. Pumpkin respects them sometimes but still challenges them into dog games from time to time.
I am using both the Freedom Harness and Comfort Trainer to obtain some nice heeling and overall attentiveness so that I need not use any harsh methods. No more pulling, lagging, distraction or play while working. Just complete attentiveness and an overall pleasant walk.
Yesterday we played some indoor fetch. He knows to return to my area, but only once did he return the large ball to my hand. This will take some work. It's nice to know he enjoys the game though
I finally did it - put a Comfort Trainer on Pumpkin. What a difference a training tool makes. He instantly began to remain near and heel properly. I should've done it sooner.
He has also finally accomplished a sit and down stay with complete walk around. I can do most of his behaviors indoors off leash - heel, sit/stay, down/stay, come and finish along with tricks. He can perform one twirl to the right, sit-up/beg, lift right front paw slightly. We still have a long ways to go.
One thing he has really taken to is riding in the mule. He prefers to be on the seat as glued to my side as he can possibly get. As that's the side with my currently broken rib it isn't pleasant for me. Pumpkin will need to learn to relax enough to use his own space and not mine.
He is doing better with the girls, but only because they have accepted him as alpha. Jasmin still gets growly with him when he nears her and luckily he has enough respect for her to remain at a distance when she gets in these moods.
Pumpkin is great with the cats. He just puts his nose nearby and follows them around. He has made great friends with Zelda, my orange tabby girl. They like to do the nose-to-nose every morning, then she rubs against him. He's smiling the whole time and wiggling his butt.
Pumpkin has finally gotten the gist of performing a sit and down stay as I move completely around him. He still has his moments of getting up, but is easy enough to replace. This dog has proven to be a typical hard-headed Aussie. When he REALLY wants his way he bulldozes through and there's no getting him back unless caught or he makes the decision to do so.
He normally gets along with every dog he meets, though he's no marshmellow if another dog confronts him. It doesn't normally go beyond snarls and growls along with a paw over the shoulder. He will back off immediately if I intervene with a harsh tone.
He now knows sit-up and stay, twirl to the right and has the beginnings of a shake. Though he barks a lot during play (especially to instigate play) he hasn't picked up on the speak; even when I have him next to the girls as they do it.
I believe he's finally housetrained; provided I get up at 5:30 am and get him outside. He has spent the past month urinating on the area rugs on the main floor of the pet retreat. Luckily, he hasn't chosen any of the toys from the shelves as his own. He'd rather steal a toy from the girls when they walk away from it. That so reminds me of my past Aussie, Sydney. She got in horrific fights with Cherry, my Springer. I broke 2 toes breaking up those fights. They rarely came away with a scratch.
Pumpkin still has issues with heeling but he's definitely getting better. So far I've resisted using a Comfort Trainer, but when it comes to working on distraction proofing I believe I'll go ahead and introduce it.
Pumpkin is slowly learning the house rules. He's had a few tiffs with my girls, usually over toys or being near me. He will stop the behavior when I say, Ahh! in a low tone. Then he acts as though he did nothing wrong. He's still super friendly with other dogs - the pet retreat guests. He can sometimes be a little overwhelming on the young ones, but not dangerously so.
We're still working on heeling. I've been a bit inconsistent on his lessons due to having broken rib #9. It's tough to move and will be for 4-6 weeks. Meanwhile, though I do work on his tricks as well as come, sit, down and stay. He has gotten really good at sit-up and lifting his paw. He is still a little rusty on twirl and hasn't gotten the gist of speak. Pumpkin is a natural retriever but tends to lose interest after a couple retrieves.
When it's wet outside I can assured he'll come in muddy and grinning. Another thing that is assured is that he'll wiggle all over whenever my husband comes home. such an Aussie!
It has now been a week and a half since Pumpkin entered my life. At first he was good as gold as many dogs are when in a new environment. He was "feeling" out his new world; how to interact with my other dogs, the cats, my husband and myself.
I began formal training sessions with him the day following his arrival. I am using a Freedom Harness and treats for positive reinforcement. At first he did not like any treat and I had to use cheese. Now he's ammenable to almost anything I can offer.
Pet interactions: When he first meets another dog he's friendly and playful. Living with them is a different story. He can be quite challenging as he does not give in to my girls. After a week here he began snarling at the other dogs if they had something he wanted or were located somewhere he wished to be; namely, my feet.
Pumpkin loves toys and we've already started learning the rules of Fetch. While he readily returns with a toy, he usually drops it nearby instead of handing it to me. I'm sure he'll catch on to the rules soon.
He's quickly learning obedience skills. Come and sit was accomplished within days. Stay is started with slight movement in front of him. He will go down on command. His heeling needs lots of work but he quickly learns with lots of turns. I can now walk with him without his pulling too hard all the time.
At night all my dogs do tricks for treats. Pumpkin has learned sit-up and is learning shake as well. He readily performs side by side with my other dogs without distraction. He does, however, try to take the treats from the other dogs when I offer them. I've had to push him away when this occurs.
Pumpkin has begun chewing on inappropriate objects such as area rugs, chairs, my desk, etc. Luckily, this has only been done in my presence so that I can easily redirect his actions. He does not seem to do this when I'm not present.
Another behavior he's tried lately is urinating indoors. I caught him in the act yesterday and he hasn't done it since. It seems that with gentle guidance and persistence he gets the message and is learning how to achieve rewarding goals.
Overall, he's a very sweet, personable dog who wants nothing more than to be caressed and nearby.
On April 29, 2012, I gave a presentation at the Roanoke Pet Expo, displaying my work as an animal actor trainer and agent. I introduced a few of my current dog actors - Sunshine, Sugar and Roxy, all experienced actors. While there I met a few other pets who have the ability to become working actors. I have to carefully "vet" out the pet owners as not just the animals who must have the appropriate attributes,
Before the expo began there were people there walking some of their pets who were up for adoption. Most pet expos feature humane groups and rescue groups who hope to find homes for some of their charges.
This is when I saw Pumpkin. He just knocked my socks off.
Pumpkin is an adult male Australian Shepherd. He's brown and white with a pink with black freckled nose. He grinned from ear to ear, tongue hanging down like Odie from the Garfield comic strip. Though highly stressed, as most animals would be in this situation, he was very friendly to everyone he met - human and animal alike.
I had to meet the fellow. He greeted me as though he'd known me for a long time.
I inquired about how he came to be at the pound. Here was a very healthy dog with a great temperament. Apparantly, his previous owners had 3 children and he chased them in the yard.
Throughout the morning I visited with him each time he neared my table. By noon I told the handler, Barbara, that if nobody else would adopt him I would.
I had lost my last Aussie in 2001 to old age and just a year ago my beloved Golden Retriever, Peaches, also to old age. I miss them both very much and nobody could replace them. As I currently have 3 other dogs (2 JRTs, Lola and Jasmin and Princess a pit-bull mix) I was NOT looking to adopt another dog. Unfortunately, Pumpkin (who was named Dream) hit me like a brick wall. I saw more than just a dog needing a home. I saw a future animal actor star. Not only did he have the perfect appearance/coloration, but also the perfect temperament.
My girls weren't thrilled having to share their space with yet another dog, especially one not relegated to a suite and in their main hall area. There's been some grumbling, but after some great dog games two days ago everybody is more settled.
A week later now, Pumpkin has learned some of the house rules and also some obedience cues, though he by no means reliable.
This blog will follow his progress from pound puppy to canine star. I will relate his training progress and also follow his work, showing all who care to read this how a dog from the pound can have fantastic potential. They all deserve such a chance.
Pumpkin - 2 year old, male, Australian Shepherd.
Miriam Fields-Babineau is the author of 42 pet books and is an animal actor agent.