Dog training tools
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.