This morning I took the dogs to the park for a good run before I settled into work. They did not get any exercise yesterday as I worked ALL day (deadlines etc.) so granted they were a little frisky. But they have been getting a decent amount of exercise every day lately, so a missed day should not impact on them significantly.
It had been snowing out for some time already before we left, so the sidewalks were a little slippy. A few weeks ago I decided it was time for the dogs to learn to walk properly without haltis, so I have been doing a lot of heeling – with all three – all the way to the park and back. They have actually been doing quite well. Today was no exception, so I let them walk ahead on loose leash as a result. Hannah and Ross did fine, but Mira started to pull.
I decided that the others shouldn’t be ‘punished’ for Mira’s poor leash manners, so I let them walk on ahead, and made Mira walk at my side. Boy, she did NOT like that. It took an enormous amount of effort on my part to get her to stay at my side, even with treats. By the time we got to the park, I was getting a bit annoyed. So I released the other two and tried to get Mira to just heel for a few steps before I let her go too.
She was having nothing of it. If I walked towards the others, she would rush out ahead, unable to hold her heel for even a single step. If I turned and walked the other way, she would only walk backwards, staring at the other dogs. A mean feat, I dare say, but not what I was asking for. I could absolutely not get her to ‘get in’ at my side and take even two or three steps in the position.
I lost my temper. I yelled at her to pay attention, at which point she was able to at sit at my side, but not before she “failed” 3-4 times, each time staking 2 or three steps forward before sitting.
Unbelievable! Now, I absolutely do not advocate yelling at your dog, and any time I do so I consider it a failure on my part, not the dog’s. I was obviously asking Mira to do something that was simply beyond her. She was not trying to be difficult. It’s been a long time since I have asked her to do separate behaviours while the other two are running around and playing. Mira’s brain is semi-mush these days, what with our lack of training since November! So really, it’s not her fault.
But I do get frustrated because at age 2, she really should be able to do something this simple. Hannah certainly could. Now is this because Hannah received more one-on-one training with me than Mira did? Likely that has a lot to do with it. But, as I have discussed many times before, Mira really lacks impulse control to a much higher degree than Hannah ever has. Hannah is simply a much easier-to-train dog.
When I realized how frustrated I was, I asked Mira to do something simple – a hand touch (well, I thought a sit was simple, but apparently not in that situation!) – and then I released her. You should never train when you are frustrated, although I certainly have broken that rule. I don’t think I’ve ever accomplished anything when I have though, so I try my best to walk away when I get mad. Mira’s training is not going to be fixed in one session, so it can wait until I’m in a better mood. A lot of my frustration came from work stress (huge deadline this week), I was realizing, as when I’m relaxed, I tend to laugh at Mira’s training challenges, not get mad at her for them. Plus I obviously need to do some smaller steps first, like going back to do some basic training without the other dogs as distractions.
I am going to wait until I get through this week and then start working on training again. After all, spring is almost here. Despite the blizzard that has been raging since before I woke up this morning, it was fully light past 5pm tonight. Tulips and trials are therefore just around the corner!