This evening Sage completed his Puppy II Training Class and earned his official Certificate of Graduation!
As he has matured it's become clear that he definitely responds to the mental challenge of training. He grasps new concepts in a heartbeat. At this age his "puppy focus" doesn't always allow him to perform as reliably as an adult dog might, but he appears to have potential to be a really good obedience dog! He just soaks up everything. He will perform and loves to play training-related games.
The Sirius Puppy Training program was really dense, in terms of the amount of information provided to the trainers, and the vast number of things our dogs learned. I was amazed that puppies could master so much! This has been a great introduction for Sage and now we're in the habit of daily training sessions as a part of the ritual. That worked really well for Bart and Kenai when we were first starting out with dogs years ago. They got a bit of training with each meal. Bart needed it as part of NILIF, as he'd been in a home without any rules for the first five years, and he was a naturally dominant, alpha dog when we rescued him.
So... next stop for Sage will be the training classes associated with the dog training club where Denali trains.
Interestingly, witnessing Sage's training sessions each morning has sparked Denali's interest. It appears she's a bit competitive and isn't happy about the puppy one-upping her! She was really getting flat in our training classes and not really performing as I'd hoped she would in Show Novice. I simply couldn't get her to focus on me and heel well for anything. I was actually planning to quit taking her to the classes after this session ended. She does reasonably well on everything else, but we really weren't progressing, or having any fun with it. Both of us were bored.
But, during the past couple weeks whenever I'm working with Sage, Denali has started "asking" to show what she can do. For two weeks I completely ignored her and didn't work with her at all, other than during our classes. Then I started working with her for just a few minutes at a time whenever we'd go outside for breaks during the day. I'd ask her to execute one or two commands, and then cut it off. I made sure I quit while she was ready and excited to do more - before she got bored.
And I realized that I'd been working in a way that made it fun for the puppy, but I hadn't been doing as well at making it fun for Denali! So, we focused less on the result and more on having fun during the process. And what a transformation...! Suddenly I have a dog who can't wait to show off. A few days ago she did the best off-leash heeling segment she's ever done during one of our short sessions! I was astonished!
Last night in our class she repeated her new-found beautiful heeling! The instructor, Judy, exclaimed "Kathy, she's working SO nicely!" And she was! Judy couldn't believe it was the same dog. Neither can I! All of a sudden I have a dog that is alert, interested, excited and focused while heeling? Go figure?
And I've started working a bit with Elbee to get a decent recall on her. She's a very mild dog and while she knows the basic commands, she has absolutely NO incentive to perform them - and moves in slow motion. The recall is the worst. So...using some techniques from Sage's puppy class, it's back to basics for Elbee too! This class was a real benefit for all three dogs...and their parents/trainers!
Congratulations Sage! You had a big night!
I can't wait to see what the future holds for my happy, bouncy boy!