So many people have asked me why I haven’t kept up on my blog while training. Truth is, training is a lot of work!! I didn’t realize how much of my life was going to be centered around my stubborn boy Rudy when I took on this training. We are into our 7th week of training now, and some of the results we have seen are fantastic. We still have a long way to go, but I am hopeful that over the next few months, Rudy will truly turn into the dog I know he can be.
It took almost 4 weeks before Rudy really started handing over any leadership to me. He kept trying to revert back to his old ways – refusing to walk on this head halti – sometimes just laying down in the grass or right on the side of the road. He would randomly sit and just ignore me while I pulled, nudged, and prodded him to keep moving. He was determined to keep running the show, since I had let him do that for the entire first year I had him. What I realized was that I had offered Rudy all the love and affection any dog could ever want, but I had never provided him with the leadership that he truly needed. By doing that, I had created a fearful, nervous dog that saw me as a resource worth guarding, rather than a leader worth following.
For four straight weeks, Rudy stayed in his kennel, and he only came out to train on his head halti for 20-30 minutes three times per day. He only got to eat after training, and he I gave him two additional quick “outs” during the day just for potty breaks. Other than that, he stayed in his crate. Then, we began slowly letting him out in the evening – but only if he was calm – and then he had to stay in his “place”. His place is a red Coleman camping cot that I purchased for him because he kept chewing this soft fluffy beds! And since Rhonda said the recliner was not really an appropriate “place” for him while training – we bought the camping bed! At first, it was a constant battle to keep him in it.
But soon, he began to appreciate that place. It was his time out of his crate, and he stayed calmly in his place, eventually being able to stay out for most of the evening as long as he stayed in his place, and stayed calm.
The whole point of this training was to create a calm, family dog that would listen to what we say, and learn to live in a more relaxed state. After four long weeks of fighting me every step of the way, Rudy finally caved, and he began doing what I wanted him to do! Suddenly, we were able to actually take a walk on the head halti – we even made it around the block. We were able to go for a run using the head halti. He still followed the same routine inside the house, but we were really making progress outside with his paying attention to me while we were outdoors.
During this same time period, Rhonda Bilodeau was taking Rudy every Friday through Monday and working with him on e-collar training. The whole idea of e-collar training scared me at first, but every time Rhonda came to pick up Rudy – he was excited and happy to see her, so I knew she couldn’t be torturing him with that device! Otherwise, he wouldn’t be so thrilled to see her every time she showed up. After a few weeks, Rhonda gave me and Danielle our first lessons on how to use the e-collar to teach our dogs to walk nicely with us at heel and to listen to us outside.
To say I had my doubts would be stating the obvious, and for the first few days, Rudy completed played on my emotions – every time I hit that button the remote he would flinch and shake, and put on a show. I was dumbfounded because I had watched Rhonda work with him, and he didn’t have any reactions like that with her – and she was using the same level of correction that I was using!! Frustrated, I called Rhonda, and she told me exactly what I knew. Rudy was playing me again. Rudy is a smart enough dog that he continues to test me at every step of this process. His “flinching” and acting like I was hurting him was his way of seeing if I would follow through with this part of the training. He knew that Rhonda would follow through, but Rudy thought he could get me stop the training if he just acted like it was killing him!!
So, I persisted, and suddenly, after two days of Rudy acting like I was torturing him, despite my having it on the lowest settings – he came around and started listening!! He was suddenly walking right at my side, sitting next to me when I stopped walking, not trying to run after birds, squirrels, or rabbits we encountered. And miracle of miracles, we even walked by another dog on one of our walks and he didn’t lunge, bark, growl, or even try to get to the other dog!! No, instead, he glanced in their direction, then glanced up at me as if to say “what do I do?” I simply said “come on” – and oh my god, he followed me without so much as another glance in that dog’s direction!! I almost dropped the remote I was so stunned!! I turned around, and despite the fact that it was 6:00 a.m., I jumped up and down and shouted “Yeah Rudy!!” I was so relieved at that moment to think that in my future I was going to be able to walk this dog without all the stress I had been feeling for the past year, and Rudy was going to be able to enjoy your walks too!!
Over the last week, Rudy and I have gone on several off-leash walks using the e-collar. We have even gone a few short runs with Rudy sticking right near me without the use of a leash! The amount of progress he has made when outside is just amazing to me.
We still have a long way to go. Rudy still wants to do what he wants to do, and he fights me on so many commands. But I know now that we are going to get there if we just keep working!!