Puppy steps

Progress in dog (or puppy) training often is nearly imperceptible. The trainee will fail to understand a new command or do something that’s wrong, over and over again. Then one day, he or she will do what you want… sort of. Or do it ever so slightly better. One day,  you notice that they seem to have gotten what you were trying to teach them. But you can’t remember when; the process is so subtle it’s hard to document.

112716-van-dogStill, I keep trying, and this weekend Beverly made a leap (one I might have overlooked, had I not been paying attention). For weeks, we’ve been trying to induce her to jump up into the kennel that lives in the back of our van. Many puppies do this readily. Even Tucker, who turned 12 in October, still usually jumps up (though his advanced age sometimes make that precarious). For some reason, however, Beverly seemed to develop a phobia about leaping either in or out. She would stand, mulish, until we inevitably lifted her up and in or down and out.

We asked for advice in puppy class, but our instructor pointed out that according to the formal CCI guidelines, puppies aren’t supposed to be jumping anywhere until they’re 10 months old; something to do about their bones not being fully developed. From the organization’s point of view, Beverly wasn’t doing anything wrong.

Our point of view, however, took into consideration the deleterious effects on bones and joints (both Beverly’s and ours) of hefting a 50-plus pound animal into and out of a vehicle, sometimes repeatedly (as during our grocery-shopping expeditions). It wasn’t pretty. So a few weeks ago, Steve came up with a new strategy. He began luring Beverly into and out of the side door, which seemed lower (to her), especially when parked next to a curb. Once in the van, she then could be lured back and into the kennel. She still resisted jumping in or out of the back, but on Friday night, she suddenly jumped down and out, nonchalantly. Progress!

Yesterday (Saturday) morning she and I went grocery shopping together, and she continued jumping out, on command (“Out”). At first she still refused to jump in when we visited Sprouts and Trader Joe’s. Then, God only knows why, when we got to Vons, she jumped out, went into the store with me…. and casually jumped right in when I said the word (“Kennel”).  She’s been doing it ever since. Here’s what it looked like this morning:


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I have no idea why she resisted doing this last week (and always before) and now makes it look effortless. I just have to accept (and be grateful) for the change.

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