Piper: Lesson One

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Good Monday to all. Last night, Gary and Piper came to my home for their first official training lesson. And what an awesome job they did! The first lesson was “watch” and “sit”.  This was a bit of a challenge for Piper, because [a] she was in a completely different environment she’s never seen before, [b] she was working with a dog she’s never met before (Glimmer), and [c] she was constantly being distracted by Violet the cat – and Piper has never been close to a cat.

The lesson began at the door. Glimmer was there, and she and Piper saw each other. Rather than opening the door and inviting Gary and Piper inside, I opened it just enough to allow Piper and Glimmer to sniff at each other. When Glimmer moved away, I invited the two inside… and then, sent them back out to do the entrance again, as Piper got in ahead of Gary. It only took a couple of tries for Piper to learn that she doesn’t get to enter first.

Once inside, Piper began to explore. Everything was unfamiliar and new to her, and it was important to give her a bit of time to check things out. Because we didn’t know how Piper would take Violet, I had Gary keep the leash short but not tense, so that he could better control Piper and correct her if she showed any negative reactions to Violet. As it turned out, Piper and Violet actually liked each other: Violet and Piper touched noses – and in a very surprising twist, Violet actually accepted Piper without any hissing, growling, ear-flattening, back-arching, or anything. It was amazing.

Once everyone was properly introduced and more relaxed, we got started.

For the next hour, we worked on teaching Piper to watch and to sit, and Gary started learning to be more aware of his own energy. When Piper got distracted by something and she wouldn’t pay attention, Gary would stop, take a few deep breaths, and then try again. He understood that his frustration would only make things more difficult for Piper, and he didn’t want her making any negative associations with the lessons. Good job, Gary!

By the end of the lesson, Piper was sitting automatically two out of every five times, and focusing on Gary when he asked her to more often and for at least five seconds. It was beautiful, watching the two of them start to get in sync with each other. I’m so proud of both of them…

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The second lesson will be a repetition of the first one, but I’ll be adding the “lay down” command, and introducing hand gestures. It’s very important that Piper learns this, in case something happens that leaves Gary unable to give her vocal commands.

All in all, Gary and Piper did a phenomenal job on their first lesson. Piper is very smart, and once she understands what’s being asked of her, she tries really hard to comply. It’s very clear that she wants to please her human; asking her to focus, when what she really wants to do is play with Violet and Glimmer, is asking a lot of her. But she tries to do it because she loves Gary and she wants to make him happy. You really can’t ask for more than that.

Have a great day, everyone, and remember to stay calm and lead on…

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