Remember Fonzie and, more recently, Amber? Well, the two have been getting to know and find their way with each other for the past six weeks, and last night, they doubled up to begin their training. Fonzie started the next phase of his training as a certified Therapy animal, and Amber began learning more of her basics, as well as the more advanced training.
The session began with some recall, sit, and down exercises. First, each dog worked the exercises individually. For example, while Fonzie practiced the exercises, Amber was held back to watch. Then, Amber had her time while Fonzie was held back to watch. We spent about 15 minutes working each dog individually, and then, I had both dogs work the exercises together. This was done to encourage each dog to watch and then mimic the other. Fonzie showed Amber how to recall to a down position; Amber showed Fonzie how to do the “target” exercise.
I began the target exercise by showing each dog the palm of my hand and rewarding them when they sniffed at it. We gradually worked our way up to a specific target and then introduced a simple cue. By the end of the lesson, both dogs were performing the exercise correctly about 8 out of 10 times.
Considering that this exercise was a first for both Fonzie and Amber, they did a phenomenal job, and so did Ann and Tom. I was really pleased with how quickly the dogs learned and how they each helped the other when there was uncertainty about what was being asked. For example, Fonzie had a bit of trouble connecting sniffing my palm to getting a treat, but Amber got it on the second try. So, I had Amber help me show him what I wanted. When she got it right, I gave her excitement along with the treat. This got Fonzie’s attention, and he watched Amber closely to see what she was doing to generate my response. When it was his turn, he mimicked Amber – and when he got the same response, he got so excited that he broke position and started running around the working area as if he was a young puppy again.
This is going to be an exciting journey for this family. Fonzie and Amber are very smart, eager to learn, and very eager to please their humans. I have no doubt that they both are going to be amazing companions for both Ann and Tom in the years to come.
Have a great day, and remember: Stay calm and lead on.