Target Practice

Fonzie and Amber are doing fantastic with their respective lessons. Amber learns very quickly by closely watching and then mimicking Fonzie, so teaching her the basics of obedience is much easier. Like all puppies, she does tend to stay focused when she knows there’s a food treat coming, but she did a really good job on Tuesday of working for a few minutes without the food reward. When she did get a treat, it made it all the sweeter for her, and she was more than happy to work for another one.

Though they’ve only had two lessons with the target exercise so far, both Fonzie and Amber are doing very well. I had to make some adjustments to accommodate their height – both are lower to the ground and had trouble reaching the target at hip height; once that was addressed, they were both able to successfully nose the target every time.

Targeting is an important component of Fonzie’s learning. Currently, he does detect changes in his owner’s body chemistry that signal the onset of an anxiety attack, but he doesn’t know how to alert her, and he doesn’t know how to support her when she becomes overwhelmed. Learning to target specific areas on her body – which is actually a labor-intensive and time-consuming process – will help him change that.

Amber is learning her basics by watching Fonzie. She does need a lot of work learning to focus and hold her position, but she’s getting there. Her humans are learning about when and when not to reward, as well as how to reward properly, and that can be challenging. Even the most subtle of actions reinforces a behavior – whether wanted or unwanted. So, while both Fonzie and Amber figure out fairly quickly what’s being asked of them, it’s still quite a learning curve for their people.

Overall, Fonzie and Amber are making good progress. We’ve only had two lessons so far, but both dogs are very smart, they learn very quickly, and best of all, they and their people enjoy the work and have fun with it. When you have fun learning and practicing, you want to do it again… and again, and again and again.

Have a great day, and remember: Stay calm and lead on.

2 Comments on “Target Practice

  1. I am so happy for both Fonzie and Amber and really proud of both of them. This time last year Fonzie had never had any ‘formal’ training, although he was always a smart and well behaved dog. To think that he began training last September and was Certified as a Therapy Dog in February (scoring 100% on his Final Evaluation) is mind-blowing!!
    Needless to say, Amber, at just 7 months old when she came to us 8 weeks ago, had no training whatsoever, no socialization, no confidence, no manners and viewed everything with fear (even steps, doorbells, any vehicles on the road, other dogs out walking etc). Her progress in such a short time has been astounding! Nothing bothers her now – she takes everything in her stride – but she is still full of curiosity so she has to check everything out no matter where she is!!
    I think that Holly hit the nail on the head in what she wrote about all of us having fun! Training sessions are fun from start to finish – no intensity, no reprimands, no air of disappointment if something is not done perfectly – just relaxed, calm and constructive fun. Both dogs respond wonderfully to this approach as they stay relaxed and engaged, so training is not a chore to them (or to us!) as the session is filled with positivity and praise.
    I am genuinely looking forward to seeing both of my dogs progress under Holly’s guidance, and to seeing myself and Tom continue to bond with our dogs on an even deeper level. Also, I look forward to watching the developing friendship between Fonzie and Amber continue to blossom – it got off to a rocky start as it seemed that Fonzie was not accepting his new ‘sister’ into the family. But training together, watching each other, having fun together and getting tons of praise and rewards has drawn them together and this is now transferring into everyday life – so hopefully we are witnessing the start of a long, happy, healthy and fun-filled future for both of them!
    Thank you Holly from all four of us!

    • Awww… Thank you, Anne. It makes me feel so good to watch the four of you working together. And I love to hear how well Fonzie and Amber are getting along now. It took a little longer to happen, but considering everything you and Tom have going on, it was going to take a little longer than you’d hoped. But now, they are bonded, and that is absolutely awesome. I’m so thrilled and honored to be part of your journeys! 🙂


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