I’m calling your name
BRECKENRIDGE – My dog, Princess, is spoiled and a little bit stubborn.When I decided she needed some training, I contacted the great folks at Summit County Animal Shelter, where I adopted her. They provided a list of dog trainers, and I called Don Drogsvold of The Dog Den in Dillon, mostly because he trains both owners and pets inside their homes. Since Princess is aggressive toward other dogs, a group class was out. I told Don my two goals were for Princess to quit growling at other dogs and to quit tugging on her leash. He started by educating me, making sure my expectations weren’t unrealistic. The best I could expect would be for Princess to act more civilly around other dogs in my presence. Her personality developed long before I met her at age 3, and she’s just not a big fan of other dogs.We started training by playing the “Name Game.” I stocked my pockets with small treats, which I snuck into my hand, one a time. Then I said her name several times – “Princess, Princess, Princess!” like I was thrilled to see her, which, of course I was.While she looked at me with a big doggie smile, I stuffed a treat into her mouth. We did this several minutes every day, and she began to like hearing her name and now looks at me each time I call (unless there is a chipmunk nearby, which short-circuits her brain). I’ve diligently played the name game, so when Princess hears her name, her head snaps around and she comes trotting over.We quickly added some basic commands like “sit,” “down” and “up,” all done for treats or praise. During the training, whenever she ignored a command she knew, I’d say “No!” and then jerk lightly on her training collar.Soon, just the verbal “No” was enough, since she associated it with the neck pinch. That has been a godsend.One day, after several weeks of training, the gate to her fence was open. She started for the opening at a run and I bellowed, “No!” She dropped to her tummy and skidded to a halt inside the gate. I was in shock – what a happy surprise!Princess’s next task was to quit tugging on her leash. When she gets within one step of the end of the leash, I give her a sharp “No!” That slows her down before she tugs on the leash.In theory, she’ll learn the length of the leash and not pull at all. In reality, she needs a few reminders at the beginning of our excursions, but then she settles in and quits tugging. It’s actually a pleasure to walk with her now.As far as other dogs go, she’ll never be a dog ambassador. However, while on her leash, she now usually passes other dogs on the trail without growling or causing a major incident. Recently, off-leash, Princess has been well-mannered with the neighbor dog – something I never thought I’d see.I’m happy with her progress, and we both enjoy working on new challenges. It’s good bonding time. And, with Don’s help, she is excited to hear her name and comes running for her next adventure.Ellen Craig lives in Breckenridge. She spends her time freelance writing, teaching skiing and volunteering at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center.
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