Dog’s Eye View: Building a relationship with 2-year-old terrier Lawrence
May 18, 2017
It has come to this. Our frisky 2-year-old terrier mix, Lawrence, has been enrolled in the Canine Life and Social Skills, or CLASS, program, taught through community education at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Craig. This program has three levels to which our dog/owner training teams may aspire, B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. Each level presents increasingly more challenging training skills, and all skills taught are relevant to daily life living with the family dog.
We have had the sweet company of our little Lawrence since mid January. He came to us knowing what he knew in his former home. It has been primarily my responsibility to educate Lawrence and help him become comfortable with us in his new home. Training has the effect of bonding, and, as I have written in previous articles, it was very important for Lawrence to learn some basic skills that related to his new family and also to learn how my husband and I were relevant to him.
A big hurdle we have had with him is what we call engagement. Lawrence is getting very good at this. He now chooses to turn away from exciting environmental stimulation and runs back to me. He's not 100 percent (who is?), but he is slowly but surely defaulting to that behavior.
In the list of skills we needed to master is leave it. We were required to walk down and back a straight line 20 feet in length. On either side of the line, 5 feet off center, are placed stuffed toys and a crumpled up piece of paper. Lawrence bounced along on a loose leash at my side past these items without investigating them at all. The relevancy of this exercise in real life is extensive. City dogs often run into discarded food on the sidewalk or perhaps need to pass another dog or child without pulling over to investigate. Country dogs have myriad other temptations.
Some of the other skills required in order to earn B.A. include come and leashing up manners, wait at the door, stay quietly while the evaluator chats with the owner and meet a friendly stranger without jumping up.
I especially like the two opportunities to show off tricks. Of the required tricks, Lawrence did a nifty spin. At the end of the testing, each team can perform a trick of the student's choice. It's fun to see what each person has taught his or her dog. One taught her dog to bow; another dog fetched a ball, and one special student taught her dog to pick up her cane when she dropped it. Lawrence did a very cute sit up while putting his front paws high up.
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Though working toward a degree, the real value of this endeavor is to build a beautiful and trusting relationship with our dog. Lawrence, our little ambassador of cheerfulness, earned his B.A. yesterday.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with more than 30 years of experience.