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Teaching an old dog new tricks? - A doggy dilemma

Published: Friday, February 4, 2011

Last week I took eight year old Spencer to his first obedience/pet training class since he was a puppy. Sadly, after finally cracking Flyball this year and gaining 840 Flyball points, we had to give it up - the cost of fuel, insurance, venue hire, competition entry etc was all too much. Apart from thoroughly enjoying it, I found that working with the other dogs made Spencer more confident. He appears to display fear/anxiety when meeting other dogs and his way of dealing with this is to growl and bark at them. So the idea of taking him to obedience was not really about learning tricks but more about building up his confidence.

As he has already mastered the basics we were advised to join in the Advanced class which starts later in the evening.  We walked into the hall ... and poor Spencer appeared to be having a mini-meltdown. There were so many dogs all so close to him. He barked and growled and everyone looked at us. I panicked and walked out only to be greeted by two men having a cigarette break. They told me their dogs had been far worse the first time they came but, by bringing them regularly, they relaxed and the behaviour improved. So we persevered and soon most of the dogs from the earlier class left.

The class we were in included a Bernese mountain dog, a couple of collies, two labs and a boxer. With treats in hand off we went and he did sit, down, recall and heel. We have to work a bit more on stay but I was very pleased with him. He also realised all the other humans in the group had treats and managed to scrounge a few extra bits! At one point there was a bit of a scuffle with the female collie when she got too close but nothing serious … she told him off and he promptly hid under my chair.

So I think we'll go back next week. My dilemma is that I enjoyed it and I think it will be good for him but I'm not sure if he really enjoyed himself?

Fiona
Burns Pet Nutrition Team

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