Sunday, 8 June 2014

Training Levels

I have had a few blogs over the years. First one was called "Amy Sew Crafty". It was my exploration of sewing, mainly garments for my little children. It was such a rewarding experience. I now wish I kept that blog, but after a few years I thought it best to shut it down as the kids got older and as I started to homeschool them, life got way too busy to sew. I dearly miss it. One day I will sew again :)

I also had a short lived blog on fitness a few years back when I started personal training again. Short lived because I only worked for several months before my family realized we loved being together so much that homeschooling was the best thing for our family.

I am now attempting another blog. I realize that I should have started a blog on parenting my children over 10 years ago. Wow, what a wild ride it's been. I have read so many books on parenting, tried many different methods, and settled on fantastic style that fits our family. I have rules, there are consequences, but there is a lot of love. I am exhausted most days by 6pm, but it's all good!

This blog is not about parenting children. It's about parenting dogs. I had dogs as a child and in my 20s I had the most amazing little cock-a-poo that I adored. But that little cock-a-poo didn't listen to a word I said as I had no idea how to parent a dog. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I adopted a six year old breeding female Vizsla a couple of years ago, one that probably never been on a leash and had not met too many other dogs, and probably stayed outside for most of her life, it was a disaster. She was completely unsocialized and in the end bit my Mother. We asked the previous owners to take her back as we hoped the dog would be more comfortable with what she knew. Next, we jumped right in and adopted a seven month old Vizsla with a major food guarding issue. We innocently thought we could fix the issue. This time we hired a dog trainer (note to self: make sure you study the credentials of some of these so-called "trainers"!) and tried everything we knew at the time to fix it (a lot of stupid Cesar Millian methods). We learned a lot, but not enough to help the pup at the time so we rehomed him to a couple without children. And thankfully that Vizsla loves his owners and they love him. Perfect!

By this time, I was crushed. I loved dogs so much. But I was incredibly worried...was it me? Maybe I was doing something? So I started to read dog training books. Lots of them. And then last year I adopted a timid (timid around people was not the greatest idea!) 10 week old Golden Retriever. And the kids and I took off three months and took Spencer everywhere to socialize him to people, places, dogs, and especially children.
And we all trained him as best we could using mainly positive methods only. But of course, we had lots of holes in our training. He had a solid recall, could sit and down in the house, leave it was so-so, and he loved children (perhaps a little too enthusiastically!) . I forgot to socialize him to men with caps, so he started to develop a slight timidness to large men wearing hats. And started to demand bark when he saw other dogs he couldn't get to. And because he was so big, people thought he was being aggressive, but really he was just being pushy. Sooo many more books later (anything by Jean Donaldson is BRILLIANT!), a couple DVDs (Emily Larlham ROCKS!) and trying some of the techniques out, he is much better. Phew!

Anyone who knows me, knows I am completely in love with my Golden. He is amazing. His dad was 50lbs and his mom was 60lbs, so I was hoping for a solid 55lbs dog. Spencer is now 15 months old and  is a very athletic 75-85lbs dog. He is HUGE.

And now, a couple of months ago, we adopted Sophie, our little Brittany Spaniel at 7 weeks :)

And I realize I NEED extremely obedient dogs. I need this now that I have two with three children that I homeschool. I must say, my dogs are more obedient then the average dog, but my hopes is to make what they know super solid. Using clicker training and positive reinforcement.

Here enters Sue Ailsby's Training Levels. The start of my journey with her "Levels". And so I thought to start a blog about my experiences. Wish me luck!

Sophie at 13 weeks old. Spencer is 15 months. Their first time napping together :)