I am a bit impulsive and certainly not structured, so it comes as no real surprise that my decision to train Lu had mixed results. I was taken aback when a friend had told me that Lulu was the dominant one in our relationship, so I decided obedience training was in order. We had dabbled in it when I first rescued Lu, and had gone to a few classes – working with a few trainers. Ultimately, Lulu had ended up doing what Lulu wanted to do most of the time.
In my typical disciplined approach, I googled obedience training, read a few articles, and began the lessons. First, I needed to teach her that I was to go through doors first, as she waited. I also needed her to look at me when I spoke to her. I remember reading the last article, and stepping to the back door to call her, yelling to her as she ignored me – intentionally ignored me. Let the games begin!
The first door attempt at establishing who was who in the pecking order, resulted in both of us wedging ourselves into the door at the same time, with her insisting she push through first. She is pretty good at sitting, so I told her to sit, and as I turned to go through the door, she bolted forward, slamming me to the side as she triumphantly led the way. After our 83rd attempt, I stood staring down at her – her tongue lolling out as she grinned up at me. Let’s see, what did she value over anything else – easy – her walks.
I took Lulu into the mud room to head out front for a walk, and as I opened the door she attempted to shove 40 pounds of solid muscle between my legs and out the door. I closed the door gently on her head (maybe not as gently as I should have) until she backed into the mud room and sat to stare at the door. Again, I opened the door, and again she leapt forward. I closed the door again. This went on for about a half hour, until she finally figured out that as long as she sat quietly, the door stayed open. The next step was to have her look at me for instruction.
We stood with the door open and the storm door closed. She sat hunched, staring at the door, trembling as adrenaline coursed through her bunched up muscle. I reached to open the storm door and she crouched, so I let the door go and waited as the trembling stopped and she slowly calmed down. I continued the exercise, reaching for the door, as she crouched in anticipation, letting the door go, and waiting repeatedly for her to calm down.
Finally, we reached a point where I could step back and forth through the door as she sat bunched, staring straight ahead – eagerly waiting for me to call her. Now it was time for the second step. I stood and waited, softly asking her to “look at me.” She knew what “look at me meant.” We had practiced this with one of her trainers. Stubbornly, she stared straight forward as I repeated the command, refusing to even glance in my direction. She looked so angry and frustrated – so I waited, and waited, and waited.
I stood there for about 10 minutes, until with slitted eyes and taught facial muscles, she looked up at me – or rather she glared up at me. I called her and she came through the door, slinging her body to the side as she flew past me. I was tempted to try one more time, but we were both exhausted from our battle of wills. We headed out on our walk, her pulling at the end of her leash – leading our small pack down the street. She looked proud and defiant – head lifted high, turning like a radar as she searched for prey. Small steps I thought as I pulled her back. She seemed to pull slightly less as we continued, but that may have just been wishful thinking on my part at the time.
Over the last few months we have continued our lessons. She now waits patiently until I go through the door. She watches me the whole time – maintaining eye contact for as long as I ask her to sit in front of the door. She also now walks at my side, and instead of bolting after anything that moves, she does a little dance of anticipation. She has come a long way in a year.
She is an incredibly athletic dog – having Staffordshire terrier, American Bull terrier, and Viesla in her lineage. She has an incredible prey drive and is high energy. I would like to teach her agility after we have our obedience conquered, but first I have to get her past her dog aggression. I don’t know what happened to her before I found her, but she was in bad shape when we met. I’ve used three trainers. I have not had good experiences with any of them, so for now, I will keep reading articles, and we will keep battling until I find the right trainer for my fiercly stubborn little bully dog.