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Environment Case Study #1

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I wanted to start case-studying a few different dogs in the string and talk about my decisions as to what environments my dogs are currently working and the decision processes that go into selecting the training environments. Every dog is different and I'm going to select for the case studies dogs that I think will be the most educational.

First up for is Dog A, a 7-month-old male black lab.His obedience work progressed very rapidly in the house, even though he was only about 3 months old when he started. (This is "Environment 1-A" from the last blog post.) I think we spent about a week introducing all the commands in the home environment (introducing the commands is actually the easy part! it goes faster than you'd think!) and then he was able to transition outside, to the the front yard (Environment 1-D). For this dog we had some technical difficulty with this environment, because of the heavy traffic just outside the house. We tried nearby in a big open space where they frequently walked (Environment 2) and he nailed that in a single session, so it was already time to start thinking about new environments and distractions!

We settled on Jamison Park in the NW Pearl District for Environment 3 (Familiar, medium-high distraction. Note: the first time we went there it was not yet "familiar," but by continuing to return to this environment it became familiar.) Training chugged along and seemed a big slow here as we spent weeeeeeeks doing loose leash walking, rehearsing basic obedience, and working dog distractions (his biggest challenge) and friendly stranger distractions.

As he started to get better and better at Trenton Park, we would spend 10 or so minutes of each session working Novel Low-Distraction Environments (Environment 4.) This was basically just sidewalks around Jamison Park which we had never walked on. "Novel" environments are so important because often dogs behave perfectly well in areas where they have practiced a lot but then have trouble doing it elsewhere.

Jamison Park worked fairly well as an Environment 3. The only problem I had with it was that all the other dog owners/walkers were so social with their dogs. I like to teach dogs that they do not get to meet every dog; they can meet them if they are behaving and if I say so. But it was hard to get other dog owners not to let their dogs play with this friendly adorable Lab! 

After we'd "used up" Jamison Park (it was so easy for him, he could do everything) we chose a different Familiar Medium-High Distraction Environment -- the downtown waterfront. The first time we went, it was also a Novel Environment for him and I was thrilled at how easily he settled in! In this location I found it much easier to practice his dog distraction work, as most of the dogs on the waterfront are jogging with their owners and do not expect to visit with everybody. So the dog distraction work is coming right along; we've been working here for about two weeks now and are just about ready to move on and start on the most difficult one, Novel Medium-High Distraction! (Environment 5.)

It should also be noted that at one point over the last couple of months, there was a problem at home with the puppy stealing things and running away with them, so for about a week we stopped working environments and returned to home base (Environment 1) where we worked on "Drop it" and interrupting attempts to steal items. It went really smoothly.

Stay tuned for more featured dogs!

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