Advanced Life Skill

09 April 2017 | 4 mins

This morning, we drove with Charlie to Livingston for the last of his Level 3 training classes at Karen’s Dogs. Along with his puppy classes and progress classes, his training has turned him into a well-rounded and well-behaved young dog. For the most part.

Between finishing his Progress class and starting his Advanced class, Charlie also entered his ‘second fear’ period; frustratingly, the source of his fears was traffic, not something that it’s easy to avoid living in the city. He has improved a great deal since then though, and is just about back to being relaxed and unconcerned around traffic.

One issue that his second fears caused was a complete loss of good loose-leash walking. Whenever Charlie was spooked by traffic, he would pull and strain on his leash trying to get to the passing cars. There was no chance of waiting for him to calm down next to a busy road, that would have been counter-productive, so pulling him away was the only option. Restarting his loose-leash training essentially from scratch has been a frustrating experience, but we’re close to getting back to where we were.

As we took quite a long hiatus from formal training, aside from the loose-leash walking, we’ve nailed down a lot of the skills Charlie struggled with. Distance sit/stay and emergency stop predominantly, but we’ve also had time to work on his scentwork and impulse training; all of which proved useful coming into this class.

Unlike his previous two training class levels, we haven’t really learned a great deal of ‘new’ tricks or skills. The focus of these sessions has been primarily on strengthening existing behaviours, as well as improving socialisation; something Charlie has struggled with since adolescence, as he can be a little snappy at times, particularly with smaller dogs or if he has his favourite tennis ball.

In his first session, we met his classmates; a West Highland terrier named Kennedy, a Springer Spaniel called Alfie, a golden Labrador named Rosie, and his friend Phoebe, the black Labrador he met at his puppy classes back in August. Charlie seemed to get on with all of the dogs, which helped a lot with his socialisation, particularly as a lot of the classes were held outside and off-leash - not being allowed to run around the fields and play would have infuriated Charlie to no end.

One thing Charlie has proved very adept at is ignoring distractions. While his controlled eye-contact leaves much to be desired at times, his ability to disregard other dogs near him and focus on the task at hand has turned out to be very useful when out on walks and at the park, in the ‘real world’. We’ve practised training simple tricks in very close proximity to the other dogs, to within almost touching distance, and he handled the distractions very well. He’s also learned appropriate off-leash greetings; not jumping up at people to greet them is now the norm rather than the exception, and a quick ‘two-second hello’ with other dogs before moving on is also practically second nature to him.

Next on the training plan is to learn some agility; I’m yet to find a trainer in Edinburgh for him (Karen’s Dogs don’t do formal Agility training), but when I do I’m sure he’ll dive right in. He turned a year old last month (we had to skip a training session for his birthday party) so he’s old enough to start as soon as I find a trainer for him.

Charlie asking for his graduation rosette Charlie asking for his graduation rosette

Charlie is on Instagram as charlie.border.collie, if you would like to see more pictures of him.

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