Patti Soldavini

Posts Tagged ‘dog training’

Off Leash Olive

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 05/24/2012 at 7:53 pm

“Tired yet?”

Two years ago, when I brought this insanely exuberant puppy home, if you had told me that one day she would indeed learn to sit, stay, down stay, come and stay with me, I probably would have cocked my head and looked at you as though you were speaking in tongues. It seemed inconceivable. Olive seemed to epitomize ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The only thing she could focus on for more than one seemingly eternal nanosecond was a bird. Everything else in her life was a momentary distraction. And there were indications of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The digging and digging and digging and digging and digging. I felt like I had just purchased a backhoe, not a dog. I will frankly admit, and I have before, that in the first few months I had her, I had fleeting feelings of insecurity and intrusive thoughts that maybe I wouldn’t be able to handle this dog. After all, I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore and keeping up with weimaraners is not for the faint of heart. It’s made me understand why there are so many rescues. They are beautiful, graceful athletic-looking dogs, but if you do not allow this breed to get the exercise it needs, it’s like living with Curious George and his demented twin on speed. But I’m no quitter. Besides, Olive was also supernaturally intelligent, laugh-out-loud goofy and extremely loving. I ensured that she got plenty of exercise each day and I socialized her to near exhaustion. We’d go to neighborhood street fairs and parades crowded with people, strollers and sticky-handed toddlers; to soccer games and parks bursting with hyperactive children and colorful frisbees. Even to my friend’s pool and the local pet stores where she was constantly fawned over. I was committed to ensuring that she learned to be friendly, confident and obedient even if it made me mental. During most of this time, Olive also attended obedience training classes. And last night, my incredibly amazing pooch completed her off leash training class. Now the real work begins. I have to make the behaviors a consistent part of her life everyday. The progress she made by last night’s class was very rewarding. Especially since last week’s class was a train wreck. Once she learned she could get away from me because I have only two legs, not four and I’m about 25 times older than her, it was hard to get her back on track. Shelley, her trainer, had to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting with Olive and for the last 15 minutes of class, She kept getting her leash “popped,” and kept looking in my direction until she wised up and obeyed Shelley’s commands. It was not pretty to watch. But it worked. I am truly amazed at how attuned Shelley is to dogs’ behaviors. It’s like watching two people assuredly conversing in a foreign language and I stand by like the idiot American abroad who understands nothing more of the native language than “Can you please tell me where the ladies room is?” I also admire Shelley’s unfathomable well of patience with both the dogs and their owners. It is all extraordinary to me. Both Olive and I are very thankful and feel incredibly lucky to have found Shelley.

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Driving Miss Olive

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 05/03/2012 at 7:42 pm

“MUST. Sleep. Now.”

Olive has just started her off-leash training class. If you want to see a dog actually sweat, you should see Olive in class where she is required to summon the mental discipline of a Tibetan monk. And for a dog that is hyper-alert like my two-year old weimaraner, it’s like asking a two-year old child to close their eyes when they enter a candy store. The class starts at 7pm and I realize that I’m going to have to contend with “Princess Whiner” when the clock strikes 8pm. This is typically when Olive begins to wind down…all the way down. As in “I WANT TO GO TO BED RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW.” She will start to bark and kvetch until we leave. The odds are very good that this little dramatic display will occur prior to 8 tonight because Olive had me up at 5am today with digestive agita. Out in her pen she began repeating cycles of eating grass and then launching what looked like undried tobacco leaves out her poop chute. It is at this moment that I recall that my Great Grandmother worked as a cigar-roller back in prehistoric times. “NONA WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU OLIVE. ESPECIALLY BECAUSE YOU ARE GERMAN AND SHE WAS FROM LUXEMBOURG.” Shelley begins the lesson and as always, Olive catches on faster than I do. Shelley is tremendously in tune with dogs and can elicit the behavior she wants from them in seconds. It is all completely rational when she explains how to train a dog, but for some reason, it is all counter-intuitive to most of the rest of us. I, on the other hand, listen very attentively to the instructions being given and can’t help but feel like I’m trying to absorb how to invent a Rube Goldberg machine. Olive is so focused, that you can see steam wafting out of her ears. I can feel her body temperature rise. She is working so hard to do well that I’m hoping she won’t pass out from mental exhaustion. Tiny cheese treats are being tossed at her from all directions like machine gun spray and she knows she must stay seated and not go after them. It’s like waiting for a balloon to burst. The suspense is nerve-rattling. “OK. OLIVE. GOOD GIRL. THEY’RE ALL YOURS NOW.” After 40 minutes worth of one-on-one instruction, Shelley and I are talking and Olive is now laying on the floor like a beautiful little sphinx. It’s about 7:50pm. Shelley notes, “Look at her, she can’t even keep her eyes open. She’s done for tonight.” I look at Olive, obediently in the same position, her head starting to nod. She’s not even barking. Not yet. In fact, I think she’s so exhausted, she’d sleep here if I let her. “C’MON OLIVE. YOU DID GREAT. WE’RE GOING HOME.” We get in the car, Olive stretches out on the back seat and is asleep in seconds. One class down, three more to go Olive. If she weren’t sleeping, I’m sure she’d roll her eyes at me.

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