A few months after our beloved little border collie passed away (she was the last of our pack) we decided to get another dog. We eventually found an Aussie (Australian Shepherd) puppy. Like border collies they have high energy levels. My husband and I both run and hike so an Aussie was a great choice. We had trained all of our three previous dogs while living in South Africa and when we left South Africa they came to Canada with us. Friends and strangers always commented on what well behaved dogs we had.
We brought our little Skye home when she was 8 weeks old. We very quickly taught Skye to “sit” and “down” and a few other basic commands. Skye is a very smart little girl but also strong willed and was constantly testing leadership roles. I had always considered myself to be a confident pack leader but Skye soon put me right – I was her equal. My husband, although twisted tightly round her cute little pink paws, was higher up the rankings than I was.
As with our other dogs, we wanted to be responsible “parents” and enrolled her in a puppy/basic manners class. I could not get her to walk calmly (forget about next to me) on a leash and she loved to jump up and greet people. The puppy classes were not what we expected. They were held in a very small confined indoor space. We felt that the class lacked structure and control and the trainers (although having their own well trained pooches) appeared uncertain and lacking in teaching experience. Training was also treat orientated. After 7 weeks of puppy classes all we had to show was a fat puppy who happily obeyed commands only if there was a treat in hand. We weren’t about to give up though, and moved onto another training class giving level 1 obedience training. Again these classes were indoors and treat orientated. Although Skye was good in class and at home she wasn’t performing in the real world where it was important. Skye got plumper by the day and my wallet got skinnier (I think I was spending about the same amount of money on treats as I was on her regular food). After 2 months of training I still could not get her to heel on a walk unless I had expensive treats in my hand the entire time. She also still jumped on people when greeting them. Skye didn’t mind doing things for food (our Skye does love her food) but if she was distracted and focused on something else, not even her favourite treat would make her listen to us.
Skye is a very excitable and friendly soul and when friends and neighbours’ came to visit she would not sit quietly, wanted to rush everyone at the front door and jump all over them. This was really embarrassing and I felt we were quickly becoming “one of those dog owners” who do not discipline or have any control over their dogs. We were advised by the trainer to distract her with treats when people came to the door but this didn’t work, and anyway, who wants to be greeted by a smelly salmon or hotdog coated hand! I had always had control over our previous dogs and had been quick to comment on people with out of control dogs. I soon had to eat my words!
When Skye was old enough to start running with us we had difficulty doing so because she would be constantly changing sides and wanting to stop and sniff. Running off leash on the trail was okay, she stayed with us, probably because she felt she was doing things on her own terms and not ours. Walking her around our neighbourhood soon became something I couldn’t face doing because I knew it would be a constant battle the whole way. Skye let me know that she thought it was extremely boring walking our neighbourhood and would frequently sit or lie down and try and turn to go home. In the beginning I thought she was not well or I was pushing her too hard (boy, was I being led up the garden path by my new pack leader). Skye only enjoyed being out on the trails and preferably off leash. I eventually started driving to the trails more often that walking to them. As Skye was good with her recalls while off leash I only took her to an off leash trail for walks and runs. After abandoning further classes we worked our way through several dog training books, but without an experienced person actually watching us working with Skye and pointing out where we were going wrong we did not progress much.
We knew that we had to do something and that there had to be a solution and a trainer who could get us sorted out.
I had very briefly met Jeff of Sit Happens quite a few years ago through business unrelated to dogs. After seeing his vehicle out on the road one day I remembered Jeff, went onto his website, and contacted him. He offered a free consultation and demonstration at our home which we thought was great. We had the chance to “check out the product before buying”. He came to our home and after chatting about the program took us out to the street in front of our house and did a demonstration with his 6 month old Jack Russell and his Doberman. No leash and on the street – pretty impressive stuff! Having already spent money on two lots of training classes without much success we were a little hesitant to spend more money with no results (I mean really, of course a trainer would have good dogs but what about us regular folk out here?) so we went to watch a class. Well, more impressive stuff. Dogs that were there on their first class were doing things we still couldn’t get Skye to do after nearly 8 months. We immediately signed up.
Sit Happens then came to our house for a session and we had Skye heeling by the end of it. It was like a magic wand had been waived. The very next day we walked Skye to the trail and she was at heel nearly all the time. We were absolutely blown away. Skye did not drag, pull, sit down with her “I am so bored” look or chop and change sides while walking. What a pleasure.
We then started attending the outdoor classes which are so convenient and fit more easily into our schedules than the other classes we had attended. We have had 6 outdoor classes so far and I am still in awe of what we have achieved. Sit Happens quickly identified mistakes we were making and how to do things properly and clearly so Skye was not confused by what we are asking of her. Even the most subtle changes in handling had huge impact on our results.
We walk and run a lot of trails where we share the space with other dogs, cyclists and runners. Skye walks or runs calmly next to us and leaves poop and other foul things alone, although she does still like to eye up the ducks. We can get her to “sit” and stay out the way of cyclists from whom we get lots of great comments on what a well behaved dog she is. Skye is learning to stay in her “place” when people come to the door and then greet them without jumping (now she just wiggles a lot). We are so proud of our little baby and it is with huge thanks and gratitude to Sit Happens.