Thursday, June 08, 2006


This photo is one of the proudest moments I have had as a dog trainer.

We rescued Wyatt when he was one year old. He had quite a few issues including separation anxiety. He is generally a very sensitive and anxious dog and has fear issues with other dogs. I am 47 years old and he is my first dog. I knew zero about dogs, whippets, or dog training when we got him. We managed to work through the separation anxiety mostly through medication and getting a calm, older dog.

We went to dog B&B when he was a year and half and had our first agility lesson and took that up when he was two. At two and a half, we started formal obedience training. He had come a long way since our first household obedience lesson when he would nervously and continuously jump up on us or hide between our legs.

By using positive methods I read about and a lot of trial and error, we entered our first obedience match and managed to squeak by with a 173. We trained twice a day for about 15 minutes per session and went to an hour long class once a week.

At our next few attempts, he started to go down during the long sit and generally needing more proofing. II did not want going down on the site to become a habit so I stopped competing and retrained it using cones at class. He is a creature of habit so I was not sure I would ever be able to get past this problem. We kept working on the sit, heeling, and everything else. I also discovered that he REALLY enjoyed utility and open work especially retrieving, jumping, and scent discrimination so we added that for fun.

We started to compete again and we missed one thing for a few trials. First, he anticipated the recall which he had never done before. Then I sat him poorly and he went down on his sit. But I knew we would do pretty well if we put it all together because we were scoring in the 180's if we had qualified.

We went to a really nice trial in the Worcester area with a really nice judge. We were in the first class, first dog and it was a nice quiet area. I knew taking off that he was really paying attention. We got through all the exercises beautifully and the judge told me we had Q'ed so far. He stayed with me well with minimal lagging. We got 0 points off on the stand for exam and the recall. I I started to think we would place if we made it through the group sits and downs.

He made it through the sit in what was the longest minute of my life. The three minute down seemed like an hour but he stayed down even though he looked around nervously and kept changing his head position. I knew we had Q'ed but had we placed? I saw a couple of other REALLY good novice A dogs. The judge announced 4th place, then with a score of 190.5, Wyatt of Dodge City for our second CD leg and third place. The second and first place dogs were 195 and 196 which was awesome. At another trial, the judge asked one of the owners if she had a utility dog from Canada competing in the US for the first time. The answer was no.

The high from the Q and the score lasted for quite some time. I was so proud of him and happy that he had done so well. I had worked a lot on heeling since then and think we can score even higher. The open and utility exercises seem fun and not too hard except for the out of sight sits and down which will be the hardest thing for us.

Wyatt loves to work and play hard. He is the kind of dog who diverts his path going out to pee in order to go over a jump. He whines to start scent discrimination exercises. In spite of his nervousness, he love to work for me and always give it 200%.

There is nothing like the feeling when you and your dog are clicking and in the groove. What a special thing to be a smoothly working team with a different species. Congratulations, Wyatt!


Paulette said...

Congratulations! It must be so satisfying to take your first dog and one with issues no less and do so well. I bet he aces the next level since it has things he really likes to do.

John Heffernan said...

Thanks, Paulette. It was fun to write the story and I am going to work on it some more...