Training with Nugget has been such a unique and fulfilling experience. I remember my desperation the first day I met my trainer because Nugget would not sit still for one second. This week during training, I left Nugget quietly sitting on a mat in the corner for over 3 minutes with no problems. He is so bright and so eager to learn. It has been absolutely amazing to watch him grow.
I never had any intention of making Nugget a therapy dog. I was looking for a hiking companion and a couch cuddler. From day one, it was apparent that Nugget loved everyone he met. I mean everyone. Men, women, children, and all dogs, big and small. He greeted everyone with enthusiasm, but he also adjusted his personality based on the needs of the person. I found that he would sit calmly for my elderly neighbor to pet him, or he would gently take a treat out of the hand of a 3-year-old. He seems to have a lot of emotional intelligence despite his lack of prior training. The more I have attended training with Nugget, the more inspired I have become to work with him to become a therapy dog. He is currently on his way to becoming a Canine Good Citizen through the American Kennel Club. This test requires Nugget to do the following:
1) Accept a friendly stranger: Nugget loves everyone and would not have a problem with anyone approaching me. Check!
2) Sit politely for petting: Nugget does get so excited that he still jumps up to greet people at times. We are working very diligently on having him sit politely for petting, and he is definitely improving every week!
3) Appearance and Grooming: For this test, Nugget has to let someone touch his ears and feet. He has no problem with this because he regularly goes to the groomer. Plus he loves his groomer more than anyone else on the planet! They are best buds.
4) Walk on a loose leash: Nugget is still working on this one. His Easy Walk Harness (see previous post) does wonders for him, but we are working on heeling without the use of the harness.
5) Walk through a crowd: Nugget is definitely able to walk around a bunch of people without getting overly excited or scared. I take him everywhere I possibly can and socialize him!
6) Sit, Down, and Stay: Yep! No problem here. Nugget does this all the time without me even telling him because he thinks it will get him treats (sometimes he’s right)
7) Come when called from 10 feet away: From 10 feet away inside, this is not a problem. From 50 feet away in a dog park, Nugget sometimes has selective hearing 😉
8) Reaction to another dog: This has been Nugget’s biggest obstacle. He loves other dogs so much that he has trouble controlling his excitement. However, he has gone from squealing with joy at every single dog to politely sniffing and greeting other dogs. I have recently signed him up for a class that specifically works with dog reactivity. I will discuss that training in a future post.
9) Reaction to distraction: Nugget should not have a problem with this one. In our training we try to add as many treat and toy distractions as we can. He gets a little grumpy, but he resists temptations. We also incorporate noise and startling distractions with no problem.
10) Supervised separation for 3 minutes: We have successfully done this in training, but I want to work more on it. Nugget is attached to me, and I want to work on having him be more independent if needed.
Nugget is definitely progressing every week, and I can’t wait to see him continue to mature. In 7 weeks he will be taking his CGC test! If he passes he will get a medal 🥇 and be on his way to therapy dog training.