A Chance Encounter

As we round the bend on the path, we come across a small, shaggy brown dog bounding toward us off his leash. Nugget braces himself with excitement, and suddenly I find myself struggling to hold him in place as he fights to free himself from the leash. “Sammy, come!”, the brown dog’s owner orders. Amazed, I watch as the dog immediately stops in his tracks and turns away from the temptation of playing with Nugget. As Sammy trots back toward his owner, Nugget settles into the grass by my side. Nugget and I both momentarily take a break from our walk to watch Sammy interact with his owner. I have never seen a dog so in tune with his owner, and I begin to feel frustrated with my training progress with Nugget as I watch the two play with each other. The owner throws the ball in the grass, and Sammy gleefully runs off leash to grab it and return to his owner’s side immediately. No matter how many dogs pass by and bark at Sammy, he consistently looks to his owner for his next cue. “This is the kind of relationship I want to have with my dog”, I thought. As the two pass by us, Nugget quietly watches his new friend fade off into the distance while I start brainstorming how to train my dog to be like Sammy. 

We continue our walk and are approached by a small, black dog. I decide to put Nugget in a down stay until they pass for him to practice being polite. Nugget and I watch as the little black dog begins to pull, jump, and bark at the sight of my puggle lying in the grass. The owner hurriedly pulls her dog past us and scolds him for his misbehavior. Nugget and I lock eyes, and in that moment I realize I should never compare our training journey with anyone else’s. I need to focus on how far we have come as a team and appreciate how much my dog loves me no matter what. We still have a lot of training to complete, but I am so proud of the dog Nugget has become so far. As I put Nugget back in the car to head home, he gives me a big lick on the face. “I love you too, Nugget”, I say. We could really learn a thing or two about unconditional love and acceptance from our pets. 

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The Training Continues

Nugget’s training on both Sunday and Monday focused on his interactions with other dogs and people. Because he still has some puppy excitability, these tests are going to be the most difficult obstacles for him.

On Sunday mornings, Nugget attends a dog reactivity class. We currently have three other dogs in the class, and on this most recent Sunday we also had three training dogs in class. The training dogs so far have been calm and quiet, which Nugget has no reaction to. The trainer said he seemed very comfortable around the dogs because he would sit with his back to them and even lie in the grass with his eyes fixated on me. He is doing very well on this portion of the training. However, he has not had any interaction with other excited dogs yet, and that seems to be when he has trouble staying calm. We will be working up to that level, and I can’t wait to see Nugget’s progress!


We also have training together on Monday nights preparing for his Canine Good Citizen test. This week we really focused on his behavior when interacting with other people and dogs. The first test we worked on was accepting a friendly stranger. We practiced this with my trainer. Nugget is obviously familiar with his trainer, but it was good practice. Nugget did listen well to me. I walked Nugget around, and as the trainer approached me I told Nugget to sit. While I shook hands with my trainer and introduced myself, Nugget sat quietly by my side! I was very impressed that he was so polite because he gets very excited around his trainer. He is quickly maturing. 


Next we practiced having Nugget sit while a stranger pets him. We walked around and asked strangers who looked interested in my dog if they would like to help with our training. People are always so eager to help when it involves petting a cute dog! As we approached people, I again would tell Nugget to sit and ask the people not to pet him until he sat politely. Sometimes it took a few moments for him to realize what he needed to do, but he successfully sat for petting every time. 


Lastly, we practiced supervised separation. I would tell Nugget to wait and I would leave the training area for three minutes. He successfully stayed there without panicking for over three minutes with his trainer while I was gone. We practiced this several times, and he did well every time. Now I am just trying to teach him to be separated from me without anyone else around. He still has a lot of trouble being left home alone, and I am slowly teaching him to be in my room alone. It is a long process!

I am very proud of Nugget. We have been working so hard. Even though we have a lot more work to do, he is progressing quickly.