Friday March 19th was a nice day for Lara here at The DogSmith Training Center. She has a new best friend, Sadie a young English Springer Spaniel that is staying here for the weekend while her mother gets married in Panama City Beach.  The dogs, all seven of them, played all day long and by the time evening came they were happy to relax in the cool spring breeze outside.

Bethany Jordan, The DogSmith Florida Panhandle and Alabama , was here in the afternoon.  We have been training Sookie, the German shepherd, for the past week and we were doing some advanced work with her on ‘down/stays.’ We added some stationary and moving distractions and her tennis ball.   Sookie did really well. You can follow Sookie and her training through the videos on the home page of The DogSmith Blog.

Anyway back to Lara.  She had a good old time. You can see her in this video - she so wants to interact with us. Bethany was playing with the dogs while Lara runs around.  She is so happy but just not brave enough to jump on top of Bethany like everybody else was doing.  (See Lara’s video’s on the home page of The DogSmith website)

We then decided that we would take her into the training room and sit with her for a few minutes. I picked her up and put her on my lap and began stroking her. Bethany was sitting on the floor moving gradually closer and closer if Lara showed no discomfort. Lara seemed quite relaxed so we thought it would be a good time to charge the clicker.  Charging the clicker means in simple terms that we would take the clicker, which at this time has no meaning to Lara, and we would pair it with food so the sound of the clicker predicts a treat being delivered. I had tried to do this last week but the sound of the clicker had startled Lara so I stopped.   Bethany began pairing the clicker with a treat, click/treat etc. Lara did not eat the first treat but was soon taking small pieces of freeze-dried liver from Bethany’s hand. Normally you have to put the food on the floor for her to eat it so this alone was great progress.

Bethany then waited for Lara to do something - anything that we could reinforce.  Lara looked at Bethany so she clicked and delivered a treat. In just a few minutes it appeared that Lara suddenly recognized that her actions were driving the delivery of treats. I was very excited and wanted to capture this on video so turned on the camera. The presence of the camera was a little unnerving for Lara so we only filmed for a few seconds.  What a wonderful day. Lara went back outside and Bethany left to go home and care for her own critters.

Well, four hours later I was still sitting outside. On this particularly beautiful Florida evening Lara had decided she was not going inside. My normal tricks of coaxing her were not working. I put all the other dogs inside and proceeded to try with just Lara to no avail. At 9 pm I sent a text message to my husband Rick who was inside watching a movie and asked him to come outside and keep me company.  We brought all the dogs back out and attempted to move them into a smaller area as a group. You cannot dupe an Aussie. Finally I asked Rick to keep his eye on her while I went to walk Sookie. As soon as Lara saw Sookie she bounded after us into a small yard where I proceeded to catch her. So now back to a short leash draped from her while she is out.

As Rick pointed out to me last night, Lara used to avoid us because she was scared, now she avoids us while running around playing jumping and bouncing. I think because of her background she just prefers to be outside.

So all in all, even with a long period outside, it was a good day.  If I had to sacrifice four hours of my Friday evening for a small piece of clicker training I will take it any day. Tomorrow our four legged guests depart and I am going to start some eye contact exercises with Lara and maybe reinforce some name recognition.

If you are looking for an Australian Shepherd or want to help with the rehabilitation of dogs suffering from heart worms or in need of surgery please visit New Spirit 4 Aussie Rescue

New Spirit 4 Aussie Rescue is an all-volunteer non-profit 501(c)(3) organization serving Australian Shepherds and Aussie mixes on the East Coast.