Thursday, August 6, 2009

Guest Blogger: Rachel & Hershey

I wanted to share a guest blogger post written by my dear friend Rachel. She was one of my very first blog followers, and it is so much fun having a local friend with a retriever too! I've dog sat Hershey, and she is just an amazing, spunky, dog that is still in that seems like forever Labrador puppy stage! I hope you enjoy reading her post!

I was asked to guest blog and I didn’t know exactly what to write about. I have learned so much from reading all of the posts and knew that I wouldn’t be able to provide such an informative, helpful post. Instead, I am going to share with you my dog, Hershey, and what I have taken away from the blog to help with Hershey.

First, let me introduce you to my pride and joy, Hershey! Hershey will be one years old on August 20th. I first met Hershey while I was visiting my family in Idaho for Thanksgiving last year. My cousin had bought her for $50 outside of a grocery store, so we don’t know too much about her. Obviously she has some Lab in her and we are guessing she is part German Short-Haired Pointer as well. I loved her instantly and my cousin said I could have her if I wanted. After a brief discussion with Dave, I agreed to take her and arrangements were made to have her flown out to Maryland the day after we moved into our new house, December 31st, 2008. I have been working on training her since we got her and will go over our progress to date.

Luckily for us, Hershey was practically housebroken and only needed some reinforcement to end that stage of puppyhood. Additionally, she knew to sit when told. I have her now trained to sit when I snap. To train her for this, every time I told her to sit I would snap my left hand and raise it slightly. She will now sit whenever I snap; ultimately I want to get her to sit when I just raise my left hand up. Occasionally I still need to verbally tell her to sit, but I highly recommend training your dog non-verbal commands. It was very easy for me to do and she picked up on it rather quickly.

Since her previous home was in the country, she was HORRIBLE on a leash. She just didn’t get it at all. We started off with retractable leash, a body harness, and a typical lead. We found that the harness resulted in less pulling. I think Hershey felt we had more control over her (which we did) and that resulted in less pulling. Key word is less. She still pulled quite a bit. After reading Lydia’s post on training your dog to walk properly, I decided to stop using the retractable leash and the harness. I took Hershey out for a walk on the lead and when she started to pull I used the “Lose it” method. I immediately yelled “no pull!” and lightly slapped the leash on her back. This may seem extreme, but it got her attention. After doing that a few times, she stopped pulling whenever I said “no pull!” Because I believe in positive reinforcement as well, whenever she was walking next to me and not pulling I would tell her what a good girl she was being and pet her occasionally. We had a few more walks where I was constantly saying “no pull” but it eventually sank in and we can now walk without pulling. Occasionally I still need to remind her with the “no pull” command, but things are MUCH better than before. We still have the occasional pulling when she spots something to chase, but she is learning that chasing is for when she is at the park and not on the leash.

Speaking of chasing and the park, Hershey has a lot of energy. Though we have a yard and she is not crated during the day, she still needs to go to the park to run and get some energy out. Annapolis has an excellent dog park at Quiet Waters. In addition to the fenced dog park, it has a dog beach for them to swim, but the beach area is not fenced in. This park has a $5 daily admission fee or a yearly pass for $30. We go there a few times a week and love it. For the days I don’t feel like driving there, I take Hershey for a run or go to the school down the street. We are so fortunate the Annapolis is such a dog friendly town!

Chewing. Puppies love to chew. Especially Labs. From day one I knew that this may be a huge issue for us. I didn’t want to set Hershey up for failure, so I purchased a lot of toys and continue to purchase new ones frequently. I figured if she had things of her own, with a little reinforcement, she would leave our stuff alone. Though there have been some instances where she has chewed our stuff, I stand behind this method. Hershey LOVES her toys. We have an excessive amount I am sure (well over 30), but she loves them and plays with them daily. Without them I think we would have had a lot more damage done to our stuff and the house. We have not had a problem with her chewing the wrong thing in the last couple of months and I am hoping we have conquered this (knock on wood). When she did chew something she shouldn’t have, I would show it to her, lightly tap her butt and yell, “No!! Bad girl!!!” Most time she would walk/run away and then crawl over to me and want to sit in my lap and give kisses to apologize. It didn’t take her long to learn the word “bad” and I can now apply it to other situations besides chewing with no physical correction.

A few days ago I decided it was time to teach Hershey to lay down on command. My verbal command for this is “down” and I move my right hand down towards the floor. To begin the training, I did my combo command and had to physically make her lay on the floor. Once she was down I repeated “down” and praised her. After three or four times of that, she got the point and would lay down on command. I plan on working on this every evening for 30 minutes for the next few weeks until she really gets it. I eventually want her to lay down when I lower my right hand, so this will take a lot of time.

We are very fortunate that Hershey aims to please us and has trained pretty easily. She is truly a joy to be around and I can’t imagine not having her. She loves to play and be active, but yet other times she is content to cuddle up with us on the couch or bed. Since she is such a lovable, fun dog and loves to get out of the house and meet other dogs and people, we are going to join the Pets on Wheels Volunteer Program in Annapolis. After I attend orientation in September, we will visit residents in long-term care facilities or the hospital. I cannot wait to start that with her. Not only will we be giving back to the community, but I think Hershey will enjoy it as well.

I cannot end this post without mentioning the Furminator. I absolutely LOVE this grooming tool and am so grateful that Lydia posted about it. Hershey’s coat isn’t too thick and she doesn’t shed that much, but this brush has definitely helped with what she did have. She did not love being brushed at first, so we started slowly and gave lot so praise and some treats. Though she doesn’t love it yet, she will let me brush her without running away. I have passed along the Furminator tip to others as well who find it amazing. If you missed her post on it, click here. I highly recommend it as well!

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