What I’ve learned about training my young intact male:

  • I’m not more interesting than dog pee or dog smells.
  • Food is not always a motivator, nor worth eating at meals.
  • Toys are not always a motivator.
  • Trying to get him to stop sniffing is futile and adds conflict.
  • Acclimation helps a liiiiittle bit.

Good thing is that Drac is a social dog who truly loves physical interaction. I’ve made sure to add in a lot of personal play/interaction in our training sessions or when just hanging out.

At a recent agility class, he was a goner with the sniffin’! On our last turn up, I decided to love on him and get on the ground and pet and engage in personal play. It worked! I had a dog and we did a very short sequence after some rowdy toy play and we ended on a successful note.

While on a recent walk, he came when called (not always as quickly as I’d like), but came nevertheless, but wouldn’t take my treats. EVEN chicken, his favorite. So next time I called, I kneeled down and whala!!! He hit the jackpot of lovin’ and personal interaction. WOW! Who’d have thunk?!? He also took a treat after our interaction. Not sure why I pulled the treat out – habit I suppose (they MUST eat food – haha!), but I did find it interesting that he would eat after the personal play but not initially after a recall.

It’s clear he’s very hormonal right now. Based on many signs! Last night, he fell deeply, madly in love with Savvy in the most romantic of ways! He tried all his moves … including pacing, whining, you know, the usually courting stuff. She’s spayed (I will check for a UTI) but he was fixated on a spot on her fur, like how he is with a dog smell on me or on the ground in a training center. She had been rolling in grass earlier in the day so who knows, but something really flipped his switch. This all really made a lot of sense for how he’s been less focused and disconnected lately.

A good friend (a few actually) have told me 1) he’s in his prime teenage hormonal months, 2) he will get better with age once the hormones settle out, and 3) maybe I’m trying to do too much with him right now. Do I relax our training a bit? Focus on a few less sports? Let him grow up a little? I don’t want to rehearse frustration like we have both been feeling during some training. So yes, I will ratchet it down. Good time actually in the hot summer months (especially for Drac who is not a fan of the heat).

This is hard for me. I can’t easily not train a dog – especially a young dog with so much ground to cover! But it’s the right thing to do. And I have nosework with Savvy and Handler Scent with both dogs that are easily trained in low distracting areas right now.

And, I couldn’t help it .. I laid a few tracks for Drac this week. He did his best ever yesterday – 3 short legs and 2 turns and short part on concrete.  This is one area where we are behind in our training … I have a goal for getting certified for the Belgian nationals tracking test next spring. This morning I laid another one. Very happy with how he did.  First, he wore a harness (for those that know my harness woes), tracked near a slope with water below, worked through Savvy barking in the car (I forgot to close the door!) and worked both turns (90 degree and open) very well.  Food drops about 10 feet apart. He also correctly picks the direction of the track from the start – something I do from the beginning – train a TDX start! We do need to work on article indication!

And no, training scent sports does not make him sniff more at other times. Believe me, that comes naturally and he’d be dog sniffing whether I did scent sports or not. Allowing a dog to use their nose is a GOOD thing. It’s an outlet for what is natural for them. I wouldn’t do it any other way! 🙂

So my biggest lessons are, give the dude a break (less obed and agility right now) and if all else fails, or hey, even to start with, kneel down and encourage social interaction as reinforcement! Love my Drac!