Bright and early at about 9.15am, the boy drove us (me and Moon) to the training grounds, the large field beside James Cook University along Upper Thomson Road. We were off for our very first lesson of Good Canine Citizen Program (or GCCP for short). It was a hot day so I was a little concerned that we’d be baked by the end of the hour’s training. Thankfully, the training area was shielded by large trees that provided lots of shade – phew. There was also a tent that was set-up for an event in July (!) but hasn’t been torn down. Hopefully it remains there for the next 8 weeks!
Our trainer was Alvin with his Golden Retriever, Audi. There were about 8 pairs of us in the group and many came along as trios, i.e. 2 humans and 1 dog. Perhaps the boy can join us next week. For the first lesson, he went off to have breakfast on his own at the nearby hawker centre.
Alvin got us to introduce ourselves first and started off with the first lesson:
- To get the dog to look at us the moment we call its name.
- To approach us and sit when we call its name and give the verbal/hand command.
Most of the dogs present were distracted by the rest of the dogs but our dear Miss Moon was not interested in anyone else except to sniff the ground. I had to wait till she’s suitably distracted, then call her name. After a while, she realised that I was holding onto treats so she kept her focus on me instead. Alamak! She’s such a greedy dog. I noticed that she was pretty obsessed with a particular spot on the grass (probably peed on by many other dogs previously!) so I had to keep circling around the area so that she was distracted. I was proud that she learnt very quickly that if she looked at me immediately, she’d get a treat.
The 2nd part is an add-on to the first part. Moon had to not just look in my direction when called, but she had to also sit. Most dogs can sit but Moon tends to lie down (belly touching ground, legs spread out) instead of simply sitting down on her butt. I was a little apprehensive about Part 2 because I wasn’t sure if Moon would know how to sit. I tried it for a bit and I was surprised she was a pretty quick learner. Perhaps she already knows that when I have snacks in my hand, she has to sit before she gets any. Soon enough, she figured out that if she came to me when called and sit, she’d get a treat. Yeay!
I also picked up quite a few interesting tips, such as saying ‘yes’ instead of saying ‘good girl!’. I’m guilty of that! Apparently, dogs can only recognise ONE verbal word so saying ‘good girl’ doesn’t register very well and she’d probably only hear the word ‘good’. Whenever she obeyed my command, I had to say ‘yes’, followed by a treat. This will allow her to associate the treat that comes after the ‘yes’. As Cesar Millan wisely said, it’s easier to train the dog than the human. At the start, I kept saying ‘good girl!’ whenever she performed the correct action after my command. Had to ‘un-learn’ and say ‘yes’ instead. Hur hur.
Also, I didn’t feed Moon that morning before training, only because we didn’t have time. It turned out to be a blessing because apparently, it is good to not feed a dog before a training session so that they are more inclined to listen to your commands as they’re (hopefully) hungry.
We were also taught that one should bring a ‘higher value treat’ along for the training sessions so that the dog would be tempted by the ‘different’ treat as compared to the one that he/she gets at home. Actually, this doesn’t really apply to Moon because she’s greedy and I am pretty sure that she will eat any type of treat that I bring along. Ha. During our session, there was a Golden Retriever that refused all types of treats, including a (human grade) hot dog by the trainer. Wow.
We (Moon and I) were both tired after the 1-hour training session but I was glad to have picked up some useful tips. We shall continue to practise. Until next Saturday then!