Train your dog to be in a school play - Part 2 of 2

 I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this interview with Jeanne describing her strategies and thought process for getting her Wheaten Terrier, Seamus ready for her daughter's school play. Read on for the last part and find out if all the work was worth it.

Q. In hindsight what would you have changed about the training schedule or goals? I would have started earlier building a relationship between Seamus and Annie in varying contexts. I would have worked more frequently for shorter periods. I would have protected Seamus in rehearsals and taken him outside or kept him quiet when he wasn’t training or rehearsing. Seamus is very cute and loving, and all 127 kids wanted to pet him and hug him and get him to do tricks. Children are Seamus’ favorite playmates but as his guardian I think I should have seen that it was too much of a good thing. He was tired and stressed by the end of the final week and ended up getting a double ear infection in both ears the night before the show.

Q. What was the most important thing you learned about dog training during the experience? The importance of giving Seamus consistency, short training periods, relaxation time (walking, playing), and quiet time. Build on small successes – give everybody something to feel positive about. Be patient – even when you don’t think your dog is getting it, he’s learning. Because he loves people, Seamus is a dog who won’t establish his own boundaries with people (walking away or even growling when he’s had enough), so I need to establish them for him when working in such a high stimulus environment.

Q. Do you think Seamus had fun? Yes, except, unfortunately, for the performance, because he was tired and had an ear infection. I think he would have rather been home that evening. During dress rehearsal earlier that day, though, he was hilarious. He not only went to Annie and sat for her song but then started clowning with her – he rolled over, curled around her and asked for a belly rub, which she obligingly did while singing her song. (I had prepared her that if he did anything goofy and endearing like this, to just relax and go with it. Sometimes he likes to sit in people’s laps – he doesn’t know that he’s a little big for that!) For Seamus, it doesn’t get much better than kids to play with, turkey to eat, and lots of time with his guardian.

Q. Would you do it again? I would. It would be my preference to rehearse in the space we are performing in, if possible. I’d ask for as much rehearsal time as I could get. I’d protect Seamus more – give him a little “star treatment” and let him relax with me away from the kids when he wasn’t training or performing. But all that training was wonderful for Seamus and for our dog-guardian relationship.

Q. What new behaviors are you currently working on? We’re working on reducing Seamus’ reaction to other dogs. We have a dog park nearby that has two large fenced areas. The space is working well for our desensitization work but we need to get there more often!
I was interested by your blog post on getting your dog to pay attention to you. Since Seamus is a terrier, he is constantly scanning the horizon and not focused on me when we are out. I think this would be very helpful for us.

Q. Anything else that you want to add? Ha, ha! Do you really want me to talk more about my dog?! Seamus is so great and I’m so proud of him. I could go on and on. Thanks for listening. By the way, did I mention he’s a shelter rescue? There are lots of wonderful dogs waiting to be adopted!
Puppy biting tip - don't toss treats
Train your dog to be in a school play - Part 1 of ...

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