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Amber and her walks update

We are always open about our training process and failures, we want to tell everyone that it is perfectly okay to fail at times, because failing only makes you better.

We always hear compliments about Amber when we bring her out, things like "I wish my dog could walk beside me too" and such. Well usually if we have time we'll explain to them that they can too get their dog to walk beside them, they simply needed to train their dog! Of course there are also some that says that we are lucky to get a dog that listens, some people truly believes that whether not a dog listens to their owner is through characteristics. We'll tell them that what they see in Amber is just the good side, what they did not see is how much time, effort and training we had put into our dog. It was just one year ago when we faced a lot of criticism during Amber's puppy stage, people think that having a puppy means that the person is a beginner and don't know what they are doing. They see us putting a leash on Amber and would start giving pointless advice, like how collars can easily break a dog's neck, that dogs with opened mouth means they are dying of thirst, we even heard advice from people who think that scolding a dog will make them hate their owners.

Now, we don't even hear things like that anymore, more towards people seeking advice from us, some would even watch from a corner when we train Amber's commands and off leash walking. And the people who had used to give advises would simply stare at Amber with disbelief as she walk proudly past them.

We would like to share some updates on Amber's training progress and some of the problems we faced especially during these 2 weeks. Hopefully by sharing this little experience more people can learn and understand how important it is to give your dog enough exercises and also, spending quality time with it.

So here goes..

About 2 weeks ago, we were really busy, being packed with holding obedience training, work and other commitments that we were not able to give Amber the attention she needed. We had aimed to clear everything we had on hand by the end of the week and quickly get back to Amber as soon as possible. We did walk Amber and gave her some play time like tricks and fetch sessions, but it was limited, the sequence went like this:

Monday: nil
Tuesday: nil
Wednesday: walks
Thursday: walks, play session
Friday: nil
Saturday: nil
Sunday: walks, out to parents place

It all started on Sunday. We brought Amber downstairs, decided to walk her for 15 minutes before putting her off leash as usual. Amber did not do very well on leash, we had expected that to happen since she had not been walked for 2 days. After about 15 minutes, she did slightly better and we put her off leash just like what we always do, this was when we noticed she kept putting her nose on the ground and started to track during the walk. We had never allowed Amber to track during walks, this was to prevent her from being distracted, we want her to know what was going on, if we were crossing the road or if there were any bicycles passing by and she was usually doing well, just a "No" or "Off" and Amber would stop. She suddenly tracked continuously this time round and i said "No", she lifted up her head, only to put her nose back on the ground and continued tracking again, I repeated again, this time a louder "NO!", she ignored.

We were surprised by her reaction, Amber had been really attentive about our commands and this time round she really went over the line, we proceeded to touching her and said "NO!", which she listened for about 5 minutes before ignoring again. Out of her own decision, Amber suddenly stopped tracking and looked at us, we thought she had woken up from her nonsense. She then confidently walked in front of us this time round, I said "NO!" again, stopped walking and ask her to stay beside me, she continued walking in front and even placed her nose on the ground and started tracking, Amber was obviously showing her unhappiness.

Admittedly, I got frustrated, not with Amber's ignorance but because I had no idea why she would become like this. Was it because we gave her too much affection? Was it because we did not play with her? No, it was because we did not give her the exercises and attention she needed! It was so simple, I recapped for a bit, how much time had we spent with Amber that week? I remembered her looking at us with her puppy eyes after we had our dinner, expecting to have some tricks session or at least a short walk, my brain was thinking nonstop while Amber was doing whatever she wanted during that walk. I then woke up, and knew that it was not Amber's fault, but ours, we had placed too much confidence thinking that Amber would be back to her usual self after a couple of minutes but it wasn't so simple. It was not just the lack of walk for 2 days that made Amber like this, if we were to calculated the whole week, she didn't get to walk for 4 days, not to forget the lack of quality time spent with her!

I then took out the leash, put it onto Amber and went back to the basics. I knew she had to be retrained and it wasn't her fault. She looked up at me, seemed to be confused why she had the leash on, I asked her to sit and gave her a soft pat. Amber seemed to have enjoyed her walk on leash thereafter, no more pulling and also seemed to be more obedient on commands.

As trainers, we always knew that dogs had to be walked at least once a day without fail. But we had never skipped Amber's walk for more than once a week, this time it was actually our first time facing the consequences. It was not only walks that made Amber like this, it was because of the lack of time spent with her. You have to either leave your dog at home during the day, but give them plenty of exercises and play time when you return, OR give them moderate amount of exercises and play time BUT spend the whole day at home or outdoor with your dog. Failing to do so will get your dog frustrated, just like Amber this time round. She got confused, even hinted at us but we just couldn't afford the time for her, so she rebelled and wanted to fight for the leadership position.

Three weeks had passed, Amber is now 50% back to her usual self and she still have a long way to go. We had targeted to get her fully off leashed by the end of the year but this problem surfaced and we have to slowly build back her trust again. The average dog are usually fully trained by the time they reach about 4 years of age, we want to give Amber and ourselves a challenge by getting Amber ready before she reaches 3 years old, and that means 100% command attention, fully off leashed trained and staying calm towards any kind of dogs or humans approaching.

Through this lesson, we learned a couple of things:

1. The consequences owners actually faced when they skip exercising their dog.

2. The damage done especially on high energy dogs when we don't give them enough exercise and attention.

3. Retraining Amber was actually a good thing.

Point 1 and 2 was a straightforward lesson, as for point 3, I felt that it was more of a blessing. Firstly, during training process, we found out that Amber picked up everything much faster, meaning she could pick up and remember everything she had learned in the past within a short period of time. Not only that, we also got to strengthen Amber's basic walking skills, and also take this chance to polish on things that she was weak in during her puppy stage. For example, she was weak in sitting beside our feet whenever we stopped walking, always slightly in front of us. During retraining process we got to practice this issue again, and she was much better at it after just 2 weeks of practice. Getting Amber back on leash also let her experience the feeling of being controlled all over again, not just for the first 15 minutes, but the whole walk.

Now, whenever we put her off leash for a short while, she would be more or less attentive and alert to our commands and eye contact, she might not be able to control herself to walk in front or sniff the ground for now but we can definitely feel her effort. She would sometimes sniff the ground and then suddenly remember by herself, running back beside our feet and sits down, hoping that we wouldn't mind. When she does this, we will put the leash back on until the end of the walk, and through this training process she learns really fast!

Did we learn from this? Yes of course!

Will we ever try this again? Probably not.


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