Monday, May 2, 2011

Skeletor officially begins obedience training

Well, this is it folks!
This is the month where it all goes down. We're going to find our new home, move into it, settle in and enjoy a huge sigh of relief when all is said and done!

In an effort to hone Skeletor's social skills, I invited my friend, Jared and his female pit bull, Shay over for a BBQ on Friday. Shay likes to play, but she isn't into too much drama. She's 8 years old, and enjoys a more chilled atmosphere.

I imagined that Skeletor would be thrilled (which he was) to meet Shay. I hoped that they would hit it off, and run around in the backyard while we enjoyed a relaxing BBQ (which is not exactly how it went down!)

As we all know, Skelly loves to yell at people, dogs, cats, and just about anything else he encounters in public. He does so in a playful fashion, with his tail-a-waggin! Despite his good intentions, his craziness is not always welcome.

So Shay comes in and Skeletor is thrilled! They give each other some initial smell tests, and everything seems ok. Skeletor is just so darn excited, he starts giving shay the flea-nibbles. Shay, understandably confused, tries to get away from him. Skeletor, ridiculously excited, persists to try and nibble on her face.

Shay eventually got fed up and gave a menacing growl. I had to take Skeletor out to the back yard in hopes that he would settle down.

Throughout the course of the night, we let the dogs interact. Eventually Shay would just try and get out of Skeletor's reach and Skelly would yell and pitch a fit because he wanted to play.

Now Skeletor... you are just acting too creepy! Women are NOT into that. You need to play it cool my boy! 

Despite my disappointment in his behavior, neither pup was injured, and I think Skeletor did show a little bit of improvement by the end of the night.

We have got work to do, that's for sure! Skeletor needs to be cool and collected in a social environment if he is to overcome the pit bull stigma!! We're going to need Skelly's help in appealing to potential new land lords and ladies... it's time he really learns some manners!

I wake up bright and early the next morning (Saturday) and load Skelly into the car. We're off to a local dog training club for a free evaluation / training session.

I pull up to the closed gate. Skeletor sees a dog. He starts barking at the top of his lungs. I can literally feel the barks vibrating my ear drums due to the confines of my car... Keep it down doggie!!

I meet Michael, the co-owner of the club. I tell him about Skeletor's history and why it's important for him to gain social skills. I explain to Michael that pulling on the leash is one of Skeletor's biggest problems.

A few other dog owners show up. Most of them have German Shephards. There's also what appeared to be a Belgian Malinois, and a Boxer.

The exercises began as the more experienced dogs performed two at a time. One dog's owner would take him into the shade and tell him to lie down. That well trained pup would lie there unrestrained the entire time while the second dog would perform his training exercises. Then they would switch.

These talented pups would walk on a lead without any pulling whatsoever. They would look to their owner upon command. They would sit automatically when the owner stopped walking. They would pivot when their owner turned. It was exciting to imagine Skeletor learning to behave so well!

I sat in a plastic chair with Skeletor on a leash. He would yell and pull when a person or dog came close to us. After a while, he finally started to get the hint. He started barking and pulling a little less.

Michael took some time to work directly with Skeletor. He said that he believed that Skeletor could be trained, and that the question was whether or not I could be trained! He said that what they do is teach owners how to train dogs. I told him that I was up to the challenge!

Michael also explained that his training philosophy uses positive reinforcement. He said that corrections are only made when needed. I have made a lot of progress with Skeletor, and I can assure you that based on my experience, positive reinforcement is the way to go!

I'm planning on returning next Saturday morning for another session. After that, Skeletor will go to 6 group training sessions every Thursday.

I think we're going to see a total transformation here, folks! Skeletor is going to be one well-behaved, and socially adjusted pup!


  1. Yay Wes (and Skeletor!) I have confidence in both of you! Winners all the way :)

    Love mom

  2. Oh wow!! Well done Skelly and Wesley!!! Yay!! You two are a partnership made in heaven!! Go Skelly! take care

  3. I just wanted to pop by (for old-times sake)and say congratulations on your amazing work and progress with Skeleton.
    Training a dog is never easy. Training a rescued dog, whose puppyhood was uncertain, is challenging to the extreme. Training oneself is the ultimate challenge. Positive reinforcement is the only way to go, but requires extreme patience. You are simply amazing and I wish you the best. Congrats again! :)
    Sending lotsaluv


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