The Road to Recovering From Stress

Posted on 08/04/10 35 Comments

In my last post “Stressing in the Real World” my friend Helen opened up about the ups and downs of training her challenging Standard Poodle puppy “Uppity.” Today we learn what the keys where for Helen’s turn about.

Once again here is Helen . . .

Although I had a lot of bad days while trying to train Uppity one thing we did have that was great was a nose tap to my hand. She understands nose taps and loves doing them. I discovered that as long as she really understood what was being asked of her, she was fine but as soon as things got tough, she ran for the hills (literally!).

After my humiliating experience at the seminar with Susan, we all went to an agility trial together. While waiting for our runs, Susan decided to do some shaping with Uppity. What started out as a session I was used to seeing with my puppy staring blankly, sniffing or attempting to leave ended up in brilliance.

I watched in awe as Susan methodically shaped this puppy (who usually quit after the first thing went wrong). Susan was quiet while waiting for Uppity to offer a response but went mad with praise as she rewarded her with a cookie for any small success.

Susan knew it was unlikely that Upp would tug in that environment so she never asked but she still broke up the shaping sessions every 4 or 5 cookies by having Uppity chase her down the field and back. In no time at all my puppy was enthusiastically offering a figure 8 around two cones and loving what she was doing. By Susan’s last shaping session Uppity was excited to train and never thought of shutting down, sniffing or leaving.

At one point during one of the last sessions, Uppity stopped and refused to work but Susan just waited her out and then fed her dog Feature who was in the crate behind us until Upp (who was on leash) decided to start trying again. I was never that patient when I trained, I would always want to help my poor puppy! It was a huge eye opener for me and I learned so much watching the whole thing.

Right then, I knew I could train this puppy, I could see the possibilities. It was the first time I had really felt that I could. Before that I always had doubts but knew I would die trying (perhaps of old age!) but that all changed for me as I was certain it was going to happen!

I went home from that trial with hope and a plan. Do more shaping! Allow Uppity to learn to fail and not worry about it. I put more joy into my rewarding and kept my sessions short.  Per Susan’s encouragement, I shaped her to back up and did more perch work,  recalls,  collar grabs and value for reinforcement zone– but most of all we just had a lot of plain F-U-N!

At one session she shut down and refused to tug after tugging brilliantly several times. I went and got our Border Collie and tugged with her while Uppity watched. When Up looked interested, I offered her the tugger and she tugged with enthusiasm. I had to do this several times but we got through the session. Knock on wood, that was the last time she has refused to tug with me and that was two months ago.

With that barrier mostly behind us, I am seeing huge strides with her training now and in such a short time. She is ten months old so it has only been two months since her major and last meltdown. It was all about building confidence (hers AND mine!). We are training things in tiny baby steps. Breaking things down into bite sized pieces, keeping sessions short and not letting her shape me to do things her way! I am not taking any setback personally (or trying not to anyway). I look at them as “learning opportunities.”

We are working on Susan’s e-course and very excited about it! The more I do, the better Uppity gets. I can honestly say I am very excited about training Upp now and look forward to every session!

This past weekend we went to ringside at an agility trial and worked on backing up, tugging and did some shaping. She was glued to me and ready to work at anything I asked. People can’t believe that this was the same  puppy that wouldn’t come to me at a seminar only two short months ago!

Tomorrow I share the lessons that Uppity has brought to me.

What am I grateful for?

Susan Garrett, Lynda Orton-Hill, the Say Yes program (and of course our California instructor, Stacy Winkler) but most of all, my big black Poodle puppy who finally LOVES working with me!


  1. Daisy Peng says:
    Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 3:53am

    I said this is amazing.. thank you for sharing!


  2. Bev says:
    Saturday, August 7, 2010 at 8:33pm

    I enjoyed the ‘progress’ story Helen has made with Uppity (by the way, did you get this name from the Blues Women? Just curious – my favorite). Anyway, I don’t have the same issue going on with Tazz as far as wanting to play for tug or treats BUT, my issue came out the past few days . . . getting her used to walking close with ‘traffic’ and I obviously realize, when dogs are off in the distance – she wants to “VISIT.”

    I do not like doing ‘heal’ and am using By Me which works when there is not this kind of distraction (I should say, she is 10 months old) and she at times seems afraid of the cars but other times, I think she would lunge out. She pulled like crazy to go see the little dogs . . . she is very used to visiting all kinds of dogs (on leash) and even though I try to have times when she needs to go by them, my husband lets her visit all dogs that are friendly.

    I could use criticism … it’s about distractions – right and trying to get that attention sometimes! She usually works for treats but today, after my brief session (I too believe in short spurts of about 5 times then change it up) she decided she did not want cheese or the beef treats. Interestingly, about 20 feet before the car and the park where the dogs were, she walked without pulling. I of course, praised her but she seemed too ‘stressed’ by this brief session she could care less.



  3. Julie Seeley says:
    Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 8:22pm


    It just shows that a trainer needs to go where the dog is and train/play from there. Not be frustrated about what the dog is not.

    Uppity is very lucky to have you! You were destined to guide her on her journey to joy and happiness.


  4. Kari says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:14pm

    Congrats and thanks!


  5. Ann Hopp says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 10:28pm

    A truly inspiring story. I too had a shy dog and not nearly the games or techniques that we have today. I do hope you will continue to ‘sub’ for Susan and let us keep up with Uppity.


  6. Fiona Hodgson says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 10:07pm

    Awesome story – thanks so much for this. There are so many people I wish would read this!
    Good luck for the future with Uppity – sounds like its going to be awesome!


  7. Leslie says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 9:25pm

    Helen, thanks so much for sharing. I too had tears in my eyes while reading your story. I am going through a similar situation with my young BC. Fortunately, between Susan’s online course and the great help of Jean Emery, we are learning to work through the stressful things. Also thanks to everyone for their great posts, learning alot from those.


  8. Susan says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 5:54pm

    Helen’s comment “It was all about building confidence (hers AND mine)”. really stood out for me as I know myself that the more confident I get the better my dog does. Playing these games with my dog has really built up MY confidence and I can already see my dog’s increased focus on me and the positive changes in our relationship.


  9. seamstjr says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 4:35pm

    This story really hit home for me as I have a fearful pap and have a similar journey but my journey took a lot longer. 2 years to get to where you are now. How I wish I had the foundation you are building with Uppity. I am just now teaching Hopey it is ok to fail with these wonderful games I’m learning in the online course. It took me years to see that trying to help was making it worse and I still fall into the over protective trap every now and then. Keep up the great work. Your bond with this poodle will be special as Hopey and I have a very special bond. Even more so than with the others in my household because she makes me think and I hopefully do the same for her.


  10. Naomi dh says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 2:28pm

    …and the lived happily ever after!

    I love these stories 🙂

    Go Helen and Uppity!


  11. Sophie says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 1:51pm

    A very interesting story and reminder that shaping can be more important than the final product. Every little gain is important (I will repeat that in my head a few time while training).
    My other point is something I noticed in people’s posts that is against what used to be taught in training/obed/alpha school: The human must decide when it is play time and never let the dog decide. I am glad to see this belief being thrown away because I never thought it made sense and my little pack never behaved that way (the omega would try to play with the alpha and the alpha had the choice to play or not). Just an observation. Teach while dog is in fun mode!


  12. Trudie says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 1:11pm

    Really enjoyed reading the saga of Uppity!

    My 4 yr pyr shep tugs only at home and only if older dog is not around. He seems to enjoy tugging most when he is in a play bow position and I get down in the same position, softly tugging towards and away we both make growly noises and looking at each other. As a puppy he naturally fetched toys to play.

    I haven’t done Find My Face yet today, because I’m using up my great treats! (But we will!!)

    The Uppity post made me try the tactic of having a great tugging session with the older dog, (who loves tugging) in front of the other. Then, I put older dog in another room and tossed the tugger with some other toys in a basket on the floor. I thought he might go to investigate and he did. I had treated myself to an ice cream cone and sat down to finish a crossword puzzle. So the ensuing shaping session was entirely spontaneous and prompted by my dog. When he sniffed the tugger he got a lick of ice cream. Step by step he target touched it, got his teeth on it, lifted it out of the basket (jackpot), then I laid it on my knee, he pulled it off, then he pulled gently against my holding it, then he had to really pull it out of my hand. At this point he got the rest of the cone as jackpot.

    Today he wouldn’t have tugged had I proposed it. The idea was for him to want to engage me.
    Am I right in thinking the first step in taking it anywhere else is to slowly add distractions while build value for just targeting the tug toy? (I do have a tugsy but it doesn’t out-value other distractions)


    • Helen King says:
      Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 2:17pm

      Hi Trudie,
      When I was first teaching Uppity to tug, I had to be very creative! One of the ways was to give her “pankins” to get her jazzed (which is how she got one of her MANY nicknames – “Pankin Pants”). I would reach one arm underneath her tummy towards the back and lift her back legs just slightly off the floor and lightly spank her bottom with the other hand while growling at her. This drove her insane. Once I got her state of arousal where I wanted it, I would wiggle the tugger on the ground and she would grab it. When she grabbed the tugger, I whooped and hollered and had a great time, then broke it off while she still wanted more. Another thing I did was grab at her toes to get her going. You must be careful with this one though because it can turn into a game of keep away and that is the last thing you want with a shy dog! You have to balance it with tons of rewarding collar grabs. Keep the dog on leash or in a small room while working on this at first.
      Be a little careful also to not create a dog that only plays when it wants to play. As an agility dog, I want Upp to play when I want her to play and not only when she initiates the game. Otherwise, you can compound what Susan calls the “don’t wanna – don’t hafta” problem (something Uppity already had big time). Don’t ask your dog to tug when you know the chances are slim to none it will and you don’t think you can work through it in that session. Get great tugging in one place then you can take it on the road to other locations (first in the home, then outside). I wouldn’t add distractions until you are sure the dog will play. Try not to set the dog up for failure.
      Sounds like you are getting there! Great job!


      • Trudie says:
        Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 2:54pm

        Helen –
        Thanks so much !

      • Bronwyn says:
        Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 5:33pm

        Helen, your “pankins” game is hilarious. I tried that with my dogs. My puppy (also a Tudorose poodle) thought it was great and gets really excited. My older dog (not a TP) thought I had lost my mind. He just snorted at me and left the room…

        Thanks for sharing your story. From watching some of your videos, I would not have guessed that you had those troubles. She always looks very playful and energetic.

      • Helen King says:
        Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 8:02pm

        GLad you like the pankins game :). I only put up the good videos ;).

      • tarcika says:
        Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 8:37pm

        you say to balance tugging with rewarding collar grabs. I never knew before why collar grabs would be useful – I see it now. I am doing the collar grab came all day long now (after the game was posted). Already a big difference. But how does it become rewarding, apart from doing the collar grab and pair it with a treat? Touch it every now and then during fun activities?

        I used a fleece harness on my boy since he was 4 months old and never a collar. So when I tried doing a restrained recall with a collar and the leash hooked around a tree or when doing it with a helper, he would not pull on it. No pulling, no lunging. Nedless to say, I hardly ever did restrained recalls with him, plus a new type of collar might aid to the problem. So today I went back to the harness,just to get him pulling. Had a helper hold him. The harness of course made him remember all the fun he had while pulling on it, I got my other dog out and played with her, while he had to be restrained (poooor baby). So that made him pull for the first time when a helper held him back. Of course he got called and released too. I plan to generalise this to a normal collar as the pulling becomes stronger.

        So back to my original question, will all this make the collar grab more and more rewarding?


      • Helen King says:
        Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 9:32pm

        Anything you reward will become valuable to the dog. The more you treat the collar grab, the more rewarding it will become. It may not happen overnight but it WILL happen ;). Remember, Susan said three sessions a day! I would be doing that every day until you are happy with your dog’s response to the collar grab.

      • tarcika says:
        Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 10:15pm

        I am definitely doing the collar grab game throughout the day (at leats 3 short sessions per day) and I am already seeing a difference. I can see how it would apply to so many areas, like retrieve, better understanding of recall, training in agility…


      • veronica says:
        Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 10:06pm

        That is so fabulous and inspiring.From the first story to your now responces to others….what a learning curve you have been though.In other words a bit of knowledge can go such a long way and produce such great results.
        And another great dog trainer is born.

        Susan said in one of her articles “who’s shaping who”
        Could this apply here?
        Cheers and good luck trialing.

  13. Helen says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 12:28pm

    Thank you. I need to be more patient! It’s hard though when they give you that look! I take it too personally sometimes. Today because of your post I’ve taken a step back and am noticing the new games that we’ve started playing, on the recall course, that he now loves (crate games especially) rather than obsessing over his not wanting to play tug (he loves playing on his walks just not when I’m in training mode!)We’ve just been playing chase me while I sing ‘and wheres the doggy gone’ with chicken for coming to my side!
    Looking forward to tomorrows post!


  14. Shannon Kelly says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:54am

    Cookies for you for putting all the work in! Sounds like this pup is bringing your dog training skills to all new levels, and you are able to have fun along the way.


  15. Deborah Smith says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:18am

    Helen, Thank you for sharing.Thank you for the encouragement to continue this journey that can be difficult and overwhelming at times. I am learning patience and to appreciate those small successes.

    We live in the country and have a large fenced in yard. Brigit loves to investigate the tall grass in the far corner. In the past she has gone “deaf” when busy in that corner. My husband and I have been playing the restrained recall game in the front yard. Today Brigit did an early morning bounding perfect recall from that corner! I treated her and then tried to release her to go back to that corner but she preferred to stay with me!

    Sizzle prefers to run to the front door to get back inside. Today she did bounding perfect recalls to me from the front door back into the front yard.

    Brigit loved today’s game of find my face!

    When I first engaged Sizzle in the Find MY Face game, she preferred to roll over on her back as she became fearful at this new behavior of mine. She recovered though when she discovered treats where involved and we were playing. When we went in the house she ran in and grabbed a toy to engage me in a game of tug.


  16. Gail says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:05am

    Thanks for sharing your story, Helen. I have an aussie that loves to play in the house, but shuts down as soon as we walk out the door. I have been trying to get him to play/tug in other places and have gotten rather discouraged. Your story has given me the boost I need to keep going and to remember to celebrate the small things. Thanks!!!


  17. Danielle says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:03am

    Thank you for posting this!! It is so sooo encouraging.

    I feel like I’ve been going through a very similar thing. I’ve been breaking down in tears so much when I see everyone else’s high drive dogs performing beautifully as I struggle to build the drive up in my own dog. This gives me the hope to keep trying.


  18. Deb Bogart says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 10:11am

    Thanks Helen 🙂 A couple of months ago I really started working on just playing games and shaping my 4-1/2 year old Aussie to do tricks and have spent less time just training agility and he seems to be getting better daily. It is good to know that I am on the right path.


  19. Helen Verte says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 10:04am

    What an enlightening dog training process you’ve gone through, Helen. Thank you for sharing it with us. The more I read Susan’s blog, the more I understand the importance of consistency and patience when training, and also more good reasons to have a multiple dog household. 🙂 I hope to read more about your adventures training Uppity.

    P.S. I had tears reading this, too.


  20. Andrea Guindon says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 9:49am

    Yay, I’m glad you and Uppity are coming together as a team! My experience was simillar except my dog was glazing over and disconnecting verses running away, people couldn’t believe the difference in her in just a few months after my Say Yes intervention she really was like a different dog and thankfully I had a new set of challenges to work on. It took me a few months longer to shift my perspective and really recognize the partner I now had for who she was, my tweener camp partner really helped me there. I’m just so glad you’re loving the journey now. They’ll be so many fun firsts to come, like the first time you just can’t get the tug out of her mouth and realize maybe you need to train a drop it cue!


  21. Laura says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 9:23am

    Thanks for sharing!! Your story has really hit home. I can appreciate what you went through and I am so glad that it has worked out.
    I have a dog that I have done the same things with, but unfortunately the results have not been as successful as yours. As hard as I have tried..
    It has been absolutely devastating for me. He is not my first dog nor the first who has had a hard time getting “jump started”, but the only one that I have not been successful with.
    I keep reading everything I can get my hands on and trying anything and everything that might turn things around….I, like you, was determined to make it happen or just die trying… I am now waving the white flag…
    Best of luck to you and I am so very happy for you!!!


  22. Karey Grisdale says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 9:19am

    OMG Helen what a great story. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you continued success with Uppity!!!!!


  23. Kimberly Bosworth says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 7:38am

    Thanks for sharing Helen! It is great to hear a story that is very similar to my trials with my 4yr old BC, Lexi. I am working on much of the same with her currently, my patience in shaping and her confidence and Susan’s training techniques as well as my TN instructor Elaine have helped so much! I can’t wait to see the rest of your posts!!!


  24. Gemma Osmond says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 6:49am

    Okay is it wrong that I feel a bit teary reading that!? Thank you for sharing that Helen, it’s great to hear your story, really inspiring 🙂


    • Shelley says:
      Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 8:22am

      No I was wondering if I should confess to that too. I am sitting here with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Welldone both of you and everyone who has helped and continue to help. Uppity is a lucky pup!


  25. Charlotte Rundgren says:
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 5:48am

    Thank you for sharing this Helen:)


Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

slide one
slide two