Yesterday, I introduced you to Libby, who is our new Puppy Peaks Junior Reporter, here to give you a monthly “peek” into Puppy Peaks from her perspective. Thanks to each of you for making Libby feel so welcome! Libby is a 16-year-old dog trainer who we first met during our Puppy Peaks registrations this fall. Her spirit and passion for dog training attracted us to her immediately, and we asked her to become a “Junior Puppy Peaks Reporter” for us, to which she enthusiastically agreed.  Libby will be documenting her experience as she works through the program, so we could get a different perspective into the program that continues to grow and change lives every time we run it.

I must say that I greatly enjoyed reading Libby’s account…not just because she said such nice things about me (thanks, Libby!), 🙂 but because her response to Puppy Peaks so far is exactly what I envisioned when I created it!  I am a firm believer in learning from your challenges . . . like each of you I have faced a bunch of them  when it comes to training! I created Puppy Peaks with this in mind…to allow people a “peek” into my challenges and how I overcome them. It’s the key to becoming a great trainer and  improving your relationship with your dog!

Check out Libby’s first post about Month 1 of Puppy Peaks below. I am confident you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

Puppy Peaks:  Month 1
by Libby

I was so excited to join Puppy Peaks and get an inside view of Susan’s training; to see what she does with her dogs to make them so obedient and well-trained, and also what she does to instill such a love of learning.  The first month was amazing.  I learned so much from just watching her – how she talks to Swagger and maintains an upbeat environment while training and, at the same time, pushes through the struggles, even if it means she is playing with the tug by herself.  The most helpful videos are sometimes the ones where Swagger is not cooperating and Susan is a little frustrated; this helps me see that even Susan Garrett’s puppies aren’t perfect, but it is important to push through the “Don’t Wanna Don’t Hafta” moments.

Everything she does is a game, which creates an enjoyable learning environment for both the trainer and the dog.  She somehow manages to work on multiple behaviors with just one game.  An example is when she tugs with Swagger.  It seems like one game, but then sometimes she will make him change tugs, teaching him to play with a particular toy.  Then sometimes she will stop tugging and wait for a sit – teaching the pup to calm down and offer a behavior.  Other times, she will occasionally let Swagger have the toy, and wait for him to bring it back, thus teaching a retrieve. That’s four lessons in one game!

After watching some of the videos, I decided to go try a few things out on my two-year-old Border Collie, Elliott.  We worked on the restrained recall around the pole as well as the retrieve.

Libby and Elliot Practice Puppy PeaksI had never done a restrained recall with Elliott before, so when I put his leash around the pole he was a little confused.  With one of his favorite stuffed animals in hand, I released his leash and ran.  In no time at all he learned the game, and now he loves it.  As soon as he caught up to me we had a good game of tug and then played a few more times.  He had a blast and he began to improve.  I’m looking forward to transferring this to a formal “Come,” which he previously didn’t enjoy.

The next thing we worked on was the retrieve.  I never noticed a problem before Puppy Peaks.  Elliott always runs for the toy, and then comes back.  Most of the time he mouths on it for a second or two and then comes trotting back to me.  It is a little annoying, but he always returns in a decent amount of time.  After watching Swagger’s video of retrieving, I realized my standards are not high enough for Elliott.  Swagger drove out to the toy, and then returned to Susan with equal speed and drive.

So, I decided to give Susan’s retrieving game a try. At first I was a little skeptical and so was Elliott; he was confused and trotted to me, trying to catch up.  But after 4 or 5 of these, he started to understand the game and get faster, having more drive back towards me.  I’m so excited to continue to work on these games and watch Elliott’s improvement as well as my own as a trainer.

Watching Susan train Swagger has let me pinpoint areas that I need to work on, and have also given me a method to improve on them.  Puppy Peaks allows me to watch her train, and then imitate her training.  The games make learning a great experience for both the dogs and me!

Today, I am grateful for Lynda Orton-Hill who is here at Say Yes for a week helping me finish up old projects and start new ones!