In his almost four months with us, our Chinese Crested Mojito has really started to come out of his shell. (Read other posts about Mo: Our New Dog and Mo’s Favorite Toy). Every time I bring him to work with me, he complains a little less and is willing to interact with people a little more.
When Mo’s feeling safe and calm, he behaves well and learns quickly. At home, he’s very good at sitting when asked, doing a little dance for a treat, and waiting for permission to dive into his food bowl. However, new people or dogs can leave him trying to nervously climb into my arms or even cowering and growling. I haven’t been sure how to proceed with him, not knowing exactly what he’s been through in the first five years of his life, but I definitely want him to be a little more independent and confident for both of our sakes! That’s why last week we went to our very first obedience class.
My husband, Mojito and I met our new classmates in a grassy, fenced area next to a challenging-looking agility course. This first hour was mostly a meet-and-greet, letting the leashed dogs explore while our trainer, Kat, discovered the behavioral territories the owners wanted to cover. While Mo uncertainly eyed his fellow students (including a very polite, 100 pound Malamute and a very enthusiastic, also very large Weimaraner), I explained to Kat that I wanted to introduce him to new people and places, and learn new tips to help him become a braver, more socially capable dog.
I was happy to see that Mo took to Kat right away, and was very willing to “sit” and accept dog treats from her, something he wouldn’t do for a stranger until recently. I learned to never push him into approaching a stranger, but to have the person go down on a knee, and pet the underside of his chin and chest if Mo doesn’t mind. I also learned that, even though I’ve tried not to, I’ve been babying him too much and have to allow him to handle new situations on his own without so many reassuring pets and hugs from mom!
Although Mo isn’t a puller, he has never learned leash manners, so Kat showed me how to reward him for walking nicely beside me instead of weaving around and getting tangled. She also explained how to get Mo to focus on me instead of the treat in my hand, which is a lesson I think will be ongoing…
Finally, Kat brought out her border collie puppy, who is about Mo’s size. Mo gave Sky a good sniff, and allowed her to sniff in return. He did very well with her until, asking him to play, she gave him a friendly but solid swat on the nose. At that point Mo seemed to decide enough was enough and that he needed another hug.
I’m really looking forward to our next class. We have lots to practice!