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It was love at first sight at the Duval County Humane Society in Florida. I walked up to the mesh and there she was: cute, clean, good-smelling, just the right size and age, and hungry for love. I felt an instant connection.

Two days later we were in the car driving home. I was a little nervous, watching her every move, but the trip was fairly short without noteworthy incidents. As soon as we got out of the car, it became obvious that she had no clue how to walk with the leash. Thus, the first training opportunity presented itself.
This is how I got the leash-walking under control:
Realizing that she liked the “reward with a treat” training method, every time she pulled in one direction, I stopped or pulled in the opposite direction. After a few minutes of struggle, I stopped, turned towards her, and looked her in the eyes. A treat immediately followed her relaxed attention. Longer periods of straight walk: another treat. Once we understood each other, the walks became quite enjoyable. Today we have 4-treat-walks (shorter loop) and 6-treat-walks (longer loop.) At times her behavior is rather erratic between the treat stops, but we all have bad moments. I’m not fussy as long as she does what I ask her to do, and does it on cue (stop=treat).

The next hurdle was house and yard training. This is how that worked:
In the morning, she usually starts stirring at 6:30-7:00. After the first whining sound we rush outside to do “business”. This became an easy routine, although it’s tougher to get her out of the house in heavy rain, and there are days when she seems unusually sleepy or downright cranky, mainly in winter mornings when at 7 a.m. the sun is not up yet. Ultimately, I think she understands the necessity of these early morning outings.

During the day it’s a little bit harder. All I want her to do is give me a sign of when we need to go out. The training process regarding this issue is slow but promising, and I’m happy to announce that, after numerous accidents, things are getting better. She always seems very sad and disappointed when accidents happen, especially when they happen on the couch or bed, and I’m positive that eventually she’ll learn from her mistakes. Introducing the tennis ball as a training tool was a great idea. The tennis ball means “business”, plus it is great exercise. I believe Cesar the Dog Whisperer when he emphasizes discipline, exercise, and affection, in that order. Today I only have to look at the tennis ball, and we both know what’s coming after approximately five laps (ball=pee).

Going to the dog-park with her is one of my favorite pastimes. She loves it because she can mingle with other dogs and people, and I can do almost anything I want for an hour. Socializing, Baby! We see old acquaintances and make new friends, and I pick up great training tips from the others. The only drawback is the compulsory shampoo and shower at the end; that’s a little messy. And then we have to get in the car: ooh, nightmare! Nonetheless, driving to the park perks both of us up (dog-park=get-out-of-your-hair free time and no ball-duty for two days).

Anyway, I love my new life with her. I seize every opportunity to teach her new tricks; I call these “training moments”. There’s so much she still doesn’t know, but time is on my side. After all, I’m only 1 year and 4 months old. By the way, my name is Lizzy, and I’m a Lab/Border Collie mix. And if I could do it, you can do it, too! Remember, the name of the game is consistency! And keep it fun, will ya?
P.S. I had a much easier time with Harrington than with the cat. The cat still doesn’t get me.

Guest Blogger
The Harrington Review