Thor is a 1-year-old German Shepherd/Malinois mix from American Canyon, California who attended our 3-week off leash camp. Thor belongs to a nice woman who lives alone and wanted an imposing dog as a companion. Thor is certainly imposing, weighing in around 120 lbs. Although he has always been a wonderful companion, he was completely out of control. His owner could not even take him for a walk without being pulled over on her face, Thor threw all his weight into the leash and pulled her over. In the house he would take things and refuse to give them back, he destroyed a couch, and he tried to jam himself through any open door he saw.
Thor’s owner sought training to improve his life. She was unable to walk him but had a huge list of places that she thought he would enjoy and would have loved to take him. She worried that he would pick up something that would be dangerous for him and refuse to give it back, or that he would run through the door and be hit by a passing car. Her goals for camp were to have a great relationship with her best friend that they both found rewarding and enjoyable, including lots of outings and walks.
Thor was first taught to sit, down, recall, heel, walk nicely on leash, and go to place using food rewards and luring. Once he understood the behaviors, we used a prong collar to guide him along with the following a food lure. Finally, a remote collar was layered into his training to create off leash reliability. Thor loved to work from day one. He seemed relieved that life finally had instructions and he took to training easily.
Thor’s pulling on leash was addressed by unpredictably stopping and changing direction while working and giving a food reward when he paid attention to where his handler was going. As a working breed Thor figured this game out fast and soon decided that his handler was much more important than all the smells and other dogs on his walks. He was taught to trade a stolen item for a treat, which was also reinforced with the remote collar so that his owner could get him to drop something dangerous quickly. We did a lot of recalls through an open doorway to condition Thor to think that when he went out the door he was most likely going to be called right back in, as well as doing a lot of our obedience sessions with the front door open to desensitize him to becoming excited by the open door.
Thor came to us so out of control that the vet could not even weigh him at his visit. He pulled on the leash with all his might, jumped up with his front feet on people’s shoulders, and was rude going through doors. Thor made rapid progress, as soon as he understood what was being asked of him, he complied immediately and happily. Thor loves to work, and he learns new things with only a few repetitions. With more direction in his life, he can calmly go anywhere, in tune with his handler and always thinking about his job.
Thor was so happy to see his owner at his drop off! He had a lot of habits to break around the house and struggled at first to contain himself and all his excitement. He settled in after a few minutes and soon wowed his mom by laying calmly on his bed as she moved around the house and opened and closed the front door. It was the first time since bringing Thor home that she was able to open her door without having to wrestle him. We went for a walk and he walked nicely at her side through the neighborhood. His owner was ecstatic that she could finally enjoy the sweet loving dog that she knew he was.