The last five minutes

Our first lesson with Julie was on a cold January morning. After two-plus hours, I had a whole new tool kit of dog management tools to master, a list of things to work on, and a fried brain. I opened the door to leave and Chico charged out. I stood there with him at leash’s end and said, “I’ve been watching Cesar Milan. He and others say it is essential that the human ALWAYS go through the doorway first. Is that really so important?”

“Oh, no. As far as I am concerned, that’s not at all important. BUT, he also shouldn’t do what he just did. Bring him back in and shut the door. Now, tell him to wait and open the door.”

Did that. As soon as the door opened, Chico charged out. Julie leaned across me and pushed my leash arm back and at the same moment grabbed my other hand (still on the doorknob) and pulled that back to shut the door right in the dog’s face. So here’s the scene: it’s 26 degrees outside, Chico is outside looking in, and he has about 8 inches of leash out there with him – not nearly enough allow him to do anything fun like smell around.

“Don’t look at him, I will tell you when it’s time to open the door.”

In about 90 seconds Julie said that Chico was thinking he had made a pretty bad choice. He had decided that it looked a lot more interesting and comfy inside than out (and besides the humans were still in there), and we let him back in.

Again, I told him to wait and opened the door. Again he blasted past me to get outside. Again I shortened the leash and shut the door in his face. This time, it took about 30 seconds for him to look like he wished he’d made a different decision. In he came.

For a third time, I said, “Wait” and opened the door. He sat there looking at me. He didn’t move a muscle towards the outside. It had taken under five minutes to modify his behavior. If I could do it once, I could do it again.

In that moment I was sold on this woman’s method of dog training. And since she was advocating it for my dog, I decided I might find it useful to inform myself as to just what canine agility is.

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