You know what I'm loving about my new training class? Everything we're learning is new. I've done four classes (Puppy Kindergarten, Puppy Elementary, and Basic Beginner's twice) so far, but they were all really teaching the same basic obedience (sit, down, stay, etc.). With the fourth class it started to feel really stale. But with this new class I'm learning so many great new things! In just two weeks we've learned "heel" and the different positions to sit (front, heel, and round). Theo has already learned on our walks that when I stop it means he should immediately sit, and I think the most useful thing I've learned is the emergency down.
The emergency down is just what it sounds like. When I say down in a serious and firm tone (and maybe even a little panicked?), Theo should stop whatever he's doing and drop to the ground. I have to use a different tone than his normal downs because it's really supposed to convey a sense of urgency. I just learned it last week and I've already, unfortunately, had reason to use it twice.
I took Theo to the dog park last Saturday. The "All Dog" pen can get a bit rowdy, so I usually stick to the "Small Dog" pen, but this time the "Small Dog" pen and the "Big Dog" pen were both totally empty, so the "All Dog" pen was really the only option. All the dogs were friendly and playing nicely until two dogs started trying to play with the same toy. Naturally, a fight broke out. One dog started chomping down on the other poor, scared dog, who despite all his squirming and crying, couldn't break free of the chompy dog.
I tell you, a fight at the dog park is like when a fight would break out in high school. No matter where on campus you were, you always knew when there was a fight because you would see people flocking. In this case all the dogs in the dog park swarmed the fighting dogs, and all the owners flocked the flock, trying to make sure their dog didn't get caught up in the mess (not to mention trying to break the fighting dogs apart).
Naturally, Officer Theo was on the case. No such rowdiness was allowed on his watch, so he decided to get right in the dogs' faces and try to break up the fight (read: he barked a lot in their faces). Thankfully they were too busy fighting with each other to be bothered by Theo, but I just about had a heart attack. I tried calling him to me, he couldn't hear me over the ruckus. I tried getting to him so I could pull him away, but the group kept moving and it was no good. I then remembered the emergency down. Again, since he couldn't hear me, it didn't do much good, but right about then the dog's owners were able to break to two dogs apart (with a bit of blood and some torn skin on the poor scared dog). Officer Theo, apparently highly indignant at the chompy dog's behavior, decided that he was going to follow him and give him a piece of his mind (read: he barked in his face more). Afraid that Theo would be chompy dog's next victim, I gave my emergency down another go, and this time it worked! He didn't stay down for very long, but it was long enough for me to run over and help chompy's owner get his leash on so she could get him out of the pen.
Not happy with my results, we spent some time practicing before I let him go and play again. Again, I'm glad I did because the next day I had cause to use it again, though thankfully the circumstances were much less serious.
We met a Boxer in our walk Sunday evening. There's a small park in our complex where I usually let Theo run off leash to help get some of his energy out (Shhh! Don't tell my HOA!). The Boxer's owner apparently had the same idea because she was already off her leash. After I asked if it was alright if I let Theo off leash as well, the two played for a bit. But Theo didn't seem to really like playing with her much. She was being a little rougher than he liked, and at one point he squealed because of something she did (he was fine, just overpowered), and I could sense the situation could escalate because Theo was feeling threatened. As soon as he squealed I said "DOWN!" and just like that Theo was slumped on the ground in a down. Amazing! Better still the Boxer, seeing Theo stop to lay down, followed suit and laid down herself! In an instant the play/almost fight was broken up and they were laying quietly on the ground.
The emergency down is definitely something I would recommend teaching your dog. I'm actually surprised we didn't learn it as part of basic obedience, though I suppose it's because of time constraints. We can only learn so much each week.
Aside: I told my trainer this story last night and she just about fell over laughing at the thought of Officer Theo trying to tell two fighting dogs what's what. She knows Corgis, so she could picture it real well.
Also, by the time we left everyone at the dog park was calling him Officer Theo too. It's catchy!
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