Can a dog listen to two masters?

Or, in this case, a master and a mistress?

Recently, J & Ishka have been coming to obedience training at Knox. And almost immediately, all my hard work with Czar went out the window.  

There was the time I was told to excuse ourselves because Czar was too busy howling at Ishka on the other side of the clubhouse to listen to a word I said. There have been several times I've had astonished looks from the instructors when Czar protested his separation from the pack. (And this is Knox, where there's at least one husky in every class and the instructors are used to the quirks of arctic breeds!) I've nearly had my arms ripped out of my sockets because he lunged at the end of the lead towards J. My clever husky who walked beautifully on a loose lead disappeared and became a deaf, blind and utterly stubborn creature who wanted nothing to do with me, my treats or my games. It didn't feel much like a game anymore, more like trying to battle with a big fish at the end of a line. And I'm not into fishing.

What's going on in there? What am I missing out on?

What's going on in there? What am I missing out on?

On Tuesday, J came for his first evening session. Evenings at Knox are much more casual, with usually only two instructors, lumping people together. Toby's mum took the Class 3 and up people. Puppies, Beginners, Class 1 & 2 went with our usual instructor, M. That meant J & I were in the same group, working at the same time.

Initially, it was a disaster. The group set off to walk down aways to a shady patch. Czar took off after Ishka, and no frantic corrections made any difference. Everyone else was walking politely down the lawns, and I was still back at the beginning, trying to haul in 25kgs of stubborn husky who suddenly had no idea what the heel position meant. I had hooked a big fish, and I had to let it burn off some energy dragging me around, because I couldn't reel it in.

The first few exercises, Czar would actually shove the offered treat out of his line of sight to look at his daddy. Then he started paying attention to me, until the exact moment when he'd swallowed the treat, and then it was back to watching the others. Eventually, he decided he was missing out on more by ignoring me than by ignoring J, and worked quite well. As long as I kept the treats coming. Pity my goal for the month was meant to be weaning off treats!!

Czar has always been happier with moving, dynamic exercises, than static ones. If an instructor pauses to talk too long about technique, or do some one-on-one work with someone else, Czar will get up from his sit or drop. This is always worse when J is around, as Czar will pop up to get a better view of what he might be missing out on. However, on Tuesday night, after a little while, Czar settled.

After class, Toby's mum asked us what it was like being in class together. I replied that it had been pretty awful the previous couple of weeks with J nearby and this had been on par with those efforts. Ishka had been pretty distracted towards the end, and I asked who had been more badly behaved. Czar! was the definite answer from two of our trainers. 

So the challenge is, to make sure that Czar sees the point in listening to us both. I already feed and manage the dogs without too many difficulties when J is not around. But clearly, he still supersedes me when he is present. I've asked J to come stand around when Czar and I are working at home. I've also brought Czar in when J and Ishka are working, and played "watch" to encourage him to keep his eyes on me. I'm also upping the no-treat part of our work, trying to replace it with pats and encouragement and deferred treats. At home, working for less than ten minutes in low-distraction environments, this has been highly successful. How it will translate to a trip to the dog park, tomorrow will tell.

Fingers crossed that I get to trade in the big fish on the end of my line for a husky walking with a loose lead again soon!

I *can* do this, really I can.

I *can* do this, really I can.