A Dog Named Dak (currently available for adoption!)
by Amy Hempe
In July 2109 I attended Starmark Academy for professional dog trainers where I went through a 12 week long intensive full time course where I learned basic-Advanced obedience, competitive obedience, scent detection, narcotics detection, agility, service dogs tasks, basic learning theory, basic behavior modification, clicker training and protection training. In order to graduate you had to successfully test and pass two dogs. I was able to bring my personal dog Marchello who is a pug and work with him and I was also assigned one rescue dog of the school’s choice. My rescue dog I received is a German Shepard mix named Avery who I adopted. Through out the course after about 4 weeks, Marchello was really struggling with keeping up with the fast pace academic requirements so I was assigned another rescue dog, an American pit-bull terrier named Dak.
From the very beginning he was a ball of joy and a handful with lots and lots of energy, he was always on the go. The very first day I got him, I took him out of the his run with a slip leash and could barley walk without him pulling me all over the place. My first thought I had was “How am I going to handle this dog!?”. He is so powerful and all over the place and was also a green dog (no previous training) so he didn’t know any command besides sit.
My first battle with training him was catching him up with everyone and to be able to pass our next test which was several weeks away. I had to work double time and train twice as hard to get him caught up with everyone (even though he learned fast), because we were already 5 weeks into school. The first step was teaching him to heel (loose leash walking) which was a challenge in itself. The slip leash I was using wasn’t having a very good affect on him because he was just super high energy and powerful, I felt like I was still all over the place still even though I was keeping up and staying consistent. My instructors suggested I go up in training tools, so I started to use the medium size prong collar, which had a good affect and helped alot. Dak started to respond to it a better, once I got that in place, Dak started to pick up all the basics up pretty fast. After teaching him all the basic commands and we got those down, we started to focus more on the 3 D’s which were distance, duration and distractions. Longer sit stays , place stays, down stays and with 30 foot long lines along with higher distractions such as toys, food, dogs being in close proximity and people.
Than I had a new battle with him, he was targeting a couple dogs that were still intact in our class. He wouldn’t listen to me at times even though I would put him in a command such as “heel”, he acted like I wasn’t even there and had trouble focusing. I thought at times “ I don’t know if I can keep this up” When that didn’t work I would than try other incompatible behaviors such as sit or down and I was having to constantly give him more corrections around certain dogs and or walk away. My arm was getting tired from giving non stop corrections and him not responding to them anymore. I also went up in training treats (chicken and hot dogs) to help get his focus more on me again which helped some but the prong collar was not seeming to faze him anymore, so I switched to the small prong collar (more pitch per inch). Surprisingly that seemed to help a bit more which was great but he was still struggling and I needed him to concentrate better since we were so far behind everyone else, even though I was training extra early and late hours. Next step was the E collar, so finding his working level was interesting, I used a sport dog E collar on him and had to use level 2 on the collar ( It has a level 1 and 2 ) and had to use level 2 on the remote which has a total of 8. This dogs tolerance level was no joke, not much seemed to faze him but at the same time he was such a sweet cuddle bug. My instructors continued to encourage me and help me keep control of him and his heeling and attention span was more controlled and he focused when we continued to use the E collar.
We than started doing clicker tricks which was a lot of fun and Dak and helped get out some of his energy…he really enjoyed it and I was able to teach him a couple fun tricks… weave (weaving thru my legs), Center (going and standing in between my legs and than walking with me). Dak was able to pass the 8 weeks mark and I was very proud of him. I was also able to get his attention heel more focused with the clicker, I love using it. It defiantly helps with creating a a “picture” for the dog so they can learn quicker.
The last 4 weeks was a lot of fun, I got to test Dak to see if he had hunt drive for narcotics detection work, which he did! He loved the game of going to try and find a toy until he found it so we us