Before Silas and I start our next round of training, I wanted to talk about where we are right now. No judgment, although some of it is hardly great. I’m just pulling these topics out of my hat–if you think of a great, objective criteria to evaluate in a dog, feel free to add them in the comments! And feel free to take some/all/any of my questions for your own blog posts.


All answers as honest as I can make them, and accurate as of March 1, 2013. Sorry for the length; I’m trying to be pretty comprehensive.

1) When I ask my dog to sit he:
Does it 99+% of the time if we are indoors, even when there are some distractions. He will take a break from playing to sit. Outdoors or in public is so much less likely that I very rarely ask.

2) When I ask for a down he:
Does it, as for sit. He will actively hunt for a “better” place to lie down, though, rather than put his belly on the cold floor. Down is an easier behavior for him than sit if we are playing; it’s quickly becoming his default position for waiting to resume tug.

3) When I ask him to give me an object he:
Runs away with it, unless I am already holding a treat. He will give a tug toy with 75-80% accuracy. He will not “give” a ball or small toy; he just loosens his grip enough that I can take it out of his mouth.

4) When I ask him to retrieve an object he:
Brings it back, but will preferentially take it to my husband. He is more likely to drop his ball from the upstairs balcony than to bring it all the way back himself.

5) My dog’s “stay” is:
Respectable for his age, I think. We do very little work with sit stays. He will do a down stay while I walk around him, clap my hands, or walk briefly out of the room. He will hold his down stay indefinitely, as long as I’m dispensing treats at least every 15-20 seconds (as per his Protocol for Relaxation, which is among other things a down-stay exercise.)

6) My dog walks on a loose leash:
A large percentage of the time, finally, unless he’s particularly stressed.

7) My dog heels:
Never. Ever. LOL. He won’t take treats when we’re outside, and being on his leash inside freaks him out, so we’ve never bothered to learn this.

8) When we approach a stranger while walking, my dog:
Pulls to go check them out, but can be redirected. So, I can ask him to turn down a different trail or store aisle, and he will.

9) When we greet a stranger my dog:
Does one of two things. One: He sits politely to be petted (timidly–ears down, head lowered) until he “makes friends” and then he jumps up. He does not jump on people who don’t pet him. Two: he gets startled and barks. Scenario two seems to be decreasing and now only happens if the stranger is doing something “weird”–comes around a corner, is off the trail at the park, etc. Usually those people are at a distance.

10) When someone knocks at the door my dog:
Barks. A lot, in what I interpret as a genuinely fearful way. He will go in his crate for a cookie, even with someone at the door, but he continues to bark while I open the door. He will not go in the crate in this scenario unless I throw a treat in first.

11) When someone comes in the house my dog:
Is terrified and barks incessantly. I don’t have good data for this because we don’t have anyone over who isn’t just a maintenance person or such. I suspect that we could work through it with friendly visitors, but I’m not sure.

12) When we see a dog while walking, my dog:
Pulls frantically toward the other dog and is extremely difficult to redirect.

13) When greeting another dog, my dog:
Is generally friendly but can be too exuberant for some dogs. He will also mirror “bad” greetings if the other dog snarls or barks. He does not snarl or bark first.

14) My dog comes when called:
In low distraction areas. I have very little experience otherwise, since we don’t have a real yard.

15) The command my dog executes the most enthusiastically is:
Touching his nose to my hand. (Cue: Touch.)

16) My dog is afraid of:
Cars, the sidewalk, strangers in the house, strangers behaving unpredictably, unusual noises, the bicycle tire pump, the vacuum, having his harness put on, having his nails clipped. And that probably isn’t really everything.

17) My dog’s day-to-day behavior at home is:
Great. Generally trustworthy (With some perfectly reasonable exceptions), sweet and loving, etc.

18) My dog’s biggest problem behavior at home is:
Barking out the front window, even though we have blinds and curtains. Training in progress on this. He will come away from the window when called, but will usually go right back unless I can redirect him.

19) My dog’s biggest problem not at home is:
Being fearful and independent. Not being able to trust me more than he fears new situations.

20) It would make the most difference in my dog’s life if:
we could work through some of his fears, especially his fear of cars/walking on the sidewalk.


5 thoughts on “Assessment

  1. You’ve been so honest here it makes me want to evaluate Gizmo using your criteria…I’m a “casual” trainer at best, meaning I want my dog to be a good companion with behavior suitable for our activities, regardless if they meet “formal obedience” standards…

    My thought is that you should determine which behaviors are really important to you and work with if heeling doesn’t matter to you then why bother with it? From what I read here it seems like Silas’ fears are what impact you both the most so why not concentrate on helping him overcome them


    1. Oh, that’s my thought, too. I don’t care at all if he heels, and a lot of his other “bad” behaviors are just things we haven’t prioritized. Just trying to put everything out there.

      I have similar goals to you, but those are not easy behaviors at all for Silas. Things like politely greeting people or dogs, walking down the sidewalk, or paying attention to cues when we’re out are very hard for him.


  2. It’s really helpful to periodically do this kind of progress check.

    When we started working with our trainer, we had to fill out a similar evaluation so Russ knew our baseline. It helped me realize just how good Honey was. I hope your evaluation has shown you the same thing for Silas.

    It sounds like Silas is doing great.

    Have you ever tried giving Silas a mat to be his safe place? Our trainer started us on using a towel when we were fostering our shy dog, Cherie. We practiced in the house by rewarding her for sitting on a towel to the cue “go to bed.”

    When we went for a walk, I put the towel around my neck. When it was quiet and Cherie seemed comfortable, I’d put the towel on the ground and tell her to go to bed. We worked our way up to having her sit on it when dogs or strangers walked by.

    Having that consistent tool really helped Cherie transfer the calm feelings she had at home to outside in the yard.

    Love seeing your progress. You’re a great team.


  3. I agree with Gizmo’s comment that you need to decide what is important. Some of the things that my friend’s dogs can do isn’t important to me and our lifestyle. Some of the pack are super social and others hate going out and seeing people. Perhaps once you identify what is the most important and focus on those, it might be less stressful?


  4. Sounds like Silas does pretty well! And you do a very good job of continuing to work with him in the areas you feel are necessary. 🙂 If it makes you feel any better – Blueberry also struggles with #20. My solution – to not walk her on sidewalks near traffic. One of the reasons I take her hiking or to parks and we don’t walk in the neighborhood. The park or desert is more fun anyway! 🙂


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