A.J. Goes to Dance Class

January 7, 2014

This mail was sent today to everyone in our Reactive Dog class from Mary, our trainer:

“I wanted to share with you just what a star AJ was in the Canine Freestyle Class yesterday.  He came into a building with two moving dogs, was a little noisy but quickly settled down, got in his crate and was quiet.  When the dogs were working, AJ was perfectly focused on Jean and working.  I could not have been more pleased with the teamwork they displayed. No one would have guessed all the challenges they have worked thru.  I just wanted to share their success with all of you.  Congratulations Jean on the results of your great work with AJ!”

What this says it that my little monster is quite the show-off. Here’s how that day really went.

A.J. and I really loved winter break. The entire week of New Year’s the junior high school next to us was empty, and so was the fully fenced football field. So I took A.J. over, closed all the gates, and let him run free on the football field. He loved it, and it was nice to just let him run to his heart’s content. It made him pretty tired every day. But of course winter break couldn’t last forever. Yesterday school was back in session, and the football field was off-limits. Back to the park.

We went to the park for the first time in weeks. We got off to a bad start. When we pulled into the parking lot A.J. could see a dog off-leash running around chasing a tennis ball. A.J. threw a fit in the car. When I stopped the car he stopped. I got out and opened the door, and he was pretty amped up. I had planned on just keeping him in the car for awhile, but the person with the dog decided to leave. (I don’t know if he left because he was done or because there was a crazy dog about to join them.) It wasn’t long before A.J. calmed down enough to look at me, and I let him hop out. After locking up the car we did another “Look at me” (it took a couple of tries) and headed out.

We walked around, A.J. snuffling as usual. He wasn’t doing too badly at pulling. At one point another off-leash dog showed up, this one unaccompanied. A.J. threw a tantrum, and fortunately the dog didn’t react, it totally ignored him. So after a little tantrum, A.J. turned and we left. Not bad.

We walked around the rest of the park and back to the car. I wanted to do another round, but A.J. had become a little amped up again. So I put him in the car, then I sat in the back seat. We watched another dog from inside the car, and this time he didn’t have a tantrum. He saw the dog, but he turned away and didn’t go crazy. Nice. After the dog left, I went to get A.J. back out for another round. He looked at me and I let him out. I closed the door, locked the car, put the keys away, then “Look at me.” Nothing. “A.J., look at me.”


“You get one more, then we’re leaving.”

“Look at me.”


“Get in the car!”

He jumped back in the car, and I shoved him back away from the door. We left. I wasn’t very happy.

Later that day we went to our first canine freestyle class. Canine freestyle is a fancy way of saying “dancing with your dog.” (Here’s a link to a video of a great freestyle routine.) When we got out of the car we saw another dog. A.J. did a little lunge and bark, but not bad. We walked into the room where there were several dogs. One of them had a fit when we walked in, and A.J. lunged and barked back. Then he was done. One little baby tantrum and that was it. He stood nicely while other dogs left or went into crates, then he went right into his crate (chasing hot dogs of course). He was quiet throughout class (only a couple of taps on the crate by me when he started a little whining). When he came out of the crate he didn’t care at all about the other dogs, he worked beautifully with me. Mary and I were both really happy with how well he did. Hopefully we get the hang of this dancing thing, because it will teach him a lot, he’s really going to have to focus. It will be interesting to see how much we can learn in five more weeks.