Vince is a large Golden Retriever who we got in Spring of 2001. Our vet, Dr Clark Nelson recommended Vicki’s training class to us, and we enrolled when Vince was only 5 months old.
Vince was not the star of his class. He had trouble focusing on what we wanted from him, and he was very easily distracted by other dogs in the class. But my wife, Kathleen, worked with him on the things that Vicki recommended in class. He was better at some things than others, but he gradually improved.
By the time the course was over, Vince could be told to “Wait”, hold his position until he was told to “Release”. He would sit by using hand signals, and was extremely reliable at coming when he was called.
Kathleen continued to work with Vince over the next few months and years. He began to learn simple commands that we would use with him when on walks along the highline canal trail. The real magic of Vicki’s course is that it taught us to teach Vince. Using her positive reinforcement techniques, Vince learned some fairly unconventional commands like “Stay with me” and “On the trail”. He became increasingly reliable, to the point where the only time we needed to put him on the leash was when someone appeared bothered or when we encountered the “dog cops”.
In January of 2004, Kathleen and I signed up to run a marathon, and Vince became the most reliable training partner anyone could ask for. He was always ready to go, never complained, and even carried his own water on long runs. He stayed with us for all of our training runs, even our longest run of approximately 20 miles.
There were three of us that trained together for this marathon, Kathleen, a close friend (also named Larry), and me. Sometimes it was only one of us, sometimes two of the three, and sometimes all three of us would run together. Regardless, Vince was there, ready, willing, and eager.
Although we did leash Vince for much of the training just because it made other people more comfortable, it was totally unnecessary, and when we trained in areas where there were very few people, Vince was off his leash.
We now have another dog, Sydney, a happy cross between a Newfie and a Golden Retriever who has been to Vicki’s class and is learning much the same way Vince did. We now run with both dogs, and Vince is on the leash more often than not, simply because Sydney is not yet reliable enough to go without a leash. She will be one day, though, and we look forward to running with both of them off-leash.
By using the techniques she taught us in the introductory class, we have been able to accomplish so much with our dogs. I would highly recommend her classes to anyone who is looking to maximize the potential companionship a dog can offer.