Leben’s A New Dog! Sort-of. Reflections On Doggy Boot Camp

It’s one month after I got my puppy back home, and I finally have an update for you on his progress. This is an open and honest account of our experience so far—and in truth, most of the remaining work needs to be done on my end. Between adjusting my expectations and teaching myself all the new skills, body language, and commands, I’ve still got a whole lot of work to do.


How I Felt About The Experience

The two weeks without Leben were just as lonely as I imagined. I had little energy, I waited eagerly for the video updates my trainers sent me every other evening. I watched Leben learn how to “place” and stay on a specific spot, how to walk nicely on a leash, and how to enter and exit his crate.

I saw his cute face, his wagging tail, and very little misbehavior. Of course. I had to ask three times before they would discuss with me what he was struggling with.

I was intent on seeing which challenges he was facing—and how they were working through them. I wanted to know how I was to proceed when I got him back. I wanted to know how they were dealing with the things we struggled with at home together. For all intents and purposes, he appeared to be a perfect angel. Compliant, obedient, and quick-learning.

When I got him back, I was a little bit impressed. But not nearly as impressed as I had hoped. I realized that the real work would begin after he got back home—when he and I learned how to be a team and to master all of the new skills he had been taught.


Leben Can:

Stay on place while I’m screaming around my apartment chasing a wasp.

Enter his crate easily (without me wrestling him the whole way).

With a lot of help from me, he can stay on place when someone enters the house and can wait there until they greet him.

Walk with me off-leash, perfectly at my heel. If nothing distracting is happening.

Jump up and “place” with all four paws on rocking chairs, flower pots, boulders, and playground equipment—and won’t move when I’m trying to distract him.

“Sit” and “down” with regular consistency.

Wait at doorways until invited in.

Resist the urge to chase a toy if I ask him to stay put.


Leben Can’t (Yet):

Go on a walk without barking at random people, dogs, or bicycles.

Calmly greet a visitor to our home.

React appropriately to an aggressive dog who gets too close.

Listen 100% during the most distracting moments.

Greet strangers and strange dogs with ease.

Come when called without running past me.

Meet my family and impress everyone.


What We’re Doing Now

Since Leben’s return home exactly one month ago, I’ve been working tirelessly on his training. We go to three group training classes each week, and they really are helping to challenge us both. I work with him personally for an additional focused hour each day. We work on skills throughout the day while I work from home.

In what he will willingly do for me during moments alone, he’s a completely different dog.

In dealing with huge moments of distraction, he hasn’t improved very much. He still overreacts to a dog that’s overfriendly or aggressive toward him. He pulls full-strength on the leash when he sees something that he wants. I still have no idea who he will bark at and who he won’t. I’m not confident bringing him in public or to eat with me on a public patio. And that’s the dream.

My new goal is to be able to introduce Leben to my family and friends without incident by Christmas. I never imagined that it would take that long, but now my expectations are a little more on par with reality.

I will continue to work as hard as I can until we have the outcome that I expected. It may just take much longer than I thought. I love him with all my heart.

How do you deal with tasks that turn out to be much bigger and harder than you anticipated? What keeps you going? I’d love to learn from your stories in the comments below.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ― Nelson Mandela