21 November

Video: Training Zinnia, Cont. Sit, Stay, Meet Sheep

by Jon Katz

It was a good week with Zinnia, training-wise. We got to know each other, and I am getting a feel for how she thinks and responds. She is sharp, smarter than other Labs I’ve had, observant. She is calm but independent.

We worked on sitting, coming and most recently, staying. I’m increasing the distances for her to come, the length of time I want her to stay (three minutes, eventually) and the quickness with which I want her to sit.

We work for three or four minutes, three or four times a day. I use soft puppy training treats. She knows her name, and I have her almost full attention.

She is beginning to blow off some of my requests, which is natural as she grows up. This period calls for patience, simplicity, and clarity. And short but brief and repetitive sessions.

She doesn’t yet have the attention span for more intensive training.

I took  a video today showing the work we are doing and the progress she is making.

It turned out to be a good idea to begin socialization training early, she’s up for it and even hungry for it, she responded beautifully to it. The most important thing about therapy dog training is to make sure the dog is used to being touched and around lots of different people and environments. So far, nothing has fazed her.

People come into the Mansion sometimes with their dogs, and I am surprised at the lunging, barking, and lack of control some people have over these dogs. I wouldn’t be comfortable bringing many of them around the elderly or the dying.

I see that the residents like seeing dogs in any capacity and seeing dogs is important to them.

But still, to be honest,¬† they would make me nervous if they were my dogs working around the extreme elderly. I just wouldn’t trust them to not jump on people, frighten them, bump into them or scratch them by mistake.

I’m not a snob, I see service dogs doing great work, but I guess I’m more obsessive about therapy dog behavior.

My idea is no mistakes of any kind, people who are dying or at the edge of life deserve absolute trust and security. If I can’t absolutely control my dog, we won’t do this kind of work.

The advantage of today’s training, as you can see in the video, is that I could use distraction to my advantage and also help acclimate Zinnia to seeing the sheep and donkeys close up.

She and Liam had a good stare-down but once again, Zinnia was not flustered, although she was cautious. That was just right.





  1. “Patience, simplicity, and clarity.” That’s not just what it takes to train a puppy; it also is what it takes to train any animal (and probably people, too). Thanks for the reminder. Making progress with my wild, untrained, 2-year-old Airedale. Trying to remember to use patience, simplicity, and clarity.

  2. Your comment about her meeting the sheep and donkeys prompted me to ask: do all of your dog’s get along with your donkeys? I am new to donkeys ownership and I have read that this is not a good mix as the donkeys are the dogs as a predator. My are to guard my goats but I want to keep my dogs alive! Your observation? I would talk to a vet or farrier to be sure, I can only speak for Lulu and Fanny, who love just about everything..

    1. The dogs get along fine with the donkeys. We just have to introduce them to one another slowly and thoughtfully. Once the donkeys know the dogs belong here, they accept them fully… But not all donkeys are alike..you have to get to know them..

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