I Don’t Train Vinny

I constantly talk about training Chief and Chickie. They have a very consistent schedule most days. Everyday includes 10-15 minutes of structured training then we train situationally throughout the day. I often post videos to my Instagram story of training sessions with Chickie, and receive tons of messages about Chief being silly in the background (typically he is on his place cot while Chickie trains but he inches his front paws off a little at a time to get closer to the food and fun). What you don’t see is Vinny watching off camera, usually sprawled out on the couch. 

Vinny no longer has daily structured training. When I first brought Vinny home, we did fun little obedience sessions and trained problems as they came up. I took him to a puppy class at the local SPCA and although he was never “great” at any of the tasks, we had a lot of fun together. I never had real goals for him besides making a great pet dog out of him. He had a terrible start to life so I felt a lot of responsibility to make up for that. As most of you know, Vinny ended up being extremely reactive and even aggressive to anyone outside of his very small circle. This forced me to seek professional training help. 

We were failed by a handful of trainers who promised results and to be honest I think they crumbled under the challenge that Vinny dealt to them. We even had one trainer who would show up to our session, and if Vinny barked at her (which duh, he’s a highly reactive dog of course he barked at her) she would tell me he was over threshold and end the session for the day. And yes, she pocketed the payment for the “session”. I felt so lost before taking Vinny to My Dog’s Mind where we took weekly private lessons. He improved so much and was able to safely go on walks and respond to management techniques to avoid blowing up at every trigger we passed. 

Vinny now happily lives a life of couch naps, walks, and outdoor play in our fenced in yard. He is extremely happy with this life and his stress level is very low compared to what it used to be. During the winter we went on a lot of trail walks. I was so proud when he was able to quietly sit off the trail while both people and dogs passed. To me, this is an end goal for our training. Being able to reward this behavior is an ongoing practice that will place high value on each successful repetition. 

So, why do I train the cattle dogs everyday but not Vinny? The answer is simple- goals. I have vastly different goals for each of my dogs. When I brought Chief home, I already decided he was going to be the dog that would help me become involved in dog sports. It is great that he happens to be very talented at many of the sports we have tried so far. This lifestyle was always my vision for him. In order to excel at this, we need to constantly work on our obedience training and conditioning to avoid injury. That is Chief’s why for training every day. Chickie is a puppy, and while she is allowed to have as much fun as her little heart can handle, she is also being taught basic obedience, boundaries, and handling skills. These foundations will allow her to participate in sports as well. 

Vinny was never meant to be my sport dog. Honestly, I don’t even think I knew that dog sports were “a thing” before I started thinking about getting a cattle dog. Vinny was supposed to be my best friend, the dog that came everywhere with me, and the dog to go on long walks with. Unfortunately he will never be my “go everywhere” dog, but after years of working towards this realization I have come to peace with this. I will admit I never realized how severe Vinny’s issues really were until Chief came into my life and showed me what a well bred, good tempered dog is really like. 

I have a feeling a lot of you can relate to this. Maybe you have a rescue dog who was given a second chance at life, but is far from perfect.  I can relate to how difficult but also rewarding this situation is. Without Vinny, I wouldn’t have Chief and certainly wouldn’t have Chickie. Vinny taught me so much, and worked so hard to improve, all while taking the brunt of my lack of experience. He deserves to live a low key life doing the things he loves now. He doesn’t love formal obedience or trick training (although for a large dog he has an impressive “sit pretty”). What he does enjoy is going for a walk and getting treats for being on his best behavior. He loves lounging in the sun in our backyard where he has peace and quiet for hours. More than anything, he loves to snuggle with as much of his large body on you as physically possible. Being realistic about the situation your dog can thrive in is an integral step to improving their quality of life. Just ask Vinny, who happily eats his breakfast then settles in on the couch for the morning circus performance by the two cattle dogs.  

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