Updated: Sep 24, 2020
One of the reasons I decided to get a dog was to help with anxiety and honestly think she has. Before, I didn't like to be home alone or alone in general. Athena has provided me comfort in my own skin when I'm by myself. It could also be that I had to worry about something else rather than my own thoughts. Regardless, she kept me busy!
I knew how important it is to train a dog. It starts with the simple stuff, i.e., potty training, sit, down...But training is so much more than that. It became a way that Athena and I bonded. We spent at least once a week at a lesson. The training wasn't just classroom work, either. It took working at home consistently and relentlessly to break habits (and we still have some lousy house manners that we are working on.)
One of the reasons I wanted to get a GSD was because I wanted to have a service animal. She didn't prove me wrong. Athena would be a good service dog due to her working nature, ability to provide comfort, and fluidity in which she obtained and maintained skills. However, this was and is not an easy feat. It took a lot of research to conclude that their owners essentially train service dogs. I wouldn't want to send Athena away to learn anyway due to the bond it creates between the two of you, but it was a huge decision to have a service animal.
We have already completed 18 weeks of training, including a Canine Good Citizen course. Athena, for a puppy, can be very well behaved. She can sit, lay down, stay, and have supervised separation with manners, etc. While Athena passed her CGC course (thank goodness she listened during the test and does best when on leash), she still has some habits we need to work on, like jumping when she's excited and off-leash (predominately at home). I would also be so surprised/frustrated that Athena would lose her good habits when just a week of no training. The attention needed for walking with manners is constant! My boyfriend and I have taken Athena to so many unique places to socialize her and prepare her to be an excellent service animal from restaurants (we try to eat outside to not be an inconvenience) to baseball games. During these times, she mainly lays at my feet as she is trained to do. Even this took so long to accomplish, and we are continually working on it.
Training is not something that you can do for a couple of weeks and call it good. Poof, your dog, is the best little four-legged creature. I've learned that training is a dedication to the animal and a promise that you will maintain that behavior. If you don't want them on the couch, you can never let them on the couch. That takes hard work and vigilance to maintain that expectation. We have been working on her not jumping on people. Did you know just one person who allows it can ruin her training? Do you know how many times I wanted to give up on training her to do something because she can be stubborn, or it takes constant correction? Many, many, many times. In addition to taking time and dedication, training can also become expensive. We completed 18 weeks at a pet store, but I realized that we needed more for how Athena was expected to behave as a service animal and what I expected of her after that training. Because I am by no means an expert in dog training, we have now started private practice to continue her lessons on being a good canine citizen.
BUT! It's so worth it! Training Athena has been a wonderful experience and bond. There is something so special knowing that she listens to me best. Someone once was asking her to sit, and she wouldn't listen. I then gave her the command, and she sat immediately. That feeling of pride immediately set it from working and teaching her. If you want to have a child, I highly recommend you get a dog. I have learned so much about patience and patience in this last year and months than ever before. Not only has Athena helped my anxiety and comfort, but she has also increased my tolerance, helped me understand my frustrations, and held me accountable to be a good dog mom.
Thanks fur the read,
The Pawsitive Writer