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He's a dog with a diploma

It’s official.

Denali, our stubborn, unfocused pup, is a graduate. An obedience school graduate! I wished the training group gave grades because I’d love to know whether he passed with flying colors or just squeaked by.

Either way, I’m proud of my big guy. In seven weeks of classes, he has learned:

*Sit – and not just to sit when he decides it seems like a good idea. He can sit upon verbal command or with the hand gesture. He often expects a treat when he sits but is happy with a “Good boy!” and a nice pat on the head.

*Down. There definitely has to be a treat and hand gesture to get Denali to lie on his belly but he’ll do it. Enthusiastically, too, if you’re holding something he really likes. My husband and I often make him repeat “Sit! Down!” several times before he earns the treat – unheard of seven weeks ago.

*Stay. Denali has really improved recently with this one. I can get tell him to stay at the top of the steps while I head to the landing and retrieve his leash.

Watch me. Denali struggles a bit with this command, and the trainer said it has a lot to do with his breed. She said if you can get a Siberian husky to even glance at you upon hearing “Watch me!” then you have succeeded. I have succeeded and then some. If I place the treat next to my eye, I can get Denali to stare at me for a good 15 seconds.

*Long-distance recall. The idea of this command is to tell your dog to sit, then stay and turn and walk away. At a given point, a good few feet from the dog, you ask him to “Come!” Denali will come, always. Sometimes, though, he’ll come before your reach the point where you’ll ask him. He does best when there are few distractions and the treat doesn’t smell too good (steak is not a good idea).

More important than what he learned is the dog he became in class. Denali became a dog that obeys (for the most part), is happy and no longer “aggressive” – our days of leash biting and tears are over.