Training Murph, Part VIII: Murph’s Excursion to the Country Store


Written by: Eric Rickstad

The snow is melting slowly but surely here in Vermont. The sun is out every once in a while, and Murph, Pickett, and I have been taking longer and longer walks. The concept of heel seems to be firmly ingrained in Murph now, and I am using it every chance I get to make sure it stays that way. I used to just make Murph sit calmly for his dinner, but now that he understands heel, I call both him and Pickett to heel before every meal. I make them sit and wait while I place both bowls, then I release them separately by name. One act, three lessons: heel, patience, and name recognition.


murph and pal

Murph and Pickett at the country store
Photo by Mimi Fersen

It’s gratifying to see the results after just a few days. Now, even when walking around the house, I call Murph to heel and he responds. On our long walks, I am extending the time period both he and Pickett must remain at heel and have pushed it as far as a mile. I release them occasionally when I can, to let them run around and have some fun, but then bring them back at intervals. What I am now finding is a quicker response and far less necessity in reprimanding Murph for pushing out.

Sunday was a magnificent day and we did three miles. I am now beginning to test Murph off lead and so far have been more than pleased. He is responding beautifully on command and coming right into place between Pickett and I. Pickett looks pretty bored as he didn’t have to put up with all this regimen before Murph’s arrival, but it’s certainly doing him some good as a refresher. When I put Murph back on lead, there is little if any pulling and he seems to have found his spot at my side and locked in on it.

When we got back to the village green after the walk, I saw the opportunity for some distraction training for both Murph and Pickett. I sat them together by the front door of the country store and walked inside. They made a handsome pair. They sat quietly for a moment, while unbeknownst to them, I stood inside the door and watched. Suddenly Murph stood up and began to wander. I sprang out of the door, reprimanded him and put him back in his place. I could see the “where the hell did he come from?” look in his eye. It was a great lesson for him in understanding a command is to be obeyed whether I’m in sight or not. I went back in and watched.

A tourist from the inn across the street came over and began taking pictures of them sitting there quietly. People seem to be constantly enthralled with dogs that behave. To their credit Murph and Pickett didn’t move. I watched for another few minutes, and they held firm even as a few more people came in and out. I got my coffee and a couple of dog biscuits they have there for the local dogs.

I went outside, took the dogs over to the green rewarded them with a biscuit and then made them sit about 10 feet away while I sat on the bench and enjoyed my coffee, the sun, and the first day of spring. People were coming and going to the store, walking by, commenting on the dogs, but both dogs did well. Occasionally I would have to mutter a little to remind them to stay put, but overall they held firm for a good 30 minutes, which was the goal. It was a great morning.

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