Best foot forward

Piston needed to learn how to make a great first impressionDogtown, the dog area at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, is full of great examples of how patience, consistency and positive training methods can help a dog put his or her best foot forward.

Piston is one of these success stories. When he first came to the Sanctuary, he was so eager to greet his caregivers that he’d jump for joy, sometimes using his paws and teeth to say hello. He clearly loves life — a trait that is encouraged and celebrated in Dogtown. He just needed to learn how to make a great first impression, so he’ll have the best chance of being adopted.

Because of his beefy build and his mostly black fur, Piston was overlooked by potential adopters. Perhaps Piston felt the need to cause a bit of a commotion to stand out from the crowd. But Dogtown trainers and caregivers wanted to help him realize that he already had a far better way to get noticed.

A bit of flair

The first thing they saw in Piston was how incredibly smart he is. He mastered the basic cues in record time. And he has a knack for figuring out what he should and should not do to earn a reward. For example, he quickly learned that he’d get a much more positive response from his caregivers if he went to sit on his bed when they entered his room, instead of rushing over to them. If he rushed over, they’d ignore him. If he went to “his place” (the bed in his room), he got treats.

Because Piston likes to put a bit of flair into everything he does, he amuses his caregivers by jumping backwards onto his bed whenever they come in to visit, clean his room or work with him. He’s so smart that he’s even tried to turn the tables on caregivers by trying to train them to give him a treat — even if he doesn’t quite lie down all the way. Dogtown caregiver Caley Boone says, “He’ll try to fake it, but then I’ll give him a look and just wait.” That look tells Piston that his caregiver knows he knows the rules. Once he sees that, he gives in with a little whine that means “Oh alright, I’ll play your game,” as his elbows finally touch the floor and he anticipates his treat.

Piston’s patience

Piston is a success storyPiston is finally learning things he just didn’t know before — things like it hurts people’s fingers when he takes treats too roughly. Now he takes those treats gently with a soft mouth, instead of grabbing them from people’s hands. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do that in the past. He just didn’t know. Trainers and caregivers have helped Piston learn the secrets to charming humans, and he loves practicing his new skills. Now, instead of leaping through doorways in front of people, Piston waits for a cue. And on the trails, he’s the perfect gentleman. “I took him for a walk the other day,” Caley says, “and he fell into a perfect heel position right away, and stayed there the whole time.”

Now that he’s mastered this whole training thing, more than ever, Piston is ready to put his best foot forward and step into a home of his own.

Keep the successes coming by joining Best Friends.

Learn more about Dogtown at Best Friends here.

Photos by Molly Wald