This summer has been more about frustration than it has been about success. Unfortunately, that has been the theme of the last two warm seasons. The only thing motivating me to keep trying some days is the knowledge that last year’s frustrations have been long since fixed, that if I keep working, this year’s score of problems will be next year’s easy wins. It helps to focus on the myriad of things we have accomplished with Shiva, especially during rough patches like the one we are going through currently. When one’s dog is certifiable, when every possible distraction is a full-out #10 on her list, it becomes necessary to harness the power of positive thinking.
So, in a valiant, and I mean valiant, effort to be more zen in my dog training (coincidentally, my co-worker just read me today’s horoscope and it seems visualizing success is written in the stars for us Aquarii) I’m going to compile a list of all the wild and wonderful things Shiva can do. It shall be a (very) condensed history of all Shiva has learned since choosing to jump into the backseat of our truck that long-ago day.
- wait at the door for a release
- walk on a loose leash for more than half a second
- refrain from lunging and barking at all strangers who dare exist
- refrain from lunging and barking at all dogs who dare pass on the sidewalk
- leave food/toys/cats/dead frogs/other people’s bags etc. on the ground while walking on a leash – we are still a loooong way from accomplishing this off-leash I’m being POSITIVE!
- go to her bed/blanket/crate
- stay at home alone without driving the neighbours nuts with her howling
- hold a stay, even when I leave the room or duck around a corner
- roll over
- sit on her hind legs (ie. sit pretty)
- stand on her hind legs and walk forward or turn around – also comes in handy for eating off the kitchen counter, sneaky doggy
- play dead
- turn in a circle both ways while moving forward
- close a door
- let strangers approach and even pet her for a few moments, even when said strangers are rude and refrain from asking us permission.
- let strange dogs approach and sniff without losing control
- stop barking at the front door when called away
- stand with all four paws in a box
- wait to be released to eat a treat off her nose
- nose-touch our hand high in the air
- wait for a release before running away
- recall when there are very few distractions
- stay out of the kitchen while we’re making meals
- perform figure-eights around our legs
- fetch an object more than once in a row
- drop an object from her mouth on command
- play tug with almost any object with some distraction
Okay, I feel better. When I used to daydream about having a dog of my very own, all I ever wanted him or her to do was learn to roll over. I thought if my dog could roll over on command, it would be the coolest thing ever. Obviously, my actual, real-life-in-the-flesh dog can do a lot more than that simple parlour trick. It’s not even a full list. For one thing, it doesn’t include agility, nor does it include most of the little tricks she’s learned in the past sixteen months. It doesn’t include how confident she has become, or any of the fears she’s gotten over. Considering when we first met her she didn’t even know what a toy was for, I’d say we’re not doing too badly.
The list also doesn’t include how much I have learned through working with her. On the weekend, our trainer made the comment that if Shiva was my ninth or tenth dog I would be loving every minute of her zaniness. But, that’s not entirely true. We joke a lot about trading her in for a low-drive, portly Bulldog. The thing is, Shiva is a fantastic dog to work with. She’s smart, fast, and eager for new challenges. One of her most favourite things to do is learn a new trick or skill. Sometimes I wonder if she has spoiled me for all other dogs. I wonder if I’m going to lose patience with a future dog of ours that doesn’t learn to sit within sixty seconds or less. No, I don’t need to wait for my tenth dog in order to appreciate how Shiva is special. Her high energy is all part of the funny, lovable being she is and I wouldn’t want that to change. However, I may need to wait until my tenth dog for my brain to catch up with hers.
Yes, we still have a lot to work on if I ever want to see the inside of an agility ring. We still have a long way to go before I can say I’ve accomplished everything I ever wanted to with Shiva. She is nowhere near meeting her full potential. Hopefully, I am nowhere near meeting mine as a trainer. Looking back at all we’ve done, I feel a little bit less frustrated. I just have to keep focussed on what I want and stop worrying so much about what others are doing. I have to be the ball, or whatever those sports coaches are always going on about.
Perhaps that’s not quite right. There is a reason I wasn’t an athlete. Okay, there are multiple reasons.
Oh, never mind.