Luckily, I have a very resilient dog. Shiva gets frustrated when I send her mixed signals or when she isn’t getting rewarded fast enough, but she bounces right back as soon as there is a treat in her mouth. Shiva’s frustration meter is much longer than the one she has for attention.
But that’s another story.
Recalls have been our biggest training issue. Period. It feels silly to say this because Shiva really isn’t a runner or an escape artist. She doesn’t have any interest in taking off to explore the land that time forgot. She actually does prefer to keep us in her line of sight. Shiva doesn’t run away.
But she loves nothing more than to run around.
This is frustrating for a myriad of reasons – mostly surrounding our agility practice. Our small living quarters don’t lend well to obstacle training. I can fit one jump, maybe two in our living room. But only in a straight line and only facing in one direction. I can fit a practice plank for contact work and I can fit four weave poles. That’s it. We do have a decent yard but it is unfenced. The only way I can work with my highly distractable dog in the yard is on a leash, which means we can’t use obstacles without knocking them over on her head. While this is highly entertaining at times it’s also dangerous
Of course, if Shiva had a perfect recall, we could practice outdoors every day.
What pushes me over the frustration threshold is that just when I think we may be getting close, just when Shiva has responded instantly to my calls the last 99 times out of 100, she will blow me off over a Tim Horton’s coffee cup and then act like she has no idea who I am for the next thirty minutes.
It. Drives. Me. Insane. The next time you are at the dog park and you see a woman crying while banging her head on a tree, that’s me. For your own safety, just keep walking.
Yesterday morning Shiva and I went for a walk in the forest. I was determined to work on some rear cross exercises that can be performed on flat ground. Shiva was apparently determined to eat the plastic cups littering the lakeside after the weekend’s fishing parties.
Normally I give her three strikes. After each failed recall I will put her back on the leash and then let her off again a short while later. If she doesn’t return after doing this three times, she is back on the leash and her running time is over. Off-leash time is a privilege and if she is too distracted to handle said privilege it is in everyone’s best interests to remove it for a while.
That being said, this can feel like a punishment for me, not just for my dog. I really wanted to work on rear crosses yesterday. Because Shiva was being a silly doofus, I couldn’t. This made me frustrated and – I won’t lie – a little angry. I held on to this anger for the remainder of our walk too. Marching around the block and up to the front door, I barely acknowledged the dog at the end of the leash.
Within a few minutes of being home I was over it. Well, at least I was over my anger with Shiva. I am still frustrated. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Should I just give up altogether? How are we ever going to be successful if we can’t properly train?
Perhaps there is a smidge of hope. On April 1st I gave our notice to the landlords. We now have three months to find a new place to live. A place that is pet-friendly and that might just have a fenced yard. I have my fingers crossed.