Turning Points: A Brut Moment Challenge

In honour of her dog’s birthday, the author of 24 Paws of Love has issued a challenge:

“Tell us in a post what was the most monumental moment that you and your dog shared, that changed the course of your lives together.  How ever big or small, what happened that brought an understanding between you and your dog and brought your relationship closer than it was before.  What is that one story in your mind that stands out and you repeat over and over to anyone that will listen?  Tell us all about it!!”

Never one to turn away from a chance to blab on about my dog, I quickly hit on a moment Shiva and I shared that fits this idea perfectly. I am sure I’ve written about this before, though I couldn’t find the exact link. If I haven’t then I am long overdue.

Near our old house there were two paths that went around the lake. On one path I felt comfortable letting Shiva run around off-leash in the early morning and on the other I did not. According to HRM by-laws, both paths were strictly on leash areas. However, one was always vacant in the pre-dawn hours when I walked the dog and the other stretched directly behind homes and was a lot more popular. Given Shiva’s lack of recall at the time, not to mention her reactivity, we played it safe on this second path like good law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately, others did not.

On one particular day, about eight months or so after we had brought Shiva home for the first time, I headed home on the second path. There was a long boardwalk over a marshy section of the lake and I often liked to pause there to snap a few photos. You’ve seen a number of them on this website, I am sure. After a brief photography session, I slipped my camera back in my pocket and we continued down the wooden section over the water.

We had taken about five steps when I heard the barking. Before I could take action to re-direct a reactive Shiva still in the early stages of training, a small off-leash dog appeared on the boardwalk ahead of us, yapping and snarling.*

Anyone who has ever walked a reactive dog knows exactly what such a situation feels like. I am pretty sure I stopped breathing.

Shiva and I had made some decent strides in our training at this point. We had found our trainer who had given us the tools to work together. But I still crossed the street to avoid other dogs and people as much as possible. I just wasn’t confident enough in my own skills as a handler and I was still getting my timing down.

Since this was a boardwalk with railings on both sides, there was no way we could avoid this dog. The only option was to turn around. The question was, would I be able to turn quickly enough to prevent Shiva from taking a piece out of the wee barker?

Holding my breath, I turned to look at her. To my amazement – I still tear up a little – instead of staring at the other dog and preparing herself to lunge, Shiva was looking back at me! We actually made eye contact!

Eye contact!!

For the first time Shiva was looking to me for direction and guidance. I wasn’t just the person holding her back, I had become member of her team, her partner. She had learned I was on her side.

I’ll never forget the expression on her face either. I am almost positive she had a single eyebrow raised. If Shiva could talk, in that moment I am sure she would have sworn under her breath.

Luckily I didn’t let my joy get in the way of practical matters. Almost in sync, Shiva and I turned around on the spot and walked away. The little dog remained in his spot yapping behind us and we didn’t look back. Once we were out of sight I am sure I was wiping away tears and dancing. No doubt Shiva got more treats in the ten minutes it took us to get home, than she ever has before or again.

To this day I look on that moment as a turning point for us. It was the first real success we had with her reactivity and it showed me that things really could get better. Of course, it wasn’t all uphill from there and we endured many more moments of frustration, but it was a huge start full of promise. On that day for the first time Shiva and I were a team.

It felt awesome.

Is there a moment in your relationship with your dog that stands out to you as a turning point? I’d love to hear all about it!

*Incidentally, this was the same dog dog who attacked us several months later in this post.

13 thoughts on “Turning Points: A Brut Moment Challenge

  1. It’s lovely moment when you dog looks to you for guidance. Song rarely did it, but Polly often does, especially when we are out on a walk.

    A great turning point I had with Song, who was a very anxious dog, was when she came and sat by my side as I sat on the floor. usually she’d go and sit right the other side of the room. I still well up thinking about how it made me feel.

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  2. That’s such a great moment!! That moment when you feel that bond is just heart warming for sure!

    With all of Shayne’s issues when I got her, there have been so many moments I’ve had with her that were life-changing or monumental. But the moment that really has changed our life together was the moment when she made her first doggie friend, Tas. I’d had her for three years and while she lived with my mom’s Shih Tzu with no problems, she was reactive and not really friendly with other dogs (if she met dogs on or off leash she’d get very snarky and put on an aggressive display but wasn’t actually trying to hurt them). After about 10 walks together, Shayne was able to hang out with Tas off leash in Tas’ apartment (we were neighbors) and the rest is history. I learned that she DOES like dogs, that she is CAPABLE of making friends, and it paved the way for me being confident that I could get a puppy (Rio) and confident that I could foster dogs. Since making friends with Tas, her social skills have snowballed and she’s now made many many friends and finds it much easier to make friends than what it took to make friends with Tassie.

    GREAT topic! ❤

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  3. Delilah and I had the connection not too long ago.

    It was during our intermediate obedience class and the instructor was walking around trying to distract the dog. As she approached us, Delilah turned slightly and I redirected her with “look” and “leave it” because she dropped a handful of treats right next to her.

    It was magical.

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  4. I know that moment. So awesome! It still chokes me up and gets me when there is eye contact. But the first one, that is special. There’s nothing like your dog looking to you for direction instead of going on instinct. Oh Kristine that is so awesome! Thank you so much for sharing and being part of this challenge!

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  5. This moment sounds very familiar to me, both with Georgia and Rufus, the littledog picker-upper. Obviously there’s a dog that needs a better human in your neighbourhood and it’s not yours.

    Love your first picture BTW. Has Shiva finally filled out a little? She’s looking great. Have a fab weekend. I hope you’re still having some sunshine! X

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  6. That is such a great story 🙂 We had a moment like that with Cali at the dog park! Our park had one little section that wasn’t fenced and all of the dogs were running towards it, my hubby yelled her name and it was just like a cartoon . . .she put on the brakes and came running back! We were so proud!! I know exactly how you felt!! 🙂

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  7. I love this! That sounds like such an incredible moment between you and Shiva that you can’t help but remember it vividly. I am definitely going to wade through the waters of my brain for something similar with my guys!

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  8. Oh Kristine! I got teary-eyed reading this!

    I love those moments when you and your dog connect for the first time. I love that she had bonded with you so much that she looked to you on what to do next instead of deciding to do something she had done in the past. How beautiful a moment.

    I have never read this story before, but I am so happy you shared it. Love!

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