How many of you remember the book The Little Engine That Could!
"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....."
That was my favorite book when I was little. I read it constantly, and if anyone was reading it to me and tried to skip a page I would catch them on it. "No!, No!, No! you aren't reading it right." And they would have to start over. From the beginning. The book is about a little blue train engine that is not very big, not very strong, but saves the day by not giving up when an engine is needed to pull a huge train over a mountain to bring toys to the kids on the other side. Yeah, kind of Rudolphy isn't it.
The moral of course being "never give up, and believe you can."
I guess in a way when I think about that book that is how I have been with my dog. We have had some struggles but I have not given up. I have learned a ton from this dog. I have had too. And there is more to learn, because there is more work to do. I have more goals for Reese and I, and "I think I can...." work hard and I will not give up until those goals become successes too.
Lets look back at some of the success Reese and I have had in the past year or so of training. In no particular order:
Recall - off leash for agility training. No fence with sheep very close by. And she knows where they live!
Zoomies - went the way of the living dead back from whence they came. When we are working she focuses on me. No more worries of Nascar zoomies around the ring. She might go visit a ring steward or catch a whiff of a tantalizing smell and try to follow it, but I call her and she is back with me!
Three successful fun runs. Two outside, no fence in a low population area, but still there were lots of dogs milling around - no issues.
First Trial - whoo hoo! I have trialed my dog. It was a success for us on so many levels. First, I am glad the first trial is done to get those first trial jitters out-of-the-way. Also, both Reese and I have a better idea of what to expect and how the whole routine of a trial will go. Reese stayed with me during the runs or came back when I called if she was off for a meet and greet with the ring steward.
BUT her biggest successes were out of the ring and for this I am so proud of her. Reese has separation anxiety which has been improving in leaps and bounds in the last few months. I can't wait to tell Dr. Duxbury, who is Reese's behaviorist, when we see her on Monday.
Day 1 of the trial Reese drooled and licked her crate if I was there. And it didn't matter if the crate was covered or not. But... NO barking, screaming or bouncing the crate around. Reese has a very high pitch bark, if you hear it you immediately know it is her. We are like wild animals, mother and baby separated in the dark of night. I hear her call - and immediately know it is her - very annoying! But by the same token if I hear another dog barking I know it is not her so all is good.
Day 2 of the trial Reese was quiet in her crate. No drooling, no whimpering, no barking and no screaming. She actually slept in her crate. Whether I was there or not, whether the crate was covered or not. She would lift her head to see who was there and then put it back down and close her eyes and sleep. Yea! I realize that Reese was probably very tired from the first day of trialing but this was super huge for her.
Reese ran in a Pairs run at the trial. Yep can you believe it! It was one of our best runs too!
Reese has now tugged in two new places with me. She used to only tug with me at home or the two locations that we train at. Tugging is becoming more generalized for her which I am so happy about!
Reese tugged with me, and ran around with me on a course through tunnels with four, yep four other dogs, all around us tugging and playing with their handlers. HUGE, HUGE, HUGE for Reese to keep her focus on me and not get distracted or want to control the other dogs movements.
Reese can stay at relatives now and she does not pace, pant or whine while I am gone. She walks around a bit and lays down and waits for me to come back. She will go for walks and eat while I am gone too.
Reese has graduated from being in her crate at home when I am gone. Now she stays in one room, but is loose out of her crate while I am at work. She just sleeps on the bed - my bed of course! I am still crating her every now and then, both at night and for 1/2 days randomly so that she stays acclimated to being crated and so that she doesn't fixate on the routine being that she is out of the crate whenever I am gone. I still make the rules and if I say today you crate - you crate! But how nice to be able to leave her out. Her crate is in the room she stays in so if she chooses she could use her crate if she wanted.
Reese has gotten much better at ignoring cars on walks. She will even take treats when cars go by on walks now. Previously if she zoned in on a car there was nothing that could distract her, not steak, chicken, raw or cooked, toys, nothing. Tonight I took treats on our walk to work on recalls. A car was going by when I was giving her a treat, she looked at the car and immediately looked back at me for a treat. Hmmm! So I tried it out on the rest of the walk and there was only one time that we were too close to the car and she was too engaged in it to get out of her zone to focus on me or the treat.
So to all you doubters out there, "Behold the Power of a Zuke!"
It seems like Reese is getting more confidence which is giving me more confidence and since we are the Pro-athletes of feed off of each others anxieties, which I am trying to be much better at NOT doing, in this case it is working very nicely.
I guess after five years together we are finally figuring each other out. Okay so Reese had me figured out on day 1, I'll give her that - smarty pants. But I have gotten wiser and the game has changed. I expect certain things from her and most importantly I have learned to trust what I train. I have learned that I have to test what I trained and give Reese the opportunity to show me if she can do it. What I am finding is that - Yes She Can!