Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chasing Confidence


The Big Poodle C word.

Almost all of my goals for Perri have fallen away, and have been replaced with the simple goal of helping her to be confident.  To learn tricks.  To not shut down and be overwhelmed.  And it always feels like one step forward, three back.  No matter how hard we work, a leaf blowing in the wind might derail her if we have the nerve to venture out of my basement.

We have not worked on her dumbbell retrieve in months.  The thing has been collecting dust.  I had not given up on it, but knew that it was something that was going to need to wait until later.  I have this fantasy picture of "later" with Perri in my mind.  Because as much as I joke that Perri is a Martian and A Mess and tricked me with her cuteness into taking another fearful dog in, I truly believe in her.  I see an incredible dog in Perri.  I see a dog that just needs to break through a wall, and all of the puzzle pieces will fall into place.   When this amazing thing may happen, I could not say.  So I just say...."Later."

An issue with Perri is that she has a very hard time trying something again if she does something "wrong".  Especially something on the more "complex" end of the spectrum, such as bending down to pick up the dumbbell and placing it in my hand.  (Do not laugh, we have not progressed further than that.)  But tonight?  Out of nowhere I just decided to play around with it.  Perri remembers everything we worked on.  She is to pick the dumbbell up and rest her chin on my open palm while holding the dumbbell.  Where Perri begins to get overwhelmed is if she picks the dumbell up and opens her mouth: before reaching my hand, while in my hand but before I click, or picking up and dropping as soon as possible.   For quite some time it was almost as though the thing tasted like poison to her.   We generalized picking objects up but that seemed to only help a little.   The real issue was Perri being overwhelmed by the entire experience.

Tonight I lost time.  We must have worked for 15 solid minutes on it!  I backchained what I wanted to start with, since it has been a while and then she was doing so well that I was able to toss the dumbbell.  Perri had some mixed success.  Still some trouble at times with picking it up and then walking it several feet away from the pick up and putting it back down.  (And then looking at me hopefully wondering why I did not click it.  HA!)  But the coolest thing was that Perri was completely enjoying herself, completely willing to just pick the dumbbell up and try again.  At one point I tossed the DB and it banged against my washer, making a loud metallic noise.  Perri stopped and stared for a beat and then walked over and picked the thing up, then walked it back to me and set it in my palm.  I was floored!  

My dog's tail was wagging.  My dog kept trying even when she was "wrong."  My dog enjoyed something that used to overwhelm her.  And furthermore, my dog is doing agility trials - and having fun!  My dog is heeling ...forwards and backwards.  My dog is really trying hard.  I do dog has gained a whole lot of confidence.   And more to come.

In other unrelated news...

Ein is doing amazingly well and is completely back to normal.  As much as I keep taking his chew bones from him, he just keeps finding more!  His mouth does not seem to bother him, not even a little bit.

I just discovered that the judge tells you "Tally Ho!" when it is time to release your dog at an AKC Coursing Ability Test.   It is hard for me to express just how much I love this.

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