It’s 2017. Is anyone else wondering how that happened? I will tell you that I am definitely that person who still thinks 10 years ago was 1996. A client’s 7 year old son was singing “baby got back” at an appointment today, and I realized how long that song has stood the test of time. (Go ahead and google when that was released…1992… yeah… think about that for a second)
That being said, I realized I’ve had Pixie for 4 years and Opie for 2 years come March (time flies when you are having fun). Pixie was never meant to be a sporting dog and I raised her with the intention that she would be adopted out into a pet home where she would live out her days sleeping on the sofa. She knew she was never leaving.
2015 was the year I decided to keep her and try out some dog sports. It’s also the year I broke her. She has a natural drive, and the pit bull willingness to do anything I asked her. She learned what I wanted from her quickly, and my inexperience in sports caused me to push her into more than she really was capable of handling. I have kept or fostered numerous dogs and trained them to be appropriate pets, but the stress and chaos of competition is still relatively new to me. Her drive and willingness to please masked her fear of new situations, and new people, both of which she had to deal with when competing.
Raising a sport dog is very different than raising a pet, and Pixie started off with quite a deficit. She is so stoic and willing that I didn’t realize what was going on until her extreme reactivity began to surface in the winter of 2015. (More on that here: I hate walking my dog)
2016 was then dedicated her reactivity and making her feel more secure with her environment. I also discovered her food sensitivity and how that was contributing to her crappy attitude. We competed very little, but competed in new venues where I could control the chaos in her experience. The more I worked with her the more I realized that the fundamentals in our relationship were what was broken. She loved dock jumping but was so overwhelmed by the chaos in the atmosphere that she could not think through what I was asking her. My frustration with her was not helping either.
Training sessions have moved from strict conditioning and management of her reactivity to just hanging out and trying to get some focus to work in a new place. The bar has been lowered tremendously and I am beginning to enjoy the dog things that I love with her. Going to the park to walk is not a detailed plan to rival that of a Navy SEAL mission, it’s actually a walk, and some play and some focus. I enjoy it. Pixie enjoys it. It’s far from perfect but definitely not a panic situation that it used to be.
We will continue with this new training path to see where it brings us. I have a good feeling 2017 will be about filling the holes and enjoying the time with my dog. I have learned to adjust my expectations and give Pixie clear indications of what I am asking. Work is work, she has to work when I ask, but I will make sure she is ready and feeling secure in her surroundings. I am her person and I want to know that I will keep her safe.
If you see us in a field or in a parking lot just hanging out, know that we are training, maybe subtle skills, but we are training. I am dedicating this year to as much foundation training as we can. Maybe by 2018 we will be back on track, or we will have a new goal, either way, I will be enjoying the dog I am with.