Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Castles in the Sky

"My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning,
and yet I'm happy.
I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?"
                                                              ~Charles M. Schulz

The leaves are off the trees, the snow has fallen, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the herd beasts and I have settled into our winter routines. The dogs and I are chuggin' along toward the accomplishment of our goals - with one exception.

Three guesses who, and the first two don't count.

"I like to eat dirt."

It's not that things are going poorly for Rubi or that she's not making any progress. I just don't know where I'm going with her. Up until now, my only goal for her has been "Suck less." A worthy goal, and one we're making steady progress toward but not exactly measurable or timely.

When I first decided to adopt B, I had high hopes to get involved in an active sport like weight pull or agility. Unfortunately, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that she just isn't physically sound enough to do these things. I briefly considered dock diving - it's active and low impact - but I find my own strong adversion to water makes this option unappealing. There's always obedience and/or rally. B already has all the novice rally exercises down, but I just don't feel that this is something she would enjoy. Be able to do, yes; title at, sure. But it'd be like jamming a square peg in a round hole - uncomfortable for both of us. And of course, there's a therapy title, but right now that's so far into the future as to seem impossible.

Whenever I pick a sport for my dogs, I try to pick something they have a natural aptitude and enjoyment for. Maus loves nose work; Piper Ann can't find treats if you point to them on the floor. Piper Ann loves obedience; Allister despises anything that involves sitting still. Could I force any of them to do these things? Sure, but why? And to whose benefit? Certainly not the dogs'.

So what is Rubi good at, and what does she enjoy?

At the core of her, Rubi's reactivity and other "problems" arise from her passion for, well, everything. Rubi lives her life with gusto, do ALL the things, ALL at once! Joy! She's thrilled to be anywhere, doing anything, enthusiastic to the last hair on her body. Everything she does, she does with all that she has, even sleep! (Trying to wake B up in the morning is always an adventure - she sleeps like she's hungover. Possibly due to being drunk on life the during her waking hours). She is her own furry deity of happiness.

Well. That's helpful.

Do they make titles in being good at life?

Actually, they do. A few years ago, the APDT created the Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) program. Unlike the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test, which was developed as an entry to comeptitive sports, C.L.A.S.S. was designed to test dogs on real skills important for dealing in a world that's crawling with people. As with many sports, there are three levels: BA, MA, and PhD. At the "novice" or BA level, the dogs (and handlers!) are tested on their ability to wait before going through a door, come, loose leash walking and attention, meeting an unfamiliar person, leave it, wait for a food bowl, stay, settle, and give up a treat. There are also bonus activities that allow you to pass "with honors."

All of these are activities that I feel are important enough that B is already familiar with them. Maybe not familiar enough to pass the test, but that gives us something to work toward. Working on these exercises will also give me a concrete measure of B's progress. I'm fairly certain that the BA level would give her a lot of trouble if we had to take it today. But with a few months of polish, I bet we do fine.

So, now I have a goal. All I have to figure out now is how to get from point A to point B.

"Point B" Get it? Ha! I'm punny.

1 comment:

  1. Goals are good. Otherwise it's just too easy to get lazy.

    And while I agree with 100% with your message of finding what the dog enjoys doing and is good at, I also think it's our job to show the dog how much fun certain things can be. I guess it's just a big issue for me since so many people say their dog hates obedience when they aren't actually training it with as much enthusiasm and effort that they put into other activities. Heeling doesn't have to be boring! But pet peeves aside, not every activity is for every dog, or person :)