Zach and Rubi finished their reactive dog class, Calm, Confident and, Connected, last week. Where do I start?
Well, it was an adventure, that's for sure.
My goals for the CCC class were less Rubi-oriented and more Zach-oriented. I like reactive dogs. They are my niche in the training world, and it's unlikely that my home herd will every be made of entirely non-reactive dogs. That's fine for me and my weirdness, but Zach married into dogs. He didn't really have them growing up, and as a result, has trouble reading the body cues and arousal levels of normal dogs, let alone the special needs mongrels I seem to prefer. I wanted Zach to gain skills reading and handling reactive dogs.
I debated for a while whether I would have him take the class with Rubi or Maus. Maus is slower than Rubi - slower to react, slower to build up to threshold, and more forgiving of poor timing. Speaking from experience, it's sometimes nice to have a slower dog to learn on. Maus's body signals are also much clearer than Rubi's. On the other hand, CCC is a class focused on dog-dog reactivity, and of the many issues Maus has, dog reactivity is not one of them. In all honesty, he probably doesn't really count as a reactive dog anymore; his behaviors are pretty dang good. Maus's current problems are emotional in nature and while training will play a role in his future, that will be more technical training than Zach will need to know. I need Zach to be able to read reactive dogs well enough to keep them from going over-threshold. He won't need to get them to relax in a group of strange people.
At least, I hope not.
I think having Zach and Rubi work together was a better decision than I originally predicted. For one thing, having a dog that reacts quickly - not just to triggers, but to life in general - forces you to clean-up your timing in a big hurry. Zach's handling skills improved a lot during this class, and while he might not be able to read the dogs as well as I'd like, he now has the basic skills needed to deal with them effectively. Another advantage to working with Rubi is that Rubi is ENTHUSIASTIC. She loves working, loves learning, and loves reacting. Having her devote that passion toward her handler is a huge ego boost. She's a fun dog to work with.
I'll be honest: this was a hard class for me. Zach has the potential to be a really great trainer, but his skills aren't there yet. As a result, a lot of the more precise behaviors I require of Rubi have . . . regressed a bit. This was really hard to watch. I'm glad I did, because now I know what I'll have to retrain, but that didn't stop me from silently chanting, It's okay, it's alright, I can fix that, that's fixable, shut-up, shut-up, shuddup . . .
Even so, I have to say - they looked good together.