Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brick By Brick

My dog is really flippin' cute.
I just had to get that off my chest before I could write this.

Around a year ago, Rubi and I were invited out to Twin Cities Academy to present on impulse control as part of a series put on by ARLP's Dog Safety Program. This was apparently such a fantastic, memorable occasion that I totally didn't blog about it. I do remember thinking that - just maybe - for a program on impulse control, they should have picked a dog that, you know, actually had impulse control. It wasn't the worse experience of our lives, but it sure wasn't fantastic.

One of the difficult parts of working with reactive dogs it that while mired in the day to day brick laying of behavior change, it's hard to see how far you've come. When you're making progress that's quite often measure in inches, the distance to the finish line of acceptable behavior can seem miles away. One of the tricks to sticking with your dog is being able to step back and see how far you've come. You might not have fancy spires and crenelations, but even a strong foundation is no small feat when working with any dog, let alone a reactive one.

Last week, Rubi and I went back to Twin Cities Academy to do our presentation on impulse control once again. This program was a first for Rubi,though: the first time she would participate in a Dog Safety Program with a dog she hadn't lived with. Blue belongs to my friend and fellow trainer, Jen. Blue is not entirely new to Rubi. We've used him as a decoy dog a handful of times, but he's still practically a stranger to B. Jen and Blue came early so that I could work on desensitizing B to Blue's presence. I asked for thirty minutes. We needed about ten, so we definitely got started on the right foot.

Rubi and Blue, waiting in the lobby for class to start.

Last year, Rubi charged into the room like a lunatic on speed. This year, she stepped in with a loose leash and turned around to look at me just like I taught her to do. One of these days, I will stop being amazed when my dog does the behaviors I have taught her to do. Today is not that day. Tomorrow probably won't be, either.

For example, I am always shocked and amazed when Rubi actually hangs out on her mat instead of doing something more interesting (aka: anything that involves not sitting on her mat) even though I taught her to do this back in the Jurassic Period. 

Rubi rocked the impulse control, although it looks like I should probably dedicate a little time to polishing up her tricks repertoire. Still, she wanted to work with me during the trick portion, she just wasn't sure what I wanted from her, and that's more my problem than hers.

"Impulse control?
I got that.
And then I kicked its ass."
After the program, Rubi and company were allowed to hang out in the classroom while the kids made crafty stuff to donate to the rescue. The fun part about being a dog trainer is that as long as I have a dog and some treats, I am never bored.

This picture cracks me up every time I look at it.
Blue thinks school is verra serious bisness.
Rubi? Yeah, not so much.

And so! Piece by piece, brick by brick, progress is made. We may not be perfect or fancy, but what we've got is pretty good, particularly when we consider where we've been. Sometimes, you need to recognize what you've accomplished instead of focusing on what still needs to be done. When we've come this far, who's to say what we might be able to do? After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.


  1. You are such a good writer (and dog trainer)! Love this post!

  2. Been there! Our "problem child" (Ed) had made huge strides, but looking back, it's hard to remember where he came from.

    Our good girl has always been pretty easy, but she has her fair share of issues. She's now a therapy dog! Its a good reminder to remember where you came from, no matter how small the strides!!

    Good work with Rubi. I'm excited to watch her grow more!

  3. i just love reading your posts. they remind me that i can just keep on at it and things will improve, even when i don't think they are or will.
    my 5-pack of 1 normal, 1 super confident, 1 too dumb to know, 1 normal until i see a small fluffy thing, and 1 i scare myself at a leaf blowing by remind me on a daily basis that i just love walking & working with my dogs.