Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Measure of Success

(Originally posted on Aug 20, 2010)

I have never heard anyone say, "My dog used to be reactive." If I ever did, I would be inclined to think that their dog wasn't reactive in the first place. It's not something you get over or cure like the common cold. Reactivity is more like lupus or agoraphobia - you manage it and you control it, but it never really goes away. If you're lucky, you get to a point where only you and your dog know the truth, but there's always that nagging knowledge in the back of your mind. You gain an extra awareness of where other dogs are, what they're doing, and how your dog is responding. This extra sense changes the way you see the world, and it makes it impossible to shrug it off and pretend like the reactivity isn't there anymore.

I've been assisting with reactive dog classes at TCOTC for almost six months now. As I'm escorting dogs and handlers into the classroom, I always ask how they're doing. "Oh, I was so happy! MacGyver saw a dog outside the house, and he didn't bark at all!" "We're doing okay with the other dogs, but we had a bad moment with a plastic bag the other day." "Dewey and I were practicing watching other dogs, and he offered to look at me twice in ten minutes!" Success isn't built in weeks or months or even years. It's built in moments. Today we had a good moment; yesterday we had a bad moment. Tomorrow? Who knows. We keep plugging away at moments, trying to teach good behaviors and impulses, hoping to succeed.

Rubi and I had a good moment the other day. We were walking along the street when a small, yappy dog came flying out of nowhere, hysterically throwing himself at his fence on the other side of the road. B looked at him, whined once, and looked at me to see what the going rate in treats is for small, angry dogs. That wasn't the good moment (although it was pretty sweet). The good moment came when Rubi then decided, on her own, with no prompting from me, to turn around and keep walking. She didn't so much as spare another glance at the other dog, leaving me to float along behind her, pleasantly surprised and just a little amazed.

My Rubi is reactive, but we're doing pretty good right now.  

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