Monday, July 23, 2012

Another for the YDS Box

It's been a big weekend for Rubi. She started her new Growl Class with Paws Abilities on Friday. I don't have any pictures of class because apparently, even I'm getting a little bored with pictures of Rubi relaxing on her mat while other dogs are around - that in itself is something I never thought would happen. I'm sure I'll write more about the class, but for now suffice to say she did not make me look stupid, for which I am always grateful. in fact, she actually looked like we've been practicing behavior around other dogs for the last two years. Amazing, I know!

Saturday was our Celebration of Dog nerdiness and Jai's Gotcha Day. We had around twenty people come and so many dogs that I lost count. There was only one good dog fight, which considering the mix of dogs we had (lots of bullies), I'm pretty okay with. Even better, Rubi wasn't one of the instigating dogs! Aside from a short time out after the fight (I will never fault any breed of terrier for joining a dog fight; if I wanted dogs that never fought, I'd get, I don't know, rocks or something), Rubi spent the entire party - around six hours - hanging out with all the new dogs and people. Even more impressive, she did this with a minimum of support from me!

Rubi and Lance, a dog she had never met before.
Lance snapped at Rubi a few times for being too pushy, after which Rubi LEFT HIM ALONE.
Big accomplishment, that.
Photo by Paige.

I wasn't around for the best compliment of the day, and I heard it secondhand, so I don't even know who to credit. While a group of friends were outside watching the dogs play, someone actually asked, "But I thought Rubi was reactive . . . ?"

That's right, my severely reactive Rubi faked normal so well that even dog people couldn't tell she was anything but a regular, happy pit bull.

Excuse me while I beam with pride for a moment.

That's Rubi's butt in the lower left corner. In this picture, there are two dogs she has never met before,
one she has never played with, one we had over for just one night to dog sit, and Piper's butt.
Rubi is off leash and has chosen to flirt with Paige.
Kind of a really big deal. 

One of the criticisms of positive reinforcement based training is that it takes longer than other types of training. I personally don't think this is true, but I suppose it wouldn't have taken Ceasar Millan two years to train a reactive pit bull. Or Victoria Stilwell, either, for that matter. But this is real life, not entertainment, and I'm exceptionally pleased with what our two years have accomplished. 

You see, I could have used punishment to suppress her unwanted, reactive behaviors. Or I could have managed the hell out of her, ensuring that she never got the chance to practice her reactivity (I'm not sure how I would have done that, but if I were dedicated enough, I probably could have managed it).  However, either of these training options would have meant a significant reduction in her quality of life from where she is today. 

I'm pretty sure Rubi thought she'd died and gone to heaven this weekend.
Photo by Paige.

By reinforcing the behaviors I wanted and setting up situations in which Rubi could succeed, I have not changed who she is at all. At her heart, she is the same passionate, reactive, joyful dog she was two years ago. I have not clipped her wings. I have simply given her the tools and coping mechanisms she needed to get what she wants out of life. 

And we both got something amazing in the process.

She's not drunk, just high on life.
Photo by Paige.


  1. Rubi looked great in class on Friday night. It's not just relaxing on mats. It is "Reactive Dog Drill Team" choreographed to yodeling. T-shirts should be on order soon.

    The big, blue, bug-snapping boy parked next door on Friday night

  2. Hi Tesla! You looked pretty awesome yourself!