Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thinking, Knowing, Understanding

Remember back here when I said that this is the part that sucks? Well, here’s the part that’s fun. Jai and I finished our special needs class, and while I don’t know how much lasting behavior change we achieved, I learned a lot about what makes this dog tick. I’m better able to make judgments based on who Jai is as an individual instead on what other dogs like him need. It means better results, a better relationship, and less stress all around.

Plus, y’know, the fun.

One of the things I have noticed over the last five weeks is a gradual improvement in Jai’s work stamina. Jai does not have the temperament of a working dog. He can’t go all day and then some the way Rubi and Piper and Allister can. His play drive, treat drive, and work ethic are all aspects that I have carefully encouraged and grown over the past months, and I’m finally able to see some real, measurable results.

Six months ago, Jai could only manage a five minute training session before he lost focus and would wander away. When we started this class, he lasted about forty-five minutes before his brain would fry and he couldn’t focus. Now, he can manage an hour and a bit not only with brain intact, but still capable of some pretty in-depth thinking. For example, at the end of our last class, Jai and I were working on micro-shaping “ears forward” (because I think it looks nicer in pictures). This requires a lot of thought on Jai’s part – really, how often do you stop to consider your ears? – but he handled it beautifully, without anxiety and without getting distracted.

Ears up!

Now that this class is over, I’ve been working on getting us into a regular class, but it looks like we’re going to have a few weeks off. In an effort to keep up on Jai’s remedial socialization while we wait for another class to be scheduled, I’ve been working on setting up play dates in new places. We had our first date yesterday, and what a date it was!

Jai and his new friend, Trout.
Trout desperately wanted to make babies with Jai.
Photo by Sara Brueske.

Jai and I went over to our friend’s house for a Fourth of July party, along with about twenty other people and probably a dozen dogs. We went over early because I wanted to give him a chance to check out the new environment before everyone showed up. It turns out, I need not have worried. Jai was comfortable and relaxed with the people – no cringing or flinching at all. And there wasn’t a single episode of neophobia in this brand new environment. Jai behaved just like a well-socialized, well-rounded pit bull. Albeit one not owned by me (I’d like to say that’s because my dogs listen better than he did yesterday, but really, my pit bulls are just crazier than he acted).

Jai knows that pit bulls should always be the center of attention.
Even while sleeping. 

Working with Jai this year has been a real pleasure because he wants so much to be a “normal” dog (whatever that is). Unlike Jai, Rubi behaves because it gets her what she wants; Maus listens because he wants to please me. Neither of them has any integral drive to change their behavior. In contrast, Jai really wants to believe that people are good and the world is a safe place. He tries so hard to be brave; he longs to make new friends. Helping him to conquer his past has been on of my true joys in this year.

Jai was hot stuff at the party.
Photo by Sara Brueske.


  1. *Mischief.

    And I think I need to explain to her how the whole "making babies" thing works.

  2. I liked Trout's take on the process. It was creative.

  3. I love reading about Jai's progress. He is such a beautiful and resilient boy!