Today Maizey started her Clicks and Tricks class.
The class is awesome, only three other dogs and based on a combination of shaping, luring and some capturing.
Today we covered basics: hand touch, spin, twirl, backup, and settle on one hip.
Backup is the only one we have never worked on. Our homework is to get multiple touches for one c/t, get her spin and twirl on verbal cue only, start backup and refine the settle.
Settle I have to think about a little bit, I currently use a settle cue to mean, “lay down, chill out and quit bugging me, but you can move when you want.”
I’m not sure with this being a trick if I want to cue something different, something clever. . . of course I’m not feeling too clever right now so I’ll have to think about it.
For backup I have a similar question of what to cue. I think for a trick “beep-beep-beep” like the backing up of a big truck would be funny, but that’s not a cue I would use for a more formal backup like they use in Rally, so do I need two cue’s? Is it two behaviors? Again, I don’t know, so it looks like I have homework to do!
We were given a list 24 tricks to choose from and as a class we chose a total of 12-15 to learn over the next six weeks. Some are very basic (roll over), some are more advanced and require a behavior chain (moon walk, which is a play bow where the dog walks backwards in the bow.)
The class is going to be great, but right now I’m exhausted! Not because of the class, but because my Princess Of The Shrill Bark lived up to her name today.
After her success in Petite Pals I really wasn’t expecting today to be this hard for her. I didn’t see an abnormal amount of stress before class, we followed our routine and she seemed fine. We had the same set up as her last class: us in a corner behind an x-pen with blankets covering it to reduce stimulation.
I’m super proud of her, this is her first class with no play time so she doesn’t meet and greet the other dogs and it was hard for her. It was like she could work for me as long as it was very basic skills she already knew, then something in her head would trigger and it was like all of sudden she was thinking, “Oh crap there’s dogs out there! MOM! MOM! MOM! DOGS! DOGS! DOGS!”
Then she would reorient and be like, “Oh yeah this is the coolest game! I’m so good at this, I’ll offer you anything!” Then the alarm in her head would go off again and it was back to reacting for a second.
Honestly I almost just quit half way through, the most important thing is that she not be traumatized. It’s also the hardest thing to tell at this stage. It used to just be she was constantly reacting and couldn’t even think. She was obviously over threshold the whole time around other dogs.
Now it’s more like she just needs impulse control and experience to keep her brain engaged. The trouble is it’s my job to read her and know when enough is enough and it was easy to know before, now it’s just harder to tell.
I got to the point that I thought, “She’s just not going to pull out of this today, we just need to go to the park and shake it off.” I picked her up and snuggled my face into her face and just breathed with her. I felt her relax, that has never happened before, I was so glad to experience that. It was as if my breath cued her to take a deep breath and after that I just stayed on the floor with her and we mostly just c/t for quiet while we worked very basic skills.
By the end of the class she was laying quietly, even if I wouldn’t say she was relaxed. So I’m glad we stayed. I dont know how she will ever learn to get through that anxiety if she doesn’t get a chance to ride it out, and let me help her.
But it’s so tiring for both of us. The mom part of me kicks in and I just want to snuggle her and make her feel better, but that’s not the answer. We both have to work so very hard to keep our brains in gear and keep the anxiety down.
I know it certainly doesn’t help her if I just get to feeling bad for her so mostly that part just comes after, it comes now. The human part where I feel so sad that this brillaint, eager, clicker savvy, offering, loves to work dog can’t enjoy this fun class ’cause her brain is short circuiting hits me hard and it’s hard not to second guess every choice I made.
The other human part is similar to what I felt for meeka when people would judge her for being a Rottie, there was so much beauty and grace in her that they never got to see. When you have 14 pounds of barking, lunging Cavalier people tend to look at you funny.
I can’t blame them, if I saw her coming towards me and my dog I’d go the other way too. But it’s still hard not to let it hurt a bit. Not personally for me, but for what they are missing in knowing the true her and what she’s missing in getting to live a full life.
All I can do is keep trying, be thankful that I have good trainers to help me and remember she is a happy girl, and even if she never overcomes this she has a good life, even if it’s one with limitations.
Therein is today’s 4legged lesson: Modesty means being aware and accepting your limitations. Modesty is hard, it doesn’t mean you don’t try to overcome your limitations, but it does mean if you have a Princess Of The Shrill Bark and she may always be a Princess Of The shrill Bark you help her as much as you can and love her twice as much. She doesn’t judge herself for her limitations why should I or anyone else?
As for Tricks and Clicks class? I defer once again to Sue Ailsby, “It’s all tricks, relax!”