May 28, 2015. Memorial Weekend is come and gone. Ty and I have returned to our earlier obedience training. He’s pretty solid on a sit, not perfect but solid. So I figured it was only natural to move on to the sit-stay step. Seemed pretty logical to me. I’d start with him at my side, and as his confidence grew, I’d slowly work up to moving in front of and eventually around him. Gradually, I thought, I’d move the distance out further out.
Well, not exactly how he decided it would go. We walked at a fairly decent heel, stopped and he slid into a pretty little sit. I praised him and added ‘Stay”.
Oh. My. Word. The unknown power of a little four letter word. Clearly this tiny word has big issues with Ty. Who would have known?
He totally freaked, heart racing, panting heavy, eyes going wide, ears going back and drool pooling. His body tensed up and I knew he was fighting the fight-or-flight impulse. And it would be a battle he would soon lose. I released him with a verbal ‘Okay” and he bolted like a terrified rabbit.
His earlier confidence washed away like caught in a rainstorm. It was positively heart breaking. I considered trying it again, but could not do that to him again. To me it’s a choice between working on forming our fragile bond or having a perfectly obedient dog. Do I grow his confidence and happiness or make him robotic on leash/ off leash skills? How bad do I want to drill obedience to pursue a title that he will never understand anyway? What is the cost to him?
So the formal drilling lessons will stop, at least temporarily. I can sublimely, passively sneak them in when an informal opportunity arises. And I have to accept he will most likely never earn his CGC certificate or other obedience titles. And that’s okay. I’d rather he be happy and confident than titled.
On a different note, I can only wonder what happened for him to have such a terrifying association with the little four letter word Stay.
Saturday, May 30, 2015. Ty seems a little more relaxed since we discontinued the formal lessons. His tail is starting to peek out again. Today we went to the local dog park. It was full of young dogs, ranging from a few months old up to an eleven-month shepherd as well as a cranky fourteen-year-old fiest.
Not a playing kind of dog, Ty quickly grew bored while the youngsters with endless reserves of energy constantly chased balls and Frisbees and each other long distances. Finally Ty just walked over to the entrance gate, looked back at me, his expression a clear and silent cue to please leave now.
I didn’t have the heart to say no to his polite request, so we came back home, where he spent the rest of the day sleeping in his cave.
June 10, 2015. Just a few things I have noticed with Ty in the last few days. He is making more eye contact with me, lingering more than a nano-second. He’s is trying to seek me instead of retreat. He is making more efforts to briefly touch his nose to my hand or leg when I enter the kitchen or am standing by the sink. It’s almost as if he’s checking in. And he is going to the door more on his own, asking to go out without waiting for me to call him. I think he is starting to make his own decisions, testing the waters, and finding it is both acceptable to me and pleasurable to him. Gradually, I can see his confidence, and delight, grow in the last week or two.