Breakthrough!

Yay!!! Oreo had a fantastic day today at training!! Last week we did calming curves & she did well, then we did parallel walking. She was nervous at first walking parallel to a yellow lab, but got better and even walked past a group of people (5-10 ft away) without reacting! Yay!!!

As for the good news for today, we did treat & retreat. The woman came up to Oreo and she barked, tail wagging. The woman threw treats behind her then steps back. Oreo loved it…and loved her! She went right up to her and sat for treats and when the lady left…Oreo wouldn’t move. She watched, whined and waited for her to come back. Then the woman walked us back and oreo gave her kisses!!!

This is a big breakthrough, Oreo just needed to figure things out. She has a history of barking, lunging and trying to nip people who approach (who are strangers). YAY!!! I must continue to practice this with many different people, hopefully she will be excited and happy when seeing people, because people will equal treats!

As for allergies, I think she has grass allergies…also possibly chicken? Not sure, I’m going to cut chicken out, and make her different treats for classes. Her allergies are still bad, but have gotten a little better since I wipe her feet and face down with a wet towel when we come back inside. Also, we were giving her chicken raw, but switched it to lamb. So many allergies!! Well, Oreo is zonked out here sleeping next to me on the couch, time to take a nap myself!

Levels of a Relationship

I continued reading and I have more to share! There are different levels of a relationship with a dog.

The first is the mechanical level. This is the level where someone will ask a dog to do something and they respond.Often time, when someone is on this level, they will use force. For example, someone will ask the dog to sit. If the dog doesn’t respond they will use force to push the dog down and pull the collar up. This level may help your dog with shows, or commands, but the good, soulful relationship is missing. This is not a partnership, this is forcing your will and needs upon the dog.

The next level is motivational, which many people are on. This is where you figure out what your dog wants, what motivates them. You learn more about your dog on this level, but some people take this level of a relationship into a bad area. They will use negative motivation. Suzanne uses the example of a person, and someone asking them to do something while waving cash in their face. A dog may also be motivated through fear, pain, or deprivation (such as shock collars, witholding affection/attention. Suzanne speaks of how she got stuck on this level for many years, not necessarily using negative punishment, but using treats/rewards and nothing else.

The third level is the spiritual level. On this level, you are not asking the dog to do something. You are asking yourself, “How do we accomplish this together?” Suzanne describes this in detail, but it is where you and your dog “do the dance”. Your dog is always watching you. From their eyes your motions and actions build or take away from their relationship. You must always be thinking of how things will impact your relationship with your dog. For example, if your dog hates getting tick preventative drops on them, and they run away, you need to think how will this impact my relationship with my dog if I force it on them. Well, really it will show them they can’t trust you, and you bring fear, not pleasure. So instead you might think of another way to prevent ticks, or figure out how you can work together to do this. It’s thinking as a team.

If you never get to the third level, it’s okay. You can still have a very loving relationship with your dog, but you will not have that full companionship. I find this true. In the beginning of my training and life with my dog, I started at the first level. I went to a standard puppy training class, where you ask the dog to do something, and they have to listen. Then I progressed to using motivation such as treats and toys to get the actions I wanted. At this stage things got hairy. Not just the dog, but the training. My dog started reacting towards people and dogs, especially after being attacked by another dog in the neighborhood on a walk.

I wasn’t listening to her. She would tell me she was afraid of walking outside, and afraid of dogs and people. She did this through freezing and through physical signs. I didn’t listen, and things got worse. Eventually I started researching, reading, and found an excellent trainer who holds similar views as Suzanne and myself. We started making recipes, building a basis (started trianing, building a relationship and basic skills). I fed her and said her name (associating her name with good things). I threw her treats to build a relationship and build the foundation, just like baking. Suzanne uses that in her book…if you start cooking or baking you build a basis with a cookbook, but eventually you don’t need the book, and you and and take away things based on the needs. Same with the dog. I built the basis, with things from a book, now I go to training and we do what she needs. I also listen to her now. She is much happier and I have seen lots of progress.

For example, outside today she laid on the porch. People walked in the distance and she just looked. A fly flew by, she tried to eat it. This may seem little, but she used to be terrified of flies. She would freak out and panic with big eyes jumping around, anxious and wouldn’t relax. She now is at peace at home, and on walks. She can walk around the neighborhood without freezing all the time, and can turn and walk away from other dogs on call. I believe this is because I am listening, our relationship has improved, and we built a basis to build upon.

Yes, Dogs Not Only Pray…But Smile Too!

I am currently reading a book called, If A Dog’s Prayers Were Answered, Bones Would Rain From the Sky” Deeping our relationships with dogs. Suzanna Clothier is inspiring. I have only read the first few chapters, but already love her, and her passion for relationships with animals.

She speaks of a friend who adopted a dog who came from a bad situation. The woman had previously had a dog all her life who behaved, grew up with her throughout her life, into teenage years and adulthood. The dog obeyed, was her partner and companion. This reminds me of my own life. I had a dog from 2nd grade until I was in college, then in adulthood adopted another dog after my first dog passed away. Anyway, the newly adopted dog had issues at training and with trainers. However, the real problem was not the dog, it was the trainers. These trainers would hold down dogs until they were submissive and the dogs peed themselves out of fear.

Many times we blindly follow trainers, thinking they know the best for our dog (I have done this). In the book, the dog runs away from the woman (it was a stray for a long time, and was in a shelter for over 6 months in a cage). The dog seems panicked and will run and not come back. On the advice of trainers, she did a shock collar, and the dog was terrified. It made the dog regress and the relationship between herself and her dog was torn apart.

Training is not really training, it is building a relationship with your dog. This makes me realize, as I have in real life, we must LISTEN to our dog, like Suzanne says. Our dogs are always sending us messages, talking to us, but most of the time we aren’t listening. We know when our dog is nervous and doesn’t want to do something. We know when our dog is excited. They talk to us. Not in human talk silly, but in dog talk. When they are nervous we see their tail go up, we see them get rigid and they look alert or freeze. We know when they are happy…YES dogs not only pray, but they smile too!

 Sometimes I admit I have not listened to my dog telling me things. For instance, my dog was telling me not bring her close to someone she was scared of, ears alert, tail up. Someone with me said that it was okay, don’t be such a worry wart, the dog will be fine. I listened of course, and it wasn’t okay. She freaked and I took her away. But the trust was gone there after a few times of not listening to her. Building a relationship takes time. I have taken time with her, and we rebuilt our relationship and it has blossomed. Suzanne tells in her book about how we should think about dogs. We should treat them like we want to be treated. We should think about our relationship with them such as, “What would you think if someone shocked you, or pinched you? Would you trust and like to be around them? Would you listen to them?” It’s true. What kind of relationship with our dog, who we love is that?

This woman’s story is very true to everyone in the world. Some people think of dogs as being “just dogs”. They are not just dogs. They have emotions, feelings, and even PRAY! They pray for things to fall when you are cooking. They pray to run in an open field. They pray for people to stop hurting them, or to get out of a cage. Like Suzanne says, their prayers are sometimes answered when we “accidentally” drop food. They communicate and pray, you can see it in their eyes! Haven’t you ever seen them just staring in the distance, or looking up at you as if they are seeing through you? Yep, they are praying!

I have so much more to say on so many topics brought up in the book. Suzanne has so many good things to say which I have mentioned! More to come later.