Sunday, July 11, 2010

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Working with a reactive dog is slow, painstaking work. It's hard to tell if you're making any progress at all, especially in the beginning. Gradually, your dog reacts less often, and the intensity is reduced, but because these changes happen in such small increments, you often don't notice until something huge happens.

Something huge happened this week.

Way back in the beginning, when I first learned that Maisy is reactive, one of the first triggers I identified was bikes. Oh, did she have some over-the-top displays around bikes. She barked. She growled. She rushed after them. Mostly, I think she wanted to chase them, but that impulse came out all sideways and backwards. It embarrassed me, and it scared me a little, so we started going to classes. I learned the skills needed to keep her under threshold, and I began to counter-condition her like crazy. Slowly, slowly, she's improved.

I knew that, of course, but it wasn't until this week that I really appreciated how far she's come. My husband and I were walking near a park with her at dusk, and there was a large group of pre-teens hanging out. As we neared a street corner, this whole pack of them- 8 or 10, I think- got on their bikes. As we headed into the intersection, so did the kids on their bikes, looping in huge circles and yelling to one another.

We were surrounded. Bikes, yelling children, fast movement- a year ago, Maisy would have lost it. Now? She looked at the bikes, did the doggy equivalent of shrugging her shoulders, and popped into heel position, where she never took her eyes off me.

It took a lot of self-control for her to resist the temptation to chase and bark at the loud, quickly moving bikes, and yet she was able to not only get through a tough situation, but was able to offer up some gorgeous heeling, too! Needless to say, I was so proud!


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Huge news!!! That is so fantastic how much progress she has made in a year!

katie said...

WOW! How absolutely awesome!

It is true that its hard to notice the baby steps until you see the giant ones and this was certainly a giant one! Congratulations to you and Maizey should get a jackpot of potato chips!LOL

It reminds me of the "Mother May I ?" I game we played as kids. You know the one where all the kids stand in line and there is one "mother". In turn the kids say "Mother may I take one giant step forward?" or "Mother May I take 5 tiny step forward?" Did you ever notice the kids who always asked for giant steps usually lost and the kids who consistently asked for 5 tiny steps forward almost always won?

Sometimes 5 tiny steps gets you where you want to go so much faster than rushing and pressuring the process. :) Great job-you deserve to be proud!

M.T. said...

You should be bursting with pride -- that's a BIG deal, way to go!!! :) Slow and painstaking is right, lol, so, i celebrate every little step we manage to successfully take forward!

Cinnamon said...

Hi Crystal,

My beagle, Cinnamon, is reactive too. She used to bark at bicycles and scooters very aggressively, which made me very scared and embarrassed. I also did counter-conditioning at a skateboard rink in a nearby park, and now she is pretty good at controlling herself around bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and kids. But, one big problem is still remaining, her barking at other dogs, although she has managed to pass the Foundation level of CGC assessment recently. I find your blog very helpful on that matter. I hope to report some progress here in the near future.

Cinnamon's mum

Sara and Layla said...

WOW, great job Maisy (and Crystal)! That's very impressive progress!

Bea said...

A big congrats to you both! Well done. Not very many dog owners could achieve what you have with Maisy.

Jules said...

WOW!! That's huge!