Goals and Progress
While it is logical to start here, it’s also a bit embarrassing. My goals for this year were… ambitious. Not in the sense that they were impossible to accomplish, but in the sense that I didn’t really work on them. Oh, sure, I had the best of intentions, but somehow they slipped away from me.
|Maisy showing off her best trick.|
Officially, I was to work on writing training plans and keeping records. Although I did keep some records (and was quite enthusiastic about it, too), I fell off the wagon early on. Another great in theory/bad in practice goal was trying to achieve stimulus control on three basic behaviors. Complete and utter failure. I did a bit better on my goal to teach Maisy 12 tricks… but only a bit. I taught two. I did the best on my goal to train in shorter sessions. I’d say we still go longer than 3 minutes sometimes (which was my goal), but a session almost never goes more than 5 minutes.
Unofficially, I wanted Maisy to be more comfortable with life (huge check), and go to a trial and/or runthrough (check and check). I wanted to become a cleaner trainer, which is a work in progress, but at least it’s, you know, in progress. I failed at getting more things on verbals, but I was very successful at taking more videos and photos. We definitely went hiking (maybe not enough, but some), and had tons of fun.
Thankfully, I can call the year a success. As I said last year: no matter where we’re at in another year, as long as we’re together, I’ll call it successful. And so we are.
Trials and Accomplishments
We made it! Hooray! After retiring her last year, we had three very good experiences. Back in April, Maisy and I went and hung out at an APDT trial. Then, in November, we entered (and did quite well at) a CDSP runthrough. Finally, just this past Monday, we entered a CDSP obedience trial, where she was awesome.
Medication and Behavior
We’ve probably made the most progress in this area, but then, this is where we’ve spent most of our time, energy, and money.
|Great Danes? Scary? Nah...|
Maisy has definitely improved in her ability to relax, both at home and in public, and I have been able to relax along with her. I no longer feel the need to scan the environment constantly for potential triggers, and I can walk her without fear of over-the-top reactions. She’s still reactive at times- I don’t think it’ll ever go away entirely- but it’s rare, and she recovers much quicker than ever before. She’s been able to hang out with strange dogs without issue, including former “trigger dogs” (large, black dogs with prick ears), and she's even been a decoy for another reactive dog!
We also graduated from reactive dog class this summer. This wasn’t entirely planned- our instructor moved, and we never really joined another class- but it seems to be okay. I haven’t seen any backsliding, and although we didn’t discuss it directly, at our appointment in December, Dr. Duxbury didn’t seem to think we needed to get back into class.
Skills and Training
I was incredibly inspired by the Denise Fenzi seminar in July, and have since spent time working on Maisy’s obedience behaviors again. Well, “work” might be the wrong word here- one of the things I really took away from the seminar is that work is play. We are finally both having fun with obedience training. Maisy’s heeling is about a billion times better than it was last year, and she has something approaching a real retrieve now. It still needs work, but we’ve come a long, long way, and I finally believe it’s possible.
Me and My Growth
Finally, I feel like I’ve done a lot this year, too. Not only have I continued to learn, I’ve also gotten some hands-on experience with other dogs, too. To top it off, I’ve done some pretty cool dog-related activities.
Knowledge first. Although I didn’t do a very good job at keep track, I’ve continued to read plenty of books on dogs. The ones I know I’ve read includes: SOS Dogs, Inside of a Dog, and So You Want to be a Dog Trainer. (Next year, I'll definitely do a better job of keeping track!)
|Sara and I at the Fenzi seminar. Photo by Robin Sallie.|
One neat experience that I had- but didn’t write about here- was acting as a trial chair for a UKC obedience and rally trial. I was pressed into service when the previous chair moved away this summer. I was really overwhelmed by everything I needed to do, but I had a lot of support, and the trial went off without a hitch. WOW, though. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes. If you take your dog to shows or trials, please take a moment to thank the host club and the workers for all they do. Better yet, volunteer to help out if you can. I guarantee that your assistance will be greatly appreciated.
I began volunteering with BEST this year, too. This program was started by my friend Sara as an extension of Paws Abilities Dog Training in Rochester, and provides free training classes to dogs in shelters and rescues in order to make them more adoptable. I’ve worked mostly handling dogs during class, but also did a bit of teaching.
Speaking of teaching, I became an official dog trainer this fall when I began teaching reactive dog classes for Paws Abilities. It’s been challenging, but it’s also been fun to see the growth in my students. Working with a reactive dog is not easy, and I’m excited to help people develop the skills they need to be successful.
2011 was a pretty awesome year all the way around. On pretty much every front, Maisy and I made at least some progress, and I cannot tell you how incredibly proud I am of my little muppet dog. I am just so happy with her. It will be pretty difficult to top 2011... but I'm sure going to try! I can't wait to see what 2012 brings!