Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Training Tuesday: Behavior Edition

With the cold weather and short days, I've been making an effort to take Maisy to pet stores to train. This not only gives us much more room for heeling than our small house, but also provides a bonus in the way of distractions. She's doing very well, and I think we've got some of the issues with the fast pace worked out (I hope!), but today's post is much cooler than that.

 A video still from yesterday's training session at PetSmart.

Last week, I took Maisy to PetCo in the late afternoon and was surprised by how busy they were. While we where there, we saw several children in the 5 to 10 age range, quite a few men in hats, some women pushing carts, and most notably, there was a training class with several dogs in it going on. The class was working on loose leash walking in the aisles, and one of the dogs was straddling that fine line between over-exuberance and reactivity. He was straining on his leash and making that awful wheezing noise- a sound Maisy particularly dislikes.

Maisy and I worked through it all. We did fronts and finishes. We practiced heeling with auto-sits. We changed pace, both fast and slow. We worked very, very hard to walk past stray bits of kibble on the floor. We did stays. And we did it all within five feet of people and kids and dogs. I was happy with her performance, and I made some mental notes about things we need to work on, and thought about how I might adjust criteria in the future.

It wasn't until several days later that I realized the sheer awesomeness of Maisy's performance. Her obedience was good, yes, but her behavior was even better. There is absolutely NO WAY that she could have handled that kind of environment a year ago without flipping out. And yet, somehow, there she was, not only ignoring all the craziness around us, but eagerly engaged in work.

Behavior work is so slow and gradual that sometimes it's easy to miss progress as it's happening. It's easy to take improvement for granted since it looks so much like the day before. And sometimes- like today- I step back to see the whole picture and am absolutely awestruck. I am so, so proud of my dog. 


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Yay Maisy! That is huge!!!

Crystal Thompson said...

I know! How dumb was I to miss it?

Jen said...

Go Maisy! Congratulations to both of you, really.

(and shouldn't those kids be in school?!)

Amy said...

Behavior is one those "one step forward, two steps back" and then forward one step again. It's easy to get caught up in the undesirable behaviors and forget to focus on the good.

Crystal Thompson said...

Jen- nah. It was 5 or 6- well past out-of-school time for the day.

Amy- I think that as dogs get better, it's easier to take the good behavior for granted, making the undesirable behavior stick out that much more. But at least I did see the good, even if it took me a few days. :)

Ninso said...

I totally agree about how easy it is to just get used to new behavior (good or bad). Jun has been so calm in the house (you know, for her) since starting Trazodone that when she had her most recent agitation response to sertraline and was acting like her old self it was incredibly frustrating. I have no idea how I lived with that for so long!

Anonymous said...

Maisy rocks! And you too, of course! :)


Crystal Thompson said...

Ninso- YES! When we were at my parents' house for Thanksgiving, Maisy's anxiety was back to baseline levels. It was AWFUL. I felt so bad for her, and more than that, I couldn't believe we'd all lived with that for four years. Poor Maisy.

andrea said...

you should be proud of you too!!