Tuesday, October 25, 2011

what makes me happy

It makes me happy to make a difference.  I train, breed and compete with my dogs, as well as belonging to a SAR team and participating in different dog clubs and organizations.  It isn't the trophies or awards that I find most fulfilling.  It isn't the personal accolades.  What makes me happiest is to be able to make a difference in the relationship of a dog and owner.

In the private lessons I offer, my clients are generally dogs who have worn out their welcome in obedience class.  They are aggressive toward people or other dogs, or so ill-behaved as to be unable to be worked in a class environment.  Today was a happy day!  In the future, I will discuss further some of the things I do with these dogs, but this morning I had a lesson with a female German Shepherd who has been fearfully aggressive.  It is raining so we moved to my pole building for the lesson.  In addition to being a new location, there are dogs barking, different smells and the rain pounding on the metal roof. Even for a dog without environmental issues this can pose a challenge.   I taught them how to begin the "spin", and sit with attention so that the dog could focus on the handler and be rewarded, to the exclusion of everything else going on.  Rewarding baby steps and effort and throwing a party for success, they were able to work together and the dog was happy and wagging her tail.  Her posture as she exited the building was free and happy, a completely different picture than when she walked inside. 

We had agreed before the lesson began that it would be brief, and that we would end with success, careful not to push the dog to a point where she shut down or stopped working. We repeated the exercise outside (where it had stopped raining)  and I saw that when the dog heard the word "ready?" she was already giving attention to the owner and wagging her tail.  I was able to demonstrate how to hold the food trapped under my thumb so that the dog comes underneath the hand to reach the treat instead of using the fingertips to deliver it and the dog was nudging my hand for more.  This from a dog whose owner was afraid to drop the leash for fear the dog would bite!  That single act made me so happy!  It made me consider how those moments can be so powerful and important.  It is what keeps me doing this.