Sitting on my bed working on a quiet morning, my three dogs sound asleep, I can’t help but reflect on the last year and a half with wonder. I have watched their lives totally change in the last eighteen months, and watched them deal with an extraordinary amount of stress and watched them excel.
I often find myself saying to clients, and friends for that matter, that most of us don’t need “obedience titled” dogs. We need dogs that are part of the family, practice “house rules”, can adjust when changes happen and are stable enough to “go with the flow.” How do we get them that way? Practice, practice practice. Not the kind that gets you to Carnegie Hall, but the kind that we do everyday, all day.
The wonderful thing about positive training and learning to communicate with our canines is that it can happen everyday, all day. The dogs sit and show self control before they go out in the morning. Even the beagle who screams to go out and has to be the first, shows some semblance of control before the door opens. They sit and wait for the “breakfast” cue before every meal. They sit to get their leashes on and they are always reinforced for polite walking and paying attention. This is a great plan to live by and it helps keep your dog in the “loop of understanding” and it keeps up the “maintenance part” of training. It has proven to be more than maintenance. I never knew how much until our lives changed.
I have been recovering from surgeries for months and the activity level in this house went from high to almost nothing at all with no warning. When I had my first surgery, I really didn’t notice that the dogs hung out with me in the bedroom almost all the time. They took their regular walks, although there were no family walks. Sometimes the younger two go together which isn’t always optimal. With only one of us walking them they had to compromise. They would still go out to the yard during the day, but not as much, and with less games and outdoor impromptu training sessions. Their car rides with me stopped and so did running the bases at the park.
My three dogs are from shelters, they range in age from 5 to 10, and they are as different in breed and dogonality (that’s personality in dog) as any three dogs can be. They all came as adults and with a different myriad of behavior issues to work out. And we did. They are not champions in the field or on the course. They do not have their CGC certificates and there are no obedience or agility titles. But they have a foundation and that has come into play in such a huge way in the last several months. They were/are trained to live here with their humans and they are great with the “house rules” and our communication system. I will never question the need for that again. Well, I never really did, but many of my clients do and I have so much more personal information now, it will definitely help.
As I start to do more with them, playing, training, brushing and walking they will adjust back to their “normal” which, of course, will be different again. We will continue with the different individual behaviors we are learning and as always we will continue with our “Best for the Family,” and “Good Manners” plan that we live and breathe every day. It has proven to be absolutely necessary.
When we went from 100% to 50%, 10 months ago, the most important thing for the dogs was to keep them exercised, happy and free from stress. It could have been a disaster. However, it wasn’t. It was a perfect example of what I preach to my clients coming to fruition right in front of my eyes and it felt great. My adult dogs were very willing to hold vigil at my bedside (actually all over my bed) and wait patiently for their turn at walks. The extra play, training, going on errands and other life rewards were on hold and they handled it beautifully. They were exceptional and it was because of their great foundation. The fact that I didn’t have a rambunctious puppy or crazed adolescent dog was a huge plus. But if I did, I would have had to include that in the game plan.
Lhotse has a excellent “leave it” from sitting by my tray all those days and not being able to pounce. Kaiya had her separation issues minimized the entire time, because I was here all the time and Little Star got to be 10 and lay around like an old woman.
I know they are all starting to feel the vail of ill-health subside and Mom coming back, a little more each day. Little Star is happy today, lively. (No more old women stuff for her or me.) I played a shorter version of “Gimme Dat Ball” with her the other day and I was sure she started to smile again.