Sunday, October 9, 2011

My little girl is growing up

There are moments in life where you look at your dog, see a behavior and think, "Wow, I remember when she used to do the complete opposite."  Sometimes you notice behaviors your dog never used to do and reflect upon a time when you didn't have to figure out how to correct it.  And then there are those awesome days when your dog takes you by complete surprise and they do what you never expected, and you remember how important it is to trust that they can do what you hope for. 

We don't have a tremendous amount of foot traffic to our condo.  For the most part, Abby's routines are such that she is home with us, and her interactions with people outside of our family unit come outside of our house.  But when that changes and people come over, she becomes unhinged.  She becomes a razorbacked girl on patrol, barking her head off at everyone.  Presuming that she does stop barking, she sits rigidly waiting to pounce and stares them down.  If they offer the slightest movement - even shifting in their chair - she goes right back to barking and patroling. 

One thing that we talked about with the behaviorist was the idea of using her mat as a tool for when people come over.  We've built our training on the idea of mat and giving Abby a place where she can feel relaxed and safe; a home base of sorts.  We've used this within the framework of our classes, and when in class Abby's default work mode is to lay down on her mat and chill.  The behaviorist suggested utilizing this for when she greets people. 

Today my father was coming over to meet my husband and go to the Patriots game together.  Immediately I had flashbacks to the last time my parents came over where Abby barked virtually the entire time, wouldn't approach them except to get closer for barking at them, and finally she laid down with her body rigid and tensed as she glared at them.  I was really hoping to avoid this situation if at all possible.  So out came the mat, and we worked on some relaxation.  We had about 20 minutes in before Dad came over, and as soon as Bill went downstairs Abby was barking.  I was unable to call her to her mat with her queue, so instead I tried to walk her over to it.  She did not want to settle on her mat.  By this point Bill and Dad had come upstairs, and she was off her mat and barking.  I told my Dad to completely ignore her, not look at her, and pretend she wasn't there.  I hugged him, he sat down, and in under 2 minutes Abby was completely different.  The fact that my Dad had completely ignored her made her super interested in him.  You could see a shift where she suddenly was like, "Why isn't this person paying attention to me?  Doesn't he see me?"  So instantly she approached him, jumped up to greet him, and give him kisses.  She settled down nicely, and even walked out of the house with us to say goodbye. 

So on days where you think back to just how far your near two-year-old companion has come, and you smile.  Today was a reason to smile. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kelly! I just found your site and I'm already really enjoying it. I look forward to swapping more dog stories soon :)

    -Heather (and Jack)