Small steps

I’ve had Maia for 9 months, and while sometimes I feel like there’s been no improvement, I know that’s not true. *I* have learned her triggers and her body language and most of the time can head her off before she decides to bark or lunge at anyone.

Today, though, I got to see just how much improvement there has been. I was in one of the soon-to-be tennis courts so that I could let Maia off leash, play some fetch, and do some basic training outside where there are distractions. Three guys came into the adjoining court that is only separated by a chain link fence from where we were, and started playing ball hockey. Maia ran at the fence and barked and did her “I’m actually really scary” lunge up and down but she came away when I called her.

Let me just say that again for emphasis. She left the scary situation and came to me on the other side of the court when I called her.

I decided to use this wonderful distraction so we worked on sit-stays and down-stays. We started way on the other side, then moved to about the halfway point, and then ended up only about eight feet from the fence. I had Maia sitting or lying so that she was facing the guys, who were yelling at each other, bashing their sticks around, and hitting balls against the separating fence.

Not only did she have her attention focused on me almost the entire time, just taking the occasional glance at the boys, she also only broke her stay once and that was my fault for giving her conflicting information. I am so proud of my special-needs dog! I am convinced that going to agility classes is contributing to the big leap forward in her ability to watch me and listen to what I want, and then to actually do it.

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