|We love you all, really, we do.|
If you've been following our journey over the past month--from Barley and Rye's first introduction to their recent play sessions--it's pretty obvious our agility trainer, who came to our house to help us out, is one of our biggest mentors. But for this post, we're going to go all the way back to May 19, 2011, which is the day I first emailed the general inquiries email address for our current training center.
I'd had Barley for about 4.5 months by that point, but I can't remember exactly what prompted me to send the email then. I vaguely remember posting something on Facebook along the lines of "why does my dog act like she wants to eat every dog we pass on our walks?!" and a college friend I hadn't seen in years, but who had a dog rescued from a fighting ring making some comment about working with a trainer--but I can't remember if those things happened around the same time or not. All I know is that by that point I'd realized Barley was a lot more than I'd bargained for when we drove away from the APL a few months earlier.
I remember being nervous because I didn't want to tell someone that my dog didn't like other dogs. I'd never heard of a reactive dog then and it was scary to tell someone that my dog snarled and lunged when we saw other dogs. I remember thinking, "What if they tell me she's too dangerous to keep?" I sent the email early in the morning--way before business hours--because I was scared of what kind of response I might get, so I wanted to be sure I didn't get one immediately.
I inquired about the pricing of private lessons and scheduling and then went on to say: "I adopted a one-year-old border collie mix in January. She behaves beautifully around people; she can sit, shake, and lay down. But now that it's getting warmer and we're spending more time outside, I've noticed that she is very aggressive around other dogs. When we go on walks and she sees another dog, she'll twist and yip and growl. She's spent a little time with my parents' dog and over time has gotten more comfortable with her, but she can't be left unsupervised with their dog. I've heard this can be improved by working with a trainer, but I'm afraid to enroll her in a group class because I think she'd be a distraction to the rest of the group."
|I never dreamed that a year later, she'd have her Canine Good Citizen certificate.|
The response I got back later that day gave me so much hope: "My specialty is retraining and rehabilitating shelter and rescue dogs. There are many ways to approach the issues you are dealing with. We use reward based training methods. Private lessons are $30.00 per 1/2 hour. What days and times work best for you?"
That email exchange introduced me to the world of positive reinforcement and reactive dog training and my life hasn't been the same since. While lots of people love my Barley girl, our first trainer is the only person who loves her like I do (and is the only non-family person I will leave Barley with when I travel). She's taught me how to manage Barley's reactivity so that we can live a mostly normal life. These skills also gave me a strong foundation for training Rye to be the best dog she can be.
|This is Barley's best friend, my sister-dog Maz.|
She's also taught me to stand up for my dog. One day, we were in a group class--I can't remember which one, maybe agility for fun or tricks and games? It was one of our first group classes. We did a good job keeping our distance from other classmates, but I hadn't perfected my "I'm Beth and this is Barley and we need space" introduction speech for new classmates yet. One day, one of our less considerate and observant classmates let her dog--something fluffy, but I can't remember what--get close to Barley; there was no contact, but Barley corrected the dog by snapping at her. Our trainer (who is a tiny woman) stopped class, walked up to the woman, put her chest against the other woman's chest, and said do you like this? The woman said no. Our trainer said, "Barley doesn't like that, either. Keep your dog in her own space." The woman was obviously upset--and I don't think she ever came back to class--but I learned how important it is to stand up for my dog regardless of whether that makes people uncomfortable. Someone being embarrassed or uncomfortable is a lot better than putting my dog in a situation where she feels like her only option is to bite someone or something. For someone who doesn't like conflict, that was a hard, but important lesson to learn.
Thanks to our trainer teaching us positive training methods and giving us a strong foundation, Barley has gone on to walk 1000+ miles a year with me for several years now, has taken agility classes for 5+ years, has taken noseworks classes, and has accepted her little sister (for the most part). I can't imagine what our life would be without the support we've gotten from this wonderful woman.
Thanks to our hosts Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days for giving us a chance to give our trainer a shout out as well as read about everyone else's training inspirations and mentors (or general positive training posts). The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop beings the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. Be sure to read all of the other great blogs participating this month!