Thursday, November 15, 2007

Our Quote....

So, as Katrin noticed, I not only changed the title of the blog I also added a quote:

There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going

I have been thinking a lot about all of the changes that have occurred with Ike in the past year and thinking about how I never remotely thought any of them would be possible. What Ike and I have now, this relationship, has taken 5 years to build and has been incredibly hard work; I wouldn't trade a second of it.

In retrospect I am amazed that I kept at it. Ike is the reason I want to train dogs and train their humans. He infected me with the bug!

When I got Ike, I had dreams of him being a therapy dog. Therapy dog certification was my goal for my new dog. Pretty quickly I discovered that Ike had a lot of fear issues, and it started to seem less and less likely that he would be a therapy dog. It took me two years of trying and discarding different "training" techniques to stumble upon one that was helpful. I put training in parentheses because, sorry, I don't consider shaking a can full of marbles at a dog training.

In general I don't consider using an aversive training. I think of training as working together toward a common goal. The operative words would be working together and common goal.

For the life of me, I can not recall how I stumbled across Emma Parson's book Click to Calm. The book had just been released and she was giving a two-day seminar at Masterpeace. I signed up, hoping that maybe it would help. Ike had just turned two and was starting to lunge at strangers on walks. I knew my dog was moving from fearful to reactive and aggressive because I did not have the tools to help him. I knew he could be helped, I just didn't know how.

The seminar was earthshaking for me. Emma laid out the science behind dog training and I had an "ah-ha" moment. I started to work with Ike from that day forward using the Click to Calm methodology. I also did a couple of privates with Emma to get some more insight into what the heck I was doing. I was already using a Gentle Leader at that point, which Emma was a big fan of.

In the beginning I would click-n-treat Ike the second I saw him inhale deeply (think of old-fashioned bellows); that was the first cue that Ike was gearing up to explode. I would click-n-treat, click-n-treat, click-n-treat, trying to build a positive association between the scary man, biker, etc. I learned to be MUCH more observant. I would scan for people or situations that might set Ike off and then MANAGE those situations. Sometimes I managed the situation by choosing an alternate route more often it was removing myself a good five feet off the sidewalk onto someone's lawn where I could click-n-treat in peace, obviously training.

There were still explosions and in the beginning the bad days FAR outweighed the good days. Considering where I live, in Canton, with lots and lots of sidewalks and lots of sidewalk traffic I really didn't have any alternative but to keep trying/working. As my husband John can attest, there were many days I cried. I bought stickers and placed a different sticker on each day depending upon how terrible or good it was. Initially I never broke more than one "good" day a week, but the stickers reminded me that there were good days.

The biggest change occurred when John, my husband, got on board with the clicker and bait bag. Things started to move more quickly then, but still it was very much a work in progress. We had gotten to the point that Ike would actively scan for people to be able to look at me and say, "see..." and get clicked and treated.

We had been working the Click-to-Calm methodology for two years when I started working with Katrin. I had just taken Ike off of the Gentle Leader after three years. Ike and I had gotten to the point where I recognized that Ike was NEVER going to be the dog I thought I *wanted* when we brought him home. I recognized my responsibility in making our relationship work.

When I started to work with Katrin I realized how little I had let Ike think. That was a sad thing to realize; to realize that there was this magnificent spark I had never let the wind catch. Thank the dog-gods Schnauzers tend to live a long time.

Shortly after I started working with Katrin (10/06), Ike and I took a two-day seminar to prep and take the Therapy Dogs International test. Well, we passed. I couldn't believe it. In general, things have continued to accelerate since that moment.

The biggest change came this summer when I finally realized that Ike was not enjoying the therapy dog visits, that he was only doing it for me. Well, that's no good. Around the same time a bunch of things happened all at once: Katrin asked me what my goals - true goals - for Ike are, I started feeding him a completely raw diet, I decided to focus on just agility instead of multi-tasking before I had even gotten that far....a perfect storm for me and Ike.

So, this quote strikes me so deeply in the heart.

There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going

I never suspected that the depth of relationship I have with Ike was even possible. Thankfully the dog-gods thought I was up to a challenge and set me up with Ike. Without Ike, so many amazing things would never have happened, including me finding out that training dogs and dog-people is something that makes me feel incredibly alive. Ike has changed the way I view the world, and I have obviously changed the way that Ike views the world. He still tends to think that people in general are out to get him, but he is becoming more and more confident. He trusts me. We have a true friendship, and typically we work REALLY well together.

So while it was much more work (and still is) than I ever expected, I could not be happier that a fluffy black schnauzer decided to sit on my mother-in-law's head. Yeah, that was the deciding factor. It does explain a lot, doesn't it?

And, hey, it's only taken me two days to write this!


Katrin said...

WOW! Very insightful!! GOOD JOB!!!! Click to YOU!

ann & partner said...

Julie, You are a great writer!!!

JULES & IKE said...

Thanks, Ladies. : ) I have been thinking about this for a while and when I read that quote it was like someone hit me over the head!

Shelly said...

Wow--very well expressed!