Dog’s Eye View: I’ve really gone and done it this time
February 3, 2018
At the end of July last year, I lost my dog Skippy. So many of you emailed or called with sympathy and understanding about losing such a special companion dog. My grief ran deep and emptied my soul out at her loss. I was honored with 11 years of constant companionship and training and playing and being my travel buddy and confidant.
We had an amazing relationship and a great time together. I spent the first four weeks after her death going through every avenue of grief and guilt and anger and emptiness. I found great comfort in spending time with clients and students and their dogs. My little dog Max came to my rescue as only a little furry Min Pin munchkin can. He stepped in and kept me company and played nose work games and kept me smiling.
Then one day I took the plunge. I turned to Petfinder and started searching through hundreds of dog pictures in hopes that one would touch my heart and get my engine running again. That was an incredible experience!
And now four months after her adoption, this little dog has shown me who she is. It takes time to peel the onion to see how many layers of behaviors she will share with me. I've been impressed, blown away, disappointed, challenged and comforted by her companionship. The journey has really just begun as we discover how much socialization she still needs and how many life experiences trigger her defensive mechanisms.
She seems to "bark first and ask questions later" and needs more space to explore and determine whether people she meets are safe. Novel sights and sounds put her into alert mode. So, we have our work cut out to help her adapt to an active social life with me and support her as she overcomes some things that she finds frightful.
There are no shortcuts to any behavior modification program. Ruby and I work on trust and communication first. We need that for her to look to me to help her feel safe. And I need to be one step ahead and be ready to intervene to prevent her defensive displays. Space means safety for any dog, and each dog has an individual threshold.
Recommended Stories For You
The good news is that she is highly motivated to learn new things and play every game I introduce her to. She's a willing nose work dog and will take her Odor Recognition Test at the end of this month. My work ahead of time isn't so much practicing nose work as it is entering and exiting the building with her "comfort zone" in mind. I know that within the next couple of years this will all be a distant memory and her ability to search in any environment will develop.
She learns new tricks the first time we introduce them and loves to practice them on a daily basis. Trick training helps us build more communication and deepen our trust bond.
Foundation training gives her a "menu" of other behaviors to choose from instead of her first defensive reaction of barking. I want her to be able to turn to me and focus on me to move past the things that give her pause. She is slowly but steadily improving. She is learning to trust the people we do nose work with and gladly greets familiar individuals.
Ruby, thank you for coming into my life. It started with loving the look of you and morphed into wondering what I was thinking. And now I see her potential and her uncertainty more clearly, and I will learn what she needs to help her grow into an amazing life companion.
Who knew? None of us know exactly what we're getting when we take on a new puppy or adopt a new dog. I've really gone and done it this time! I am excited to explore the future with Ruby Monday. Happy first birthday, Ruby!
Laura Tyler is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with 30+ years of experience and has earned Associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants as well as Certified Nose Work Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work™. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.