Well, I survived Parenting 101, but I’m only just now catching up on my life! It always takes me a few days to get back on top of things when I go away for the weekend, and this weekend was particularly hectic. Each day I spent close to 14 hours a day entertaining a four year old and then, when she’d finally fall asleep (around 11pm) I had to do my work. I was completely sleep deprived by the end of the weekend, and quite grateful to only have four border collies to entertain. Much, much less work. Whew.
I haven’t really done any training all week, but I must be doing something subconsciously because Kestrel is getting better about a few things, like playing fetch. She will steel the ball from the other dogs but now, instead of running around like a goof and playing keep away, she brings it to me for a game of tug. And when I tell her ‘that’ll do’, she races back and waits for me to throw it. So she’s cluing in, which is making the game way more fun for everyone.
She’s also starting to come out of her shell more around Ross. He pretty much ignores her but still gives her the evil eye or a grumble in her general direction, both being enough to shut her down. But she’s starting to ignore that and go about her business anyway, which is what Hannah and Mira have learned to do.
One thing I really need to work on with Kess is her obsession with people. When she sees a person, she starts to whine and squeak and dance around and tug and lung. And if she’s off leash she’ll charge up to the person and start leaping and jumping and squealing and whining all over them. It’s really bad. Even dog lovers are overwhelmed. Fortunately she’ll come back to me if I call her, even after she’s started charing. She’s a weird combination of obsessive and extremely biddable. I can stop her mid-stride with one word. Thank goodness.
I see this obsessiveness as being similar to fear aggression. Fear and obsession are two sides of the same coin in my opinion (and the opinions of others more knowledgeable than I). So I am going to start working with her the same way that I would work with a dog who would charge and bite someone. Ie. work on impulse control and focus, and shape new behaviours for this obsession, like having her turn to me for a game of tug when she sees a person, rather than charge over to say hi (or whatever she’s doing in her mind).
Interestingly, Kess was absolutely amazing with the four year old. Even Hannah had a limited tolerance for this kid, mostly just nimbly dodging around the lunging hugs and grabs. I played hard defense with Ross, letting him hang out with us but not letting the kid bother him. I think she remembered the time when Ross nose butted her when she tried to give him a bear hug, an she didn’t pester him much. Mira couldn’t be trusted except in my arms. If I set her down, the four year old became obsessed with touching her (because she was forbidden from doing so), and of course this freaked Mira out. The one time I let them meet, through a four inch crack in the door, Mira was fine while sniffing the girl’s hand. But as soon as the kid leaned forward to pet her, Mira launched at her face. She didn’t move more than an inch because I was ready for it, and the door prevented the girl from getting closer. But that was the end of that and Mira spent the rest of the weekend in a crate for her own safety.
But Kess, she was wonderful. She played and played and played with this little girl, letting her maul her and bear hug her and roll around on the floor. And when she squealed like little kids are prone to doing, Kess would play bow to her and wag her tail. Even more amazingly, while she knocked the kid flat a couple of times the first day, Kess learned to jump and leap around this child without touching her. So clearly she is in full control of herself while engaged in this rather wild behaviour, which gives me hope that I’ll fairly easily be able to curb and refocus it.
Tomorrow we are going to do agility at the arena, which I have booked for one hour of training. I have my training notes mapped out and a plan of action for each dog, so hopefully we’ll have fun and make some progress.