In the weeks since we finished Obedience 1 Class, it’s felt a little bit like we hit a plateau. Going on our walks, Ziva seemed to consistently challenge the “With me” command, constantly trying to walk ahead of me rather than by my side. We have a neighbor up the street with a couple of dogs who sometimes bark from behind a wooden privacy fence, and that has set her off at the start of walks so that she doesn’t seem to be able to keep herself under control. It had started to feel like we just can’t get past this challenge.
Neighborhood walks have also become a little stressful since one of our little canine friends, Peggy, was attacked by a loose dog while on her walk. Peggy was fortunately only bruised, and the loose dog was collected by animal control. But it made me nervous, and I started carrying a stick with me. I should probably still carry it, but I found that I had too many things in my hands. I’ve just gotten to the point where I can hold the leash, put my hand in my pouch for treats, reach for the spray bottle of water/vinegar, and keep an eye out for dogs/squirrels/cats/bunnies. So then I started to feel stressed about not having a stick.
But yesterday we had just the best walk. It was short, but doing behavioral down Ziva calmed herself before we left the house, and immediately she sat down when we went out the front door. Then she did a very nice “With me” down the street, with just a few corrections. I kept telling her what a good girl she was, she kept glancing up at me, so then I kept giving her treats. It really was pretty much textbook good walking. And what made me even happier was how happy she seemed to be. Because sometimes she lets me know how frustrated she is that I’m not walking faster, or that I keep stopping to get her lined up beside me. (How? She talks to me! Or rather, she talks back to me. She definitely has that vocal German Shepherd gene in her mix.) But yesterday she just seemed so happy. So when we got back home, we played in the backyard for a long time, and she kept bringing the tennis ball to me — another new thing (usually she needs a lot of coaxing to bring it and drop it).
A tired dog is a good dog, and a good dog is a happy dog. Tomorrow we begin Obedience 2 classes, and while a few days I ago I was starting to feel a little stressed about it and thinking we’re not making any more progress, now I’m back to looking forward to learning new things with Ziva and helping her reach her full potential — whatever that may be! Maybe I was stressing her out, and then she was stressing me out, which then made me stress her out even more. But she can be such a big love bug, I really just need to breath deeply, and remember this face: