We’re baaa-aaccckk!

After a brief hiatus from blogging, I expect to be back at it regularly now. Tonight Ziva begins her first Rally class, and I cannot wait! What is Rally, you say? Well, I came across this great little video of an older gentleman and his adorable middle-aged looking dog, who both seem to be having a wonderful time in their beginner competition. The video has German signs, and the dog is off the leash — two differences in our training that begins tonight. But anyway, enjoy!

I just love watching this video, because that is the world’s happiest dog. When you doubt the saying that “every dog needs a job,” remember the happy dog in this video.

So. We have some work to do, lol.  But — we have come such a long way in one year. The most important thing is that Ziva has learned how to calm herself down in new and stimulating environments. She is still a very energetic dog, and she will be for many years to come. But when she came to our family 12 months ago, she would wind herself up into a state of frantic panic whenever she was stressed. (Read the very first posts in this blog to see just how far we have come.) She still barks at strange dogs, yes. She still has a hard time not getting too excited when she plays with other dogs, yes. But! Last year at this time, we were wrestling with her trying to fit a “no-pull” harness on her, and then getting dragged down the street by her. We were trying to leave the house without her practically leaping through the window, barking and whining. We were trying to keep her from going after the cats.

Today, Ziva walks on her leash, heeling with a few reminders. She is often home alone all day, and sleeps most of the time (she still steals a shoe or two and puts it in her bed. Knock on wood, she hasn’t chewed them.) Ziva and the cats are now good friends, and although she still often lifts her head when one of them walks into the room, she doesn’t leap off the couch, and a simple “Leave it” command gets her head back down and her eyes shut.

Her self-control has gotten so much better! She knows “Sit” and will hold it until you release her. The other morning my wife told Ziva “Sit” in the kitchen because she was a little bit in the way while we were both getting coffee and puttering. Then Laura started to leave the room, and I called to her and pointed at Ziva, who was holding her “Sit.” “You have to release her,” I said. Laura said “Free!” and Ziva ran to her, tail wagging and grinning face, “Look how good I am!”

A year ago? uh, no. No way.

And because she is so much better now, I am really trying to take Ziva to more places, which I know is crucial to desensitizing her to a lot of the things that stress her. Because she is better, but also because I feel more confident about how to handle a blow-up — or better yet, keep the blow-up from happening in the first place.  Last week I took her for the first time to get a bath at a pet store. It was a week day, and fortunately there were no other dogs in the store at the time. But it was a totally new experience for her, and she did really well. We went for a hike beforehand, and then when we got to the store I had her do a Behavioral Down on the sidewalk just outside the door. She struggled to calm down, and while she was straining a bit two suburban moms came walking by and went “awwwww.” The one reached out to Ziva, and I said “uh, we are trying to get calm.” And she said, “Oh!” and pulled her hand back. Now, I never for a moment worried that Ziva would do anything bad, like bite her or anything, but this lady didn’t know that! Ziva was totally fine, except that it got her more excited. But really.  Reach out to a dog that is obviously very excited and straining on the leash? I know Ziva is “pocket” GSD, but seriously? Don’t do it, people.

Tonight’s class starts at 6 p.m., which should be very interesting since Ziva usually begins to get sleepy about 7. But I’m working from home today, and am trying everything I can to make sure she is successful tonight. We’ve already had one good walk, and will do another later this afternoon. Hot dogs (yes, just for Rally training), lots of exercise, and some CR massage, and she should be good to go. Stay tuned for more ….

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