As her full name suggests she should do, Marge took the big field by storm tonight at dusk. These pictures do not do her or her speed any justice. She had a full-out zoomy fit and ran endless laps in a state of perfect bliss. I am happy to report that this is becoming a regular occurrence now that the weather is cold.
This might be a pivotal time of year for Marge. Though it is not shown here, there were still a good number of people in the field finishing up their soccer games. Because the cold weather turns Marge into a very different (and much happier) dog, I'm hoping that the fact that she can co-exist with the outside world peacefully right now may eventually carry over into spring and summer.
I am trying to make a conscious effort to a) not completely avoid situations where we need to walk around people/sounds and b) not get frustrated, discouraged or hyper vigilant when Marge begins to get concerned about something in her environment. So far, I've had the most success with both of these while out in the field. Marge knows that the 20' leash affords her more freedom, so I think that alone makes her more comfortable. Also, any tension that I may be unconsciously sending down the line doesn't really transfer to her the way it would on a 4' or 6' leash.
When Marge sees something that strikes her interest (usually in a bad way), she tends to stop in her tracks and stare at it. What I notice now from all our walks on the 20 footer is that often times, she looks back to me to see my reaction to whatever the stimuli is. Doggy social referencing, so to speak - she has been asking me all along what things are okay and which ones aren't, and I haven't always been providing her with the right feedback.
Now that I've recognized the connection she makes with my own body language and general opinion about the things around us, I have started to use it to my advantage. When she stops, I usually keep walking - the nice thing about the 20' leash is that I can keep walking and the leash will stay slack for at least a few seconds, in which time she usually looks to me, deems the situation acceptable, and continues on her way. Sometimes, at this point, I'll throw a treat out for her to go grab - she loves chasing them down as she watches their path. It is amazing how quickly she finds them against the green grass, too.
Of course, it doesn't work for things that are very direct (like if a person is walking right at us) or immensely scary (like fireworks). But, it's definitely not a bad thing to have in the behavior modification toolbox, even if it only works in the big open field.
Friday, October 16, 2009
MargeBlog started in early 2009 as a training journal for my newly adopted, skittish Lab mix, Marge. Marge's world was small back then; her fears really limited the things I could do with her. Aside from trips to the park and attending beginner training classes, Marge was mostly a stay at home gal - not because either of us wanted her to be, just because the demons from her unsuitable upbringing continued to haunt her.
Slowly, the fear diminished, her world grew. Now, Marge is a fun-loving, squirrel-chasing, winning Agility and Rally dog who accompanies me to a wide variety of places. Here, you will frequently find detailed training updates, snippets from Marge's every day life at home, and photo-filled posts detailing our many outdoor adventures.
This is more than just a dog blog - it is an actual look in to what one shelter dog's life ultimately became when she found her first and forever home and began to blossom.
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A rescue from Georgia bounced around from shelter to shelter and state to state with her siblings, Marge did not have the luxury of living in a home - my home - until just past her first birthday. A life behind bars had taken its toll on Marge, whose obvious fear of people, noise, and city life in general left a lot for her to learn about how to get by in New York.
Marge is a different dog now than she was back then. It took years of new, positive life experiences, but her fears, which used to consume everything we did, are now only one theme in a great big book of adventures.
These days, Marge enjoys going to training classes, taking trips to agility trials, having play dates with friends, and eating anything that's even remotely edible - not bad for a dog who spent her puppy days in cages.
My time with Marge has been a learning experience for which I am ever grateful. As my first dog, she has taught me and continues to teach me so much more than I ever imagined about dogs, training, and behavioral/fear issues. She's a fun dog with a sense of humor who loves life and learning.
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- A Pleasant Day
- Tuesday Training 13
- The Wonder Drug?
- Windy Woods
- Tuesday Training 12
- Flying By Night
- Totem Poles, Tongues, and Thanks to You
- Snug as a Bug
- Tuesday Training 11
- Hiking Ol' Blue
- Under Blue Skies
- Marge Goes to New Jersey
- Dancing in the Fading Light
- Tuesday Training 10
- Trial Tribulations
- Cratework Commences
- Overcast, Having a Blast
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