Friday, October 16, 2009

Flying By Night

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.


BRUTUS October 16, 2009 at 7:26 PM  

It sounds like the tow of you are learning together! It just blows my mind how perceptive these quadrupeds are! And so easily misunderstood too!


Queen B October 16, 2009 at 7:41 PM  

One small step, one giant leap towards success! It will get better! =)

The Army of Four October 16, 2009 at 9:00 PM  

I LOVE that first photo! Great effects!

Kathy Mocharnuk October 16, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

OOOH it sounds like a really terrific time of year for Marge. I love to watch dogs doing the zoomies when they are really happy

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! October 16, 2009 at 9:19 PM  

It seems like Marge is doing a furry nice job of teaching woo!

Mom says yes, she's read about how we learn from them - I guess no difFURent than how human children pikhkup 'things' from their parents!

I know the two of woo will do fine by each other!


RILEY AND STAR MY MALTESEKIDS October 16, 2009 at 9:22 PM  

Hi Marge,

Do you ever rest? Boy, we sure wish we had your enery!

Riley and Star.

Carolyn October 16, 2009 at 9:46 PM  

Hey Sam!

Love the first picture. What a great motion shot!

You know, someone once pointed out to me that for every reaction (on my part) there is an equal and opposite reaction (on my dog's part). Wonder where they got that line? Lol! But the point was made. When I decided Cooper might react to something, he did. Finally I stopped caring about Cooper's "reacting" and *voila* he doesn't react much anymore! Granted, different dogs, wayyyyyyy different experiences, and different ages. But it is a lovely thing to realize, isn't it?

You do such a great job with Marge! Wish I had your consistency (and energy)!


Deborah October 16, 2009 at 9:49 PM  

I love a 20' leash. Those are the best! Especially the ones that can real back in! The first photo is a great action shot!! You Go Marge!!

Cyndi and Stumpy October 16, 2009 at 9:56 PM  

I love a dog zoomin! those shots are great!

Our dogs are hearing us all the time, even when we aren't speaking or they aren't listening. They are truly amazing and Marge is blessed to have you listening so closely!

Martha October 17, 2009 at 5:02 AM  

We loved the first picture - zooooom - there goes Marge - faster than the speed of light!
Martha & Bailey xxxx

Dexter October 17, 2009 at 7:35 AM  

It is most difficult to stay calm for the people when they know their doggies might be getting nervous. Even if they make calm face, sometimes we can tell that they are still on guard.

You two are working very hard together, though, and checking in with mom is the right thing to do. She will tell you if there is real danger.


P.S. I don't check in even if mom bops me on the head. Whoops.

Anonymous October 17, 2009 at 9:02 AM  

OMG. Do I sense some hope forming on the horizon? :D

You should really, read this last post, and compare it to some earlier ones, back a couple months ago... I think you'd see some considerable improvement in Marge. :D

I know I do, and I'm so proud of you both!

Frankie Furter and Ernie October 17, 2009 at 9:31 AM  

Hey Marge, you cover a LOT more turf on your zoomers than I can on one of mine. I suppose it might be beclaws my legs are soooo much shorter than yours. It looks like you had a super time. Good going gal!!

KB October 17, 2009 at 10:11 AM  

Your observation about 'social referencing' sounds important. You might be able to help Marge with lots of things by acting like they're no big deal. I know, however, how hard it can be to act totally relaxed when you're afraid of your dogs reaction to something.

I love the zoomies!

Cinnamon and Mint October 17, 2009 at 4:17 PM  

It's great to hear that your efforts are paying off. Keep up the good work!

I wish we had non-jumping agility classes here in New Zealand! We only have Standard and Jumpers classes.

Bijou October 18, 2009 at 10:26 AM  

Hi Marge,

I'm glad you are liking this cooler weather. I'm not! BOL


Lorenza October 18, 2009 at 9:44 PM  

Hi, Marge!
Sure you and your Mom are learning from each other!
I am not a big fan of cold weather but here has been hot... very hot! And my mom is waiting for fresher days!
Kisses and hugs

Golden Daily Scoop October 19, 2009 at 3:50 PM  

Hi Marge, I love your blog and all the pics!!! I like the cooler weather too!!!

lotsa licks,

Sue October 19, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

You may be on to something there. If she can't feel tension on the leash, she may not react quite so strongly. It was encouraging this weekend to see dogs with fears and phobias doing so well in obedience. I, too, like the security factor of not having them off-leash outdoors.

Golden Samantha October 19, 2009 at 11:03 PM  

That first photo is fabulous! Sorry for not commenting in so long - I'm fascinated by how you've figured out what works for both you and Marge. What tasks you have, but such skills and... eventually... great success. Zoomies are wonderful!!! So glad to hear how well things are going. If Sammie and I go for walks where she has to be on a leash, I always use a flexi. It works wonders for her and for me heheheee!
Hugs xo
Sammie and mom

Scout and Freyja October 20, 2009 at 2:40 AM  

Take a deep breath and just ♥ Marge. You are such a good momma and do such wonderful things with her but stop an' smell the roses, too! Dogs know how to do that...take a cue from one of the best teachers on earth - the one at the other end of the leash.

Ruby and Penny October 20, 2009 at 1:29 PM  

I have noticed the same with my rescue Penny. She came from a farm and did not know anything about city living. A car door closing 2 doors down would cause her to wake up the whole house at night. It does get better. The more love and consistency you provide will only do wonders for Marge. Penny is now used to city living.
Love Ruby & Penny

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