Thursday, November 5, 2009

Barking Barking Everywhere

In our training class on Monday a few of the younger dogs in class were barking - a lot. While this has happened before; usually they calm down and the rest of the class is very constructive.

Coco is now almost two years old. And is fantastic. But Monday night she was all over the place. She was so focused on the barking dogs that she wouldn't sit, wouldn't look at me and I got flustered. I am real symptomatic when there is either sudden loud noise or lots of persistant noise. My brain just can't process all of that information and I start to lose focus. I get woozy and out of it.

Coco got interested in a toy and I used that for a distraction and we continued to work. I had forgotten training treats at home. I just didn't think about bringing them because I rarely use treats anymore. She does so great with praise and just being so intuned with what we are doing that I forgot we needed them for training class purposes.

Coco made a display of dominance and barked and I did not have a clue how to handle it. I asked some of my dog training friends for advice, looked over my Teamwork Manual and got together for lunch with our trainer and came up with a plan.

I was going to give our vet a call and see if Coco and I could work on down stay and watch me commands in the waiting room. It's large but can get busy. And of course, they said that was fine.

With treats in my pocket I started to work Coco before we got inside. Once inside she went into a down stay and every time she looked at me I gave her a treat and praised her. Once she was doing this on her own consistantly I alternated between praise and pets and treats. Dogs came in and left and she stayed focused on me. And I realized this was exactly what we are going to have to do out there in the real world. I was going to have to focus in on Coco just as much as she was going to have to focus in on me. By slowing down the processing and focusing in on each other it would give me time to figure out what we needed to do. Maybe I needed to put in earplugs. Whatever we were going to need to do, we were going to need to be focused in on each other and not loud noises, barking or otherwise.

For the second day in a row we have gone to the vets and she has, we have, done wonderfully. We are just doing 15 minute down stays for right now but her, our, focus has been great. No dogs were barking but that will happen eventually.

I'm now looking forward to class on Monday. If one of the dogs barks I'm going to put Coco on a down stay and have her watch me. Once she is relaxed we will start working again.

I have been learning over and over again this past year to get my eyes off of the problem and to focus on the solution. And once again, when I have done this the problem has nearly solved itself.

Instead of trying to distract Coco away from the noises we are going to face them. Instead of avoiding places where there will be lots of stimuli, we are going to face them. And so it is with life. The best way to figure out how to navigate life and move through our challenges happens when we face things headon and once we understand what the problem is we focus in on the solution. It's so empowering. So liberating.

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