Think Small, and Big Things Happen
Meet my rescue sheltie, Mika. Here she is in the pic to the right, and she's the sable colored dog chasing the little guy in the picture below. Her ‘gotcha day’ is November 16th. It will be one year since she joined our family. She was turned in to rescue due to her original owner’s unforeseen health issues, and was in at least two fosters prior to joining our family. Needless to say, she’s lived in a few different environments, with different people, who certainly handle and train differently.
When Mika came to us, she was very dog reactive, meaning she would bark and lunge, and make a ruckus when she saw another dog. Mika gets along quite well with other dogs (she has two ‘brothers’ in my home), after she meets them. It’s just that when she saw them, and was on leash, she would react as I described because she felt either an intense drive to chase them, or because she was worried about their presence. (Sometimes it was both.) Now, I was hoping to teach her agility, and eventually have her compete. In fact, the rescue recommended her as a great potential agility dog. So, you can imagine how I felt at the time. How could I ever expect my new dog to compete in agility, or even be in class, if she couldn't calm herself around other dogs?
It’s the little things….
You may be thinking, I must have embarked on a complex, time consuming, and lengthy behavior modification program to stop this behavior and get Mika under control. The truth is, a little bit of training and a little bit of relationship building everyday were the keys. I began teaching Mika her agility skills, which she thought was a game. I also spent a little time each day working on her reactivity. I began in January, after she had some time to adjust to her new home. On October 3rd, Mika successfully competed in her first agility trial! Remember that behavior change takes time, but if you stick with it and take those small steps each day, big things do happen.