A Long Road

My Bailey-dog is 10 years, 2 months, and 4 days old.  I've worked my tail off with her, because she is one of the coolest dogs I know, despite her abundance of issues.  She's also my youngest animal.  My parents got me quite a few pets when I was younger, forgetting that we all grow up I think!  They got lucky in the fact that I assumed financial and all other responsibility for these creatures, but I also couldn't get any more!  If I wanted a dog to trial with, it had to be the two I have.  I'm absolutely, positively, fine with that... it's made me who I am, and most importantly, it's made me not take my dogs for granted.  I couldn't cast them aside as failures because I wanted a new one.  I had to work through their issues with a limited budget, limited time schedule, and at quite a distance from "good training" places.  Do I have regrets?  No, I really try not to have regrets in life.  Every single experience teaches me something I didn't know before.  Are there things I wish I knew more about?  Absolutely!

Poor, poor Buzz.  He was like a science experiment.  I still can't believe everything we've done.  If anyone had seen my dog when he was younger, you'd never, ever, think the dog you see today was him.  He used to be labeled "aggressive."  I am NOT kidding you.  My happy-go-lucky-mush of a dog was given an aggressive label.  The first question should be why, but it's actually when.  From what I remember, Buzz tried to tell some dogs off for being in his space years ago.  I'm sure it was in a reasonable manner and the dog didn't/couldn't respond.  I had no idea what was going on, so he likely aggressed and I was told to correct him for it.  Thus he began to associate ALL dogs with collar and voice corrections.  He was not allowed to be with other dogs, to play with other dogs.  Buzz is one of the most tolerant dogs I know, to a fault!  My poor, poor Buzz was pushed so far, stressed so much, that he "acted" as an aggressive dog.

This should help explain why I'm sure Bailey has as many issues as she does.  I think the differences in their cases though, shows what resiliency and character can do.  Buzz was able to forgive, forget, and become a "great dog" again.  It has taken Bailey years upon years to be comfortable around other dogs.  She still gets stressed about a lot of things in life, but other dogs especially.  I honestly never thought she would play with another dog.  Sure, she and Buzz used to play somewhat, but she's never been comfortable enough around another dog to play... until she met Griffin last summer.  Kristen convinced me that Griffin would be okay, and my dog would be fine.  I tried to believe her as I let my dog off leash.  The result gave all of us a huge happy courage boost.  My dog COULD adequately read and respond to dog-body language.  She survived at camp, and even enjoyed it.  Karin, Kristen, and Abigail understood her and she relaxed.  Yes, she slept in the bad dog closet, and guarded it but she was able to be out, with other dogs!

I've been leery of getting a puppy, because I feared for the sanity of my household, and the safety of everybody.  People told me it'd be fine, everything would settle into place, but until today I don't think I truly believed any of it.  I've gotten good at training and managing my dog, but we are still so far from perfect.  There's still snarks at home, and I'm not as careful as I should be... but due to carrying out a good plan, Bailey was comfortable enough with another dog to PLAY with Fritz, with a TOY today.  I still can't believe it.  Multiple sessions of set-up greetings, muzzle conditioning, desensitizing, training, it's all starting to REALLY pay off.  I didn't keep very good notes, but it took at least two times of Fritz being at our house, before Bailey met him.  Twice, he came over to socialize with me (and Buzz) while Bailey was crated.  She got to smell his presence after he was gone.  At least three times she met him with a muzzle on, off leash, in the dog yard.  We had toys and other ways of engaging dogs.  They barely did more than acknowledge each other for the most part, but there was growling/snarling that Fritz DID respond to.  Bailey was quick to flash teeth, as that's how she's been conditioned to get her point across.  When she showed signs of actually wanting to play with him, I started taking the muzzle off after the initial greeting.

Today was the second day the whole encounter has been muzzle-free!  She'll still snark/flash teeth, but with the exception of a crate guarding incident today (that was completely my stupid fault, thankfully nobody actually got hurt), she doesn't go extreme, because A) Fritz responds and B) she can trust him to respond.

Today was the first day she played with a toy.  Last session she would drop the toy whenever he grabbed it.  First half of today it was much of the same.  Then she started barking at him, and being playful.  When Joe wound them up and threw the rope toy, she got there first, Fritz grabbed it and she JOYFULLY tugged back!  I really couldn't believe it, and couldn't get enough pictures of it.  They're not going to win any photography prize, but I still want to frame every single one of them.

I'm so proud and happy I could burst.

My dog PLAYED with another dog with a TOY!

If you made it to the end of that, congrats.  Here's a picture of her tugging with Joe to reward you.


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I don't know your dogs very well yet but it sounds like you both have come a long way. And if you ever want to borrow Lance and Vito for some socialization I am more then happy to do so. Lance is great at not getting in dogs faces and pretty much ignoring them, the only downside is that he usually doesn't play if they want to (but in the right moment it's a possibility). Vito is also great at reading dogs and not getting in their face but still pretty young so I don't completely trust him yet. But anyway, my offer is always there!

Really really happy for you all!

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

oh and you probably haven't seen that i posted their videos on my 2nd youtube channel:


Jes said...

Sounds like you've made a lot of progress! Kudos to you for working with them instead of getting a new dog. I feel for you. Both of mine came with a ton of issues. Keep up the good work!

Megan said...

Laura-THANKS for the videos. Thanks, thanks!

I just want to cry every time I watch her interact with a dog... correctly. She'll never be "normal" or considered "stable" but we can sure pretend sometimes! :-)