Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Progress, Not Perfection

I would like perfection. I don't always--there's a charm in the imperfections and flaws of hand-crafted work, and I do believe all of our little quirks and eccentricities are so endearing--but in the matter of My Bad Dog's rehabilitation, perfection would be nice.

It is as yet a dream to which we aspire. However. There is good progress:
1. We've been walking every day now and have not experienced a major incident.
2. My Bad Dog's mail carrier alert system seems to be dialed back. One day this week, the mail carrier arrived, deposited the mail, and departed, with My Bad Dog peacefully sleeping and none the wiser.
3. When she does become aware of the mail carrier's presence, My Bad Dog seems to have a reaction that is less impressive than her usual temporary insanity.
4. She is definitely barking much less.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that #1 may be a hollow boast; I only walk My Bad Dog during non-mail-carrier hours: before seven a.m. and after eight p.m. Even so, we did experience one minor incident, with a large delivery truck that looked nothing like a mail carrier's truck, so I don't know why My Bad Dog took umbrage, but the umbrage was mild (it's all relative; it might not have seemed mild to an onlooker) and soon abated.

My Bad Dog does seem more fatigued than usual. I was wondering whether our training regime is exhausting her. If so, good.

The Regime
1. At least an hour to an hour and a half of walking every day, with a long walk in the morning and a short walk at night.
2. During the walk, My Bad Dog is not allowed to step ahead of me. Not at all. This is per the trainer's instruction. If My Bad Dog steps ahead of me, I stop and tell her to go back. Sometimes she backs up immediately when she senses the tension in the leash; other times, she needs a gentle reminder or four. Most walks she is exceedingly cooperative. Rarely, but it happens, a walk is made unbearably tedious because we stop every few steps.
3. At home, My Bad Dog is not allowed to lean against me, nor to put her paw on me.
4. My Bad Dog must wait for the humans to pass through doorways before she is allowed to pass.
5. When My Bad Dog has a legitimate reason to bark, I look at the disturbance, thank her for telling me, and ask her to stop. If she doesn't stop, she comes with me into my room and lies down on her bed for a moment. When her crazy comes upon her, she comes with me into my room and, after some convincing, lies down on her bed.

Stacy (the trainer) did tell me it would take eight months. One week down, thirty-one to go. Although I expect our progress to accelerate after April, which is when we hope to begin working with Stacy in person, that being the month during which she will be studying a method of working with dogs like My Bad Dog.

This all sounds like a regime to train My Bad Dog, but I understand that I'm training myself to provide clear and consistent feedback and guidance to My Bad Dog in order to help her manage herself in the world in a way that will not cause harm to herself nor others.

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