What a whirlwind of a week it’s been. Like I mentioned in my last post, we had our second workshop weekend for the Karen Pryor Academy this past weekend and, to my surprise, it went well. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Leading up to this workshop my nerves were sky high. I am a bit of a worrier, and that carries over to many aspects of my dog training. With Paco, I jump to the worst possible outcome with every situation, mostly because I have worked with dogs for a while now and I know what could go wrong! For example: he’s not staying in the crate at night anymore – oh no, he’s not going to be used to it for our workshops and he’ll bark the whole time! (Even though the majority of the last workshop he didn’t make a peep in his crate.) He’s had two negative on-leash encounters with dogs in the past six weeks – he’s going to be reactive to the dogs in class now! (Even though he was perfect with them last time.) His cues aren’t under complete stimulus control – he’s going to be too distracted to focus during class! (Even though we’d practiced many of his cues ad nauseam and I’d prepared lots of high value reinforcers).
My fears of what could go wrong began to get in the way of my progress. It’s funny that even though in class we learn to focus on the positive because reinforcing the behaviors you like – even those from yourself – will mean they become stronger, and yet I could not help but be so negative about how Paco and I were progressing as we headed to the Unit 2 Workshop. Luckily, when we arrived there early Saturday morning, my mindset quickly began to change. As we walked around before class, Paco didn’t try to eat any other dogs, and in fact was fabulous at staying calm in their presence. He settled right down into his crate without a single sound. We began going over course materials, and I felt completely up to speed. Whew. This was, surprise surprise, not going to be as bad as I had convinced myself it would be.
The weekend continued to improve. Paco and I really hit our stride together. I cannot truly put into words the way I feel about Paco and our connection. When we met three months ago, we were brand new to each other and brand new to training. Our relationship was sticky and weird – it even initially felt a bit forced (which, actually, I suppose it was). We have since taken every step of this journey together. It is not even in a teacher-student or parent-child sort of way. It is a partner-partner bond. We are in this as a team and we share every up and down. He helps me improve and I help him improve. I marvel at his successes and he shows me when I have done well. We work hard and then wiggle and coo and celebrate like the best of them. It is an interesting feeling, knowing that he is not my dog – but I think that actually brings us even closer because we have formed this relationship under unique circumstances. I love him so much and I am so proud of him and how far he has come.
I left the workshop Sunday evening feeling great. Not because I do not have challenges and many difficult weeks ahead of me – but because I now feel like we can actually do it. Paco and I do have what it takes to kick butt these last two units and accomplish what we need to for our final exam. It might take some blood, sweat and tears, but we will take this new found confidence and run with it. Our eye is on the prize – certification – and we will be putting 110% effort into it until February 16. Wish us luck and stay tuned!