Some of my favorite memories live in stacks of red and green construction paper, scissors, a ruler and Elmer’s Glue.
In a Christmas tradition as kids we all pulled up around the long dining room table and made paper chains of rings we hung in loops along the ceilings of the house.
The chains and the process were a really big deal and the evening was highly anticipated – though the process, the parts and the result were all very simple items and provided life-long memories.
The past three and a half years of Raising Boo have been at times a pretty wild ride. In year-end retrospect of 2018 and the prior two and a half years, “simple” comes through as our steady.
Before going any further in this narrative, let me snap down my “I Am Not A Dog Trainer” card just so we’re clear on the subjectivity of my observations and thoughts.
In attending Boo-Think University, I sat for hours with my laptop into the small hours of the morning researching a wide range of “no-fail” ideas for training the reactive, strong or issue-laden dog.
In our journey the reality of molding new behavior is that to make it work – it takes work.
What I came away with from my research is that much of the advice and technique appear to be marketing tactics appealing to the human emotional desire to help or to train a dog. From my perspective, anything that provides instant gratification and looks too good to be true is too good to be true.
So you can wait for that perfect dog you didn’t have to work hard for or you can work hard and help the dog you have been gifted with to become perfect with you.
With the exception of our herding work at Draxen Farms – and also because of our work at the Farm – Boo has recently reached new success in conquering behavioral issues.
As with all dogs – with or without behavioral issues – the variables and ingredients of success create a unique pattern.
The loom that weaves Boo’s self-tapestry is solidly constructed of simple work performed every single moment of every single day.
Early on I realized “session work” wasn’t going to be Boo’s digs. I decided the best way to work Boo through behavioral issues was to include her in everything I did during the course of a day.
Our lives became our teachable moments.
Here are a just a few of our ‘missions accomplished’s’.
As a puppy Boo could not be in near – or far – proximity of a running hose. It was really bad.
Often I just wanted to go out and water the freaking vegetables, leave Boo inside – jumping and screaming wildly behind the glass door – WORSE if she couldn’t see out yet could hear the water in the pipes under the house – and get it over with.
Instead, out we went.
Hydrating and tending to the vegetables often took a while, though inch by inch of time found Boo getting better and better. We incorporated lie-down, sit, watch me, stay, get back, go play and other standards into our routine.
The hose is still an interest though a controllable event and no longer requires a DEFCON alert to be issued prior to turning the water on.
Full disclosure: Bath via hose remains a work in progress. When Liam visits he graciously demonstrates to Boo that it is possible and even enjoyable and should not be considered a pivot to the ‘Dark Side.’ Big Country, however, still ain’t buying it.
Boo believed early on brooms and rakes were evil and to be met with chaotic, hypnotic madness and destroyed. We began our conquest of these tools with the usual sit, stay and lie-down. Once Boo bought into diversion tactics using toys we worked a ball into the mix for retrieval. Leave it, get it, walk-up here, drop it and give were all perfected as she overcame irrational behavior around rakes and brooms.
The vacuum is still pretty delicious to Boo. Though instead of wildly attacking it or having to remain in her crate flailing and wailing at the top of her lungs – or – being driven around by her Dad while I hurried through a whirl around the house – Boo will sit, back up, stay and lie-down as well as go to her crate when asked and stay there until released.
A cool unintentional side product is that learning to tolerate the vacuum led Boo to understand her pressure bubble boundaries. If the vacuum becomes too much for her and she feels herself escalate, she will make the decision to take herself to her crate and stay there without being asked.
When is it not a good time to work on recall in a safe environment – am I right?
If I could only see a few things for the rest of my life, one of my choices would be the vision of Boo soaring to me on a recall.
Every chore – from taking out the trash to a long day of yard work – provides plenty of opportunity for real-time recall.
Certain situations continue to be more challenging than others, though our average is up to about 90% from where we began – at sub-zero.
Full disclosure: Squirrels on the power lines along the fence remain Boo’s recall kryptonite. We’ve all got something.
Brushing the pool has long been a fascination for Boo and it’s a task generally performed by my husband, who Boo considers her most very favorite toy.
Boo has progressed from wild fly-bys, barking and biting at the brush and water to properly performing flanking commands and others including halt, lie-down, get back, switch, stay and learning to “take a break” (cool off and sit on the top step of the pool). Best of all it provides a great opportunity for them to develop their own communication and become teammates.
Drop it, leave it, get out of that, recall by voice and whistle, just what the hell are you doing over there (that is actually a Liam command but also can apply to Boo from time to time) and more were all taught while overcoming behavioral issues as we completed simple tasks and chores, many of which are performed on a daily basis.
Boo becoming amazing is the result of hard work, observation, thought, time, patience and love.
Pouring everything you’ve got into a dog like Boo will result in a return on investment that will keep on giving.
It’s just as simple, S-I-M-P-L-E as can be.
“The road we’re on ain’t a traffic jam it’s a Sunday drive on a piece of land
It’s paradise as long as I’m with you… I met you and you met me
And all the rest is history an epiphany that all we need is us…
Ain’t no need to complicate it, we both know that’s overrated – We’ve been there, it’s safe to say it ain’t our style…
We’re just simple like a six string, the way this world was meant to be
Like laughin,’ love, make a lot out of a little…
It’s like one, two, three
Just as easy as can be
Just the way you look at me
You make me smile… It’s just that simple, S-I-M-P-L-E
Simple as can be…”
– Mark L Holman, Michael Wilson Hardy, Tyler Reed Hubbard