I’ve found life with young dogs is full of moments of brilliance. That are balanced or sometimes it feels like outweighed by moments where their brain has gone to China. And times where you feel like you could practice and train and do everything you could and everything would go wrong. Or that your dog will never be able to get it together without so much help and “Ahhh!!! This is so much endless work! I just want….[fill in the blank: take a walk, have someone come in the house, walk past another dog, chat with my neighbors, leave my dinner plate on the counter, put a used tissue in the trash can, not have to count socks, my dog to be perfect!]”
I used to laugh with clients about it in puppy or basic class especially. They’d come into class with a whole long list of things that they wish had been better during the past week. Then tell me something that they were surprised went really well or wasn’t an issue that particular week (though it may have been the week before). And I’d happy excited smile, clap and exclaim, “Yes! A moment of brilliance!”
Because that’s puppydom. Endless rinse and repeat. Endless need to think ahead and plan and make time. Endless ways your dog shows you your flaws and makes you be a better trainer and human being. And it’s awesome, exhausting, often intense, but amazingly awesome.
And over time those moments of brilliance become more common place as maturity and reinforcement history and training all combine. Until one day your 2 year old dog does something as if they’ve done it every day of their life and you want to jump for joy but have to keep it together so as not to embarrass yourself in front of your dog who will of course give you a look to say, “What is your deal human, it’s no big deal. Isn’t this what you’ve been wanting all along?” Or maybe that’s just my dogs, or more The Corgi. because trust me, according to her I can and do embarrass her.
And you realize that it’s no longer just moments of brilliance but long strings of brilliance bordering on routine way of life brilliance. And it’s so freaking awesome! And you think, WOW! it only took 2 years! This is fantastic! So worth it! Damn, I love dogs. They are so great!
On this morning’s walk I needed to keep the dogs dry and out of the swamp. Usually on this trail, the routine is they can go mucking about, so asking them to not become Monsters from the Black Lagoon is not the norm. Tom is always easy. If he’s not already there, I simply ask, “Tommy, come heel please, stay with me” and there he is bippity boppity boop magic Tom at my side until I release him. Zora usually needs more help, like the leash actually being put on or being lured by a cheese stick, and lot of reinforcement and encouragement to stay where I’d like her to be until released.
Imagine my shock this morning when I call her and ask, “Zora, heel please” and bippity boppity boop there she is like magic at my side trotting along perfect as can be right past the mucky swamp until I released her with an “Ok go play.” No leash, no real work from me (other than to keep from breaking into an over the top happy dance!), as if she’s done this every day of her life, perfect little happy trot trot trot past her favorite muck stop without a second glance at it simply because I’d asked her to (and the many many many training sessions and high reinforcement in past for heeling with me when asked)
Ain’t maturity awesome?! Bippity boppity boop, magic corgi at my side walking past the swamp. Love it when training pays off!
YES!!! I’m still jumping for joy!