Wow, what progress we have made together over last few months. Thanks to months of determined effort, Rocky and I have reached new levels of connected-ness and trust in our relationship. We still have a few lingering behavior concerns, but now have the confidence and freedom to explore new experiences together without fear of incident. I look forward to venturing out together on walks, even if those walks include about a million direction changes, stops, starts, and circles to keep his attention and maintain loose leash walking. Rocky's enthusiasm for training shines through as we introduce more and more tricks to our repertoire, including touch, crawl, high ten, "put 'em up," back up, board (place), and downs at a distance.
Despite his first (a little too) exciting trip to work with me, during which he bolted out an open door and chased some very confused ponies around the pasture, he has relaxed into visits to the farm and has been officially invited to continue to join me on quiet days in the office. This has proven to be a perfect way to continue to sneak new training activities in without dedicating hours and hours of my evenings to official sessions. I am able to fit short couple minute breaks in between tasks to work on a new command or practice adding more duration to the commands he has already mastered.
In other exciting news, the scent detection phase of our journey has officially begun! Rocky has taken to the work incredibly quickly and I am blown away at his talent and work ethic. We truly could not have gotten a better dog for this purpose if we had designed him ourselves. His aptitude and joy was apparent from his very first class, and he is progressing rapidly. He now whines and wiggles with excitement from the moment we pull into the driveway at Proformance K9 and can hardly contain himself when he sees the exercises set up. Unchecked, this could be a setback if we were unable to settle down and process the task, but he switches into a more focused and channeled drive within a few minutes of work. He could not be more perfectly suited to the work and the time and energy we have dedicated to building our working relationship really shines through as we tackle these new challenges together.
At this point, we are continuing to introduce more complicated search patterns (i.e. circles and multiple rows, rather than a single line of objects to search), as well as varying the objects the odor is hidden inside in order to help him generalize the items but continue indicating on the odor. I am also working hard to develop my handling skills so that I can guide him through structured searches and keep his focus as we practice new patterns.
Interestingly enough, while our obedience work prior to starting classes helped set us up for success, the classes themselves are having a major impact on Rocky's overall behavior. The hours and days following these sessions, he is notably more relaxed. He settles and sleeps on the ride home and remains more stable throughout the next couple of days. I would attribute this to the mental exercise this gives him. By having a productive and positive outlet for his energy and drive, he doesn't appear to seek entertainment and stimulation from outside sources, such as passing dog walkers and bicyclists, with the intensity that he used to.
Overall, he has been making such positive strides and excelling in our new ventures into scent training. I have been shamelessly proud dog mom-ing every chance I get, and have surely driven most of my co-workers and friends crazy with all my chatter about how wonderful my four legged best friend is. Hopefully it won't get to his head too much!
Happy trails and wagging tails!
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