Yesterday, when I mentioned to my friend Diana that I had scheduled an appointment with a dog trainer for help working with Honey, she said with shock on her face, “What’s wrong with her?”
And when I reported her appalled reaction to another friend, Glenda replied, “Is she ok?”
Honey is A-Ok
Honey is a wonderful dog. She’s gentle. She never does anything really wrong. She’s eager to please.
But my long time readers know we’ve struggled with Honey’s confidence. She’s frightened of our bicycle cart. And since the cart is the only way we have of taking her to places too far to walk, we’re missing out on some activities we all really enjoy.
We also want to make sure Honey is comfortable on any future adventures we take.
So we decided to get some outside help.
What a Trainer Can Do That I Can’t
I’ve been muddling along for a while. There are some specific areas I could really use help with:
- Learning how to build Honey’s confidence (for whatever activities are in the future);
- Gaining new insights into how she views the world; and,
- Getting a judgment from a knowledgeable, outside observer about whether my expectations for her are realistic.
Yesterday, our trainer suggested a way forward that includes beginning agility work with Honey to boost her confidence. He also gave me some homework involving targeting with a clicker to build a foundation skill that would help her explore all kinds of new things. And he gave me a new way of thinking about making Honey comfortable with the bicycle cart.
After just our first session, I’ve come away with two insights that will reshape the way I work with and think about Honey.
- I need to offer Honey the chance to choose. And to understand that she has some control over what happens to her. I’ve been allowing her to choose the route on her walk. But I hadn’t given her many choices in our training work
- Honey is so anxious to please us that she will work through things she finds extremely stressful just to make us happy.
The second insight should have been obvious. But neither my people-pleasing husband or good-girl Pamela got it—despite both being people who will swallow a great deal of stress just to make others happy.
Do people get dogs who share their neuroses? (I think that’s a blog post for another day.)
Moving Forward in Training
I feel like we’ve found a good trainer, someone who is as gentle with us as he is with Honey. And someone with many years of training and experience.
If we don’t meet every goal we have for Honey, I’m confident that she’ll feel better for our work with her.
I wrote last year in Breakthroughs—The Lessons Come When You’re Ready to Learn Them about moments in my dog history that have moved me forward in new ways of understanding. I’m hoping this work with a trainer is my next breakthrough.
[I’d like to thank trainer Russ Hollier for granting his permission for me to write about our training sessions. It’s a big risk to allow yourself to be written about by one of those crazy internet people. I’m thankful for the opportunity to process our work together in writing.]
Time to Take Out the Trash
Against all odds, my nominee for Best City for Pet Travelers, Cape May, New Jersey, has made it into the final four. I’m facing a tough battle against Seattle, Washington for a place in the final bracket.
With three west coast American cities in the final four, I’m thinking there must be some kind of conspiracy going on here.
Now I don’t know much about conspiracy theories. But I’ve watched enough talking heads on Fox News and protestor signs outside the Supreme Court to know it usually involves Nazis, birth certificates, killing off old people, Socialism, stealing people’s guns, and affordable health care. (If you live outside the U.S. and don’t understand these references, be thankful!)
Is Seattle a more pet-friendly city than Cape May, New Jersey? Let’s look at the “facts”:
- I’ve already warned you about the potential problems of a wet, drizzly city filled with dogs. P.U.
- And what’s with all that coffee? Don’t people in Seattle know that caffeine is poisonous to dogs?
- After a decade of terrible music in the 1980s, I was grateful when grunge came on the national scene. But what about Alice in Chains? My friend has a dog named Alice. Is this a coded message that Seattle is hoping to lure dogs to their city to put them in chains? It sounds suspicious to me.
- Everyone brags about how Seattle allows dogs on their public transit system. But you’ve seen the movie Speed. Is the bus really the safest place for your pet? No one has ever made a film about being terrorized in a Cape May horse-drawn carriage or surrey bicycle.
I’ve never done this conspiracy thing before. Let’s see what we got:
Aliens must have brain-washed Amy and Rod Burkert of Go Pet Friendly to convince them to offer this pet-lover’s version of March Madness giving Seattle access to the attention of thousands of dog people.
At least some of those pet travelers decide to visit Seattle. However, when they step off the plane, they are overwhelmed by the permanent smell of wet dog that people from damp climates acclimate to. With the humans out of the way, Seattle coaxes the poor defenseless doggies to drink too much coffee. While they are ailing from the insidious drug, Seattle claps the dogs into chains and makes them board a bus traveling all over King County at not less than 50 miles an hour.
How’s that for a conspiracy?
Is it true? We may never know. But just to be on the safe side, vote for Cape May right now in the Best City for Pet Traveler’s Final Four.