Saturday, September 1, 2012

Turning a corner (just maybe)

 Around this time a year ago, we noticed that puppy Arlo had definitely entered adolescence.  Our sweet, eager to please boy was turning into a rowdy, often unpredictable teen, who (in spite of loads of training, at home and in formal classes) appeared to have no house manners whatsoever.  One minute he'd be snuggling with you on the couch, and the next he'd be grabbing at your arms and clothes.  He'd steal anything that was available to him, and he could be relentless about bothering Katie.

In short, it's been a long year.  Of course we love him.  (Look at that face--who wouldn't?)  He has also tested our patience and, at least in my case, my training skills.  I've  learned a lot over the past year, including how much I still have to learn about dogs, and especially the kind of dogs I seem to keep ending up with--the high drive, high energy kind.

Let's just say that with Arlo's help I'm continuing to educate myself.  On my reading shelf these days are books like Clarissa Von Reinhardt's Chase! Managing your Dog's Predatory Instincts, Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed, Sue Brown's Juvenile Delinquent Dogs, and Linda Tellington-Jones' Getting in Touch with Your Dog.  Maybe the most influential  book I read this year was Suzanne Clothier's Bones Would Rain from the Sky, a book that had been in my library for awhile but that I hadn't read.  I turned to it when a video clip of Clothier talking about fearful dogs showed on up on my Facebook feed.  I knew about her, but I was so moved by her comments in the clip, that I decided to finally read the book.  And then I was fortunate to be able to attend a 3-day seminar with Clothier this past May.  I'm still thinking about everything I learned there.

But back to the reason for this post.  (Up to this point I was just providing y'all with some context.)  Because of the past year, I may have been taking for granted that Arlo is my wild boy.  Not that we haven't continued to work with him on basic house manners in the hope that eventually he'll figure things out--but we've also learned to take his "bad" behavior in stride and not despair every time he "forgets" or makes a bad decision.  Increasingly, though, there have been small moments when I get glimpses of a more mature dog, one who doesn't immediately act on every impulse he has.

And this morning was one of those times.  From the kitchen, he suddenly went speeding down the front hallway, all geared up to bark his head off at a passing dog.  Hoping that our recall work would pay off, I called him over to me and watched--a little amazed--as he did a sudden U-turn and came trotting back.   Now, Arlo does have a pretty nice recall (because we have practiced).  But it's still a big deal for him to choose me over the chance to bark at other dogs, especially when Katie is already barking (which she was), and especially when he's running full steam ahead (which he was).  So that was moment #1.

Then a little later, Arlo was napping next to me on the couch while I was knitting.  I needed a pair of scissors, so I put down my knitting for a minute while I ran upstairs.  A year ago, Arlo would have seized his chance, grabbed the yarn and, in an effort to get my attention, danced around in full-body wag to tempt me (just imagine a thought bubble over his head saying look what I have! chase me, chase me! )  This morning, however, I returned to my knitting, which was untouched, and noticed Arlo still napping beside it.

These are small moments, of course, and I don't believe for a second that the next time a dog passes by, Arlo will automatically resist the urge to bark.    He may not even come running when I call.  (Also right before he didn't steal my knitting, he did steal my pjs.)  When Katie was an adolescent, I bought myself a copy of Carol Lea Benjamin's Surviving your Dog's Adolescence in the hope that I might, indeed, survive.  It's book whose advice I have some problems with, but there is one part that has always stuck with me.  She reminds readers that, although your adolescent dog will drive you crazy at times, adolescence is just a stage and, once it's over, you might even find yourself missing that unruly former dog just a little.  I know that's what happened with Katie, and I can pretty much guarantee I'll feel the same way about Arlo.  So, as much as I look forward to that calmer, politer boy I got a peek at this morning, I'm going to try to appreciate the (I hope) waning moments of adolescence too.

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