In early May, our behaviorist offered to take Sagan for a few days for a board and train to help us move past this training plateau in terms of his reactivity. After 2 years, we were still looking at 20-30 feet threshold with most dogs (calm or not). Frustrating.
After using the "Look at that" protocol and others, she felt that with his strong, border collie prey drive, that he was being obedient to "look at that" and doing it, but was not calming as a result of it. Yep, my own observations confirm that as well. She (and others) have confirmed that my timing and emotional cues were spot-on, so..... So she tried an old school "look at that and stare at me" protocol (ALA the old "watch" command). She said it worked great and rarely required any kind of extrinsic reward (food, toys, etc.). That's my driven boy.
I lost my sweet cattle dog mix, Winnie, 13 years old, right before Sagan's board and train. She was a sweet love, also a reactive dog. She was, in many ways, what people refer to as a "heart dog"...maybe because she was the first dog I owned in adulthood, maybe because she and I are both BEYOND stubborn and don't give a rip about it. She will be raising hell in heaven, if you believe in that construct. I miss her like crazy and think about her every day. She was true to reality in a way humans can't be. EFF you, she says, "I'm the badass bitch, here." By God, she is and was. Her theme song was the one for CSI Las Vegas" Who is she, Gr, bar, de wooof...." I miss her so much.
While some people need time to grieve, I needed to fill a hole. I am still mourning my girl, but needed a new girlie. Welcome Roux, a 1-year old BC/whippet mix:
Roux has been an amazing addition to our pack. She is non-plussed by other dogs, and doesn't react to Sagan reacting to other dogs. I've begun to take both of them running together on my waist leash. Sagan started out reacting to dogs and stopped once he saw Roux not at all bothered by agro dogs behind fences and the like. Wonderfully, Sagan has helped Roux with her fear of cars. Roux was a beautiful addition to our pack.
In May, we ran our first agility trial in CPE. Our wonderful friends, Teddi and Cathy, helped protect Sagan on the way into the ring (our biggest worry) and got TWO qualifying runs and TWO 1st place runs! Holy cow! This confirms that once Sagan is involved in work, reactivity is a non-issue:
5/11 Regular Run: Qualify and 1st place:
5/12 Regular Run: Qualify and 1st place:
So we entered another NADAC agility competition with equally impressive outcomes:
6/23: Novice regular run (Q and 3rd place):
6/23: Novice tunneler's run (A messy Q and 2nd place!):
If I can continue to get him in the ring, he will do amazing things. Getting him in the ring is no small feat and requires my husband as a placeholder and an army of friends who are advocates.
It is NOT easy getting him in the ring, but he is like Kevin Costner in For Love of the Game. It all melts away when he is there, and he is the epitome of focus. I am a high stress person, and I think the nature of Sagan's stress helps me. He is stressed getting in, so once we're in the ring, the rest seems like absolute CAKE to me.
Still working on the reactivity, but we've jumped a few hurdles, pun intended and not. :-)