Chico, our reactive border collie, lives each day with such gusto. When it's time to "work" he is always ready. Whether it's running with me, herding, or just playing with Rue. The passion he posses is so contagious and it brings such a smile to my face, unfortunately, it's just as much of weakness as it is a gift. The gusto means he often lacks patience and self control. It also means, what ever he does, he does it FULLY. When that biker comes by, he is ready to be intensely reactive. With Chico I need to live each day with complete patience, understanding and I always need to remain calm.
We are blessed to have two wonderfully sweet and different dogs. Rue isn't reactive, but will chime in with barking if Chico is displaying it. Rue is sugary sweet and is patient with adults, children, and other dogs. There isn't a person on the planet she has met that she didn't like. In fact, when we are out running or walking she all but refuses to move on until the person we are passing says hello. That's what I love most about Rue, she's so loving, calm and benevolent. Truth be told, I believe she is showing Chico how to be that too.
Opposites Attract-Chico left, Rue right
Cherishing the Small Accomplishments
Since adopting Rue in January, she has always been a patient dog. She is confident in many ways but insecure in others. Rue's strength really is the joy and comfort she brings to people. Ironically, this is Chico's weakness, however we're starting to see some of this weakness wear away over time. Chico is terrified of people, but once he knows someone they are good for life in his book. We rarely get to meet people on the street because Chico is reactive to them. (See previous post on what techniques we are using to help him over come his reactivity.) Generally, I do not walk or run with both dogs at the same time. If something were to set Chico off into a reactive fit, I can't focus on helping him with both dogs. When Dustyn and I have been out with the dogs over the past few months we've noticed a small change in Chico. Chico has been watching Rue's interactions with people in our house and while we are out and about. He often watches people pet Rue and say nice things to her.
Rue after receiving her Canine Good Citizen Award
Truly, The Little Things
Over the weekend my mom was visiting. Saturday evening we took Chico and Rue for a walk. Before we started out on our walk we stopped to chat with the little girl next door and her mom. Both Chico and Rue are familiar with the neighbors and have spent some time with them in our home. Chico isn't always able to stop and "go say hi" because he is often too stimulated and I fear he could have a reactive moment. While my mom and Rue were visiting the little girl Chico and I stood back and chatted and he watched Rue. He was so intent on watching the girl give Rue love and kind words his head and ears were cocking and his tail was wagging. Since he was calm I asked him if he would like to "go say hi", (this is his cue to go meet people) he looked and me and very calmly walked forward to the girl who was sitting happily on the ground petting Rue. Chico walked up gave the girl a kiss on her hand and allowed her to pet him, then turned and walked back to me. The entire interaction lasted less than 2 seconds. I'm not sure who had a bigger smile, me or him. Chico is just starting to be able to interact with people outside our home, he is comfortable in our house with people but outside it just adds a level of anxiety for him. We want every experience to be a positive one for him especially since he has had so many negative experiences in his life. I would rather he have fewer positive experiences with meet and greets than more experiences that aren't perfect.
*Note: Please work with a trainer or expert in the field if you have a fearful dog as they can help you arrange positive, controlled meet and greets.
Chico all smiles after herding
What Little Things Do You Do
All these little positive encounters add up over time. Our neighbor said to me, "Amy, he's doing really well!" Wow, what a feeling that people notice the huge steps Chico is making. What little things does your dog do that may not seem like a big deal to others, but to you and your dog are extraordinary?