Monday, December 10, 2007

Building Confidence

Getting serious about making Sydney work for food, work for praise and attention, and limiting her free time is one part of her program. Another part is all about building her confidence. I need to get this girl out and start building her confidence in safe, positive environments so that she can experience success in a new setting. Having her sit, down, stand, get back, watch, spin, sit up, etc. in our kitchen with the same distractions every day is one thing. Taking her somewhere new and asking her to stay calm and do those things is a completely different monster.

We are lucky to have a membership to a relatively new, indoor agility center. The building is accessible to members at any time, other than when classes are taking place. So, I wondered if Syd might be interested in learning a little agility. Working to learn obstacles is something I think can greatly improve her self-confidence *and* our working relationship. My little performance demon really emerged when I took Syd to the agility center. She is extremely driven, extremely food and toy motivated. I love that about her. Of course, her high drive and motivation is also what probably makes her less laid back about new situations, so we take what we get and work with it. Sydney was so different after a few agility practices, it was visible. Her eyes sparkled and her posture was confident and eager as we walked into the building. This place was "new" but also "fun" and I think it will be a great tool for us on the road to Syd's recovery.

Another activity that Syd had participated in as a younger puppy was herding. Syd had that spark and keenness for the sheep. I loved taking her and letting our instructor work with Syd to increase her interest and drive. Once Sydney became reactive and unsure of herself, I was hesitant to take her to herding lessons. A small dog off-leash in a large pen made for a dog who could opt to do what she wanted to, and really undermine our CBC (Corgi Boot Camp) program. I really trust our herding instructor, and she had an idea that I was comfortable with. We'd put Syd on a line and keep the lesson in a small round pen, just to see what Syd's reaction would be. It really worked out great, by this time I felt the work Syd had been putting in was showing in her relationship with me. We went for the lesson, and she responded well to Bridget, and only once did she try to avoid pressure, and Bridget simply stepped on the line, said "no" and Syd came right back to the work at hand, and we spent the next few minutes really praising her as she went to work moving the sheep. OK, so she only moved one ewe at a time, which made for three times the work for her, but she did eventually get all three of the girls back together at the opposite side of the pen! We have several videos of Sydney's Return To Herding on our YouTube site, Because I'm one of those kind of dog-moms, I even included Syd's not so bright moment where Bridget had to get her back in the game.
I'm hopeful that these additional activities that exercise her mind and body will help Sydney to learn to work with me better, and to trust me. Along with our at-home obedience work and CBC, I'm crossing paws that one of these days, Syd will have a breakthrough moment.

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