Friday, March 22, 2013

Starting Over

Rocket loves to run.
Rocket is a two year old standard poodle. She is beautiful, smart, funny, and persistent. She's loving, but she's snarky. She's sweet. She will work for you, even when she doesn't understand and gets frustrated, she'll come right back around and try again. She is incredible. She is also a worrier, she is high drive, and she is dog/leash reactive.

Rocket is my first performance dog. She is the realization of a childhood dream. I brought her home when she was nine months old, and just a month or so later, we started our first obedience class. That first night, we walked into the building, and something happened that I had never seen before.

My poodle exploded.

Figuratively, of course, but "explosion" is probably the most accurate description of how Rocket looked that night. This black mass of fireworks, noise and energy shooting every single direction. She whirled. She strained. She lost her mind. She didn't know what to do, and I did not either! Everyone stared at us. Immediately I was "that person". The shocked and dumb look on my face probably didn't help. What was this?

Well, it was reactivity of course! After a while of reading, calling trainers, and learning, I learned that Rocket was reactive. Rocket didn't know how to deal with the situation she was in, everything became overwhelming, and adrenaline pumped to the point where she just couldn't deal, and just, well, started to do everything at once. She went "over-threshold". Rocket is the kind of "confident" reactive dog, when she sees something that alarms her, she throws herself at it. She tries to be intimidating, she just starts throwing whatever she can think of in the strange thing's direction hoping to get some kind of information from the strange thing.

Looking back now, I dont remember what exactly she looked like those moments before walking into the building, but she was probably over-threshold long before the "explosion" hit. She was telling me all along, every step she took into the building that something big and bad was going to happen - but the problem is, I didn't know to see it. I didn't recognize it, I didn't know to look.

A year and a half later, and I know much, much more than I did then. I have learned a lot, and Rocket has been through training with some professionals - including a month with a professional who worked exclusively on reactivity with her. Now that she is back home with me, we are ready to start a new game plan. I am better educated, and she is too, and we're ready to start doing this right.

This journal is to track our journey through reactivity and back out into the world...where we can be calm, have fun, and learn together.

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