Described as being out-of-control and crazy, I admit I was nervous meeting you for the first time. The unknown element of a new puppy or dog gets me anxious, even now, but the feeling is intensified when I am "warned" beforehand. A new challenge excites me though and I was looking forward to seeing what you would bring to our home.
Turns out you were nothing but a big, goofy ball of energetic leaping Doodle who was full of self-reinforcing behaviours with no respect for people.
We called you Doodle-dee, doodle-dumb. You were not stubborn, yet you were sensitive. I had to be fair and clear with you, training started from scratch as you learned to work for a reward. Even small corrections caused you to get hyper and stop thinking at first.
We worked hard together for a year and guess what? You did well. You quickly learned boundaries. You learned self control. You learned to focus and think rather than just react. It's amazing how quickly dogs figure out what works and what doesn't work... How quickly they adapt to a new set of rules. You were no different.
When you were recalled for training you continued to do well.
Sooner than expected I heard you were fast-tracked and placed with an Autistic boy. I was very proud, you had come a long way!
After a couple of months you were returned by the family.
Jumping, mouthing and crazy behaviours had returned with a vengeance, behaviours that aren't safe or acceptable around children. Sigh.
"It's amazing how quickly dogs figure out what works and what doesn't work." It's also amazing how quickly 11 months worth of self-reinforcing behaviours come back.
Truthfully, I was upset. Once a dog leaves my house I lose all control. There is absolutely nothing I can do. Being the control freak I am this really bothers me.
I also think we expect a lot out of these working animals. The families they go to may have zero dog experience. Even if they have dog experience are they handling the dog fairly? Are their expectations realistic? Are the children too rough? Ultimately they are still animals, not pieces of equipment.
You were placed back into the training program yet the behaviours continued. They were hoping to find the right match for you but that never happened and you were released. I received the call yesterday about your "Career Change". (Or as I like to phrase it: My big fat failure.)
I can't help but wonder if there was more I could have done with Enzo, but truthfully he was not showing these behaviours with me. I proofed him around children, in different environments, etc, but the fact was I was a constant element in his life. With me brought the boundaries and rules he expected. In class we often trade dogs so they learn to work with others as well, he did well in that situation. Outside of training, in everyday life, these same rules weren't enforced so erosion happened quickly and he took advantage. Dogs ultimately do what is reinforcing to them, for better or for worse.
Then I start to ponder the differences between handling and training. Can you be a better handler than trainer? Can the two be separated or are they one and the same? I don't have an answer to this question yet.
In conclusion... There is a lovely dog looking for a nice pet home.
Anyone interested in a trained two year old Golden/Poodle cross who doesn't shed, has been socialized well and has a great joie de vivre?