Or..."How Reyna Failed Her CGC"...
Reyna had really been doing well in class and practice sessions out and about. Melanie was sure Reyna would pass the test. I had my doubts but held out hope that she could put it all together on game day.
We Failed. Blantantly, spectacularly, beautifully failed. I couldn't be happier with her performance.
We met at Home Depot and warmed up, she was relaxed and focused. Then came test time. She hopped out of the car and saw Melanie...she LOVES Melanie....Melanie is made out of bacon and nobody can convince Reyna otherwise.
Reyna was over threshold without a doubt. I probably could have taken a few minutes to calm her down, but there was no guarantee that she would calm, and there was a pretty good chance she would ramp up more. So we went for it. Reyna was totally unfocused and only cared about getting to Melanie.
We walked into the aisle with four people and two dogs plus Melanie. Reyna obeyed commands to sit, nose touch, down, and give eye contact, but she couldn't maintain it for any length of time. She slobbered all over the friendly stranger, wriggled, wagged and licked all through the petting and grooming, and had to be pulled away from the neutral dog.
She aced the supervised separation which used to be very difficult for her. The sit stay, recall, and noise distractions where pieces of cake.
Some things that I did wrong were...
1. I should have done some advance and retreat instead of just plowing through the exercises, but I didn't you could.
2. I should have given Reyna more leash to work with. I knew she was distracted so I shortened up the leash, but that never helps her calm down, so I dont know why I tried it.
3. I need to condition a secondary reinforcer that I can use when ood and toys aren't around. She needs that feedback, but since I had not conditioned one I had nothing to give after each exercise if she had done well. In normal circumstances a smile with a "gooooooood" will help bridge between primary reinforcers, but I haven't specifically worked on building that into the tool box and spacing out food and toys more. I need Denise Fenzi to come out with a book!
On the positive side...when I walked back in to be part of the crowd for the next team everybody commented on what a sweet dog she is, just a bit puppyish still. As over threshold as she was she never growled, or puffed up, or got nervy. She was genuinely in a great mood and super excited to be there, she just wanted to say hi the everybody. I really can't believe that we were in a narrowish indoor space with five people and two dogs, and Reyna's biggest problem was that she was "a bit puppyish still".
None of the other class dogs passed, they all had the same issues....lack of self control. It is really exciting to see that Reyna fits right in with all the other dogs. Forget about the fact that it took two years of intense work to get us here. We made it.
I am not disappointed at all with the result of the test. I believe it is an accurate measure of where we
are and what we need to work on. I feel like I've been given a second chance, Reyna is back to where
she was at about 7 months, before the reactivity reared its ugly head. She is an excitable dog with a tendency for her brain to go out her ears. This time we are going to do things right and fix the self control issues first and foremost.
I have learned so much through this journey from neurotic beast who couldn't relax, to the joyful happy dog I have now. We have so much more to learn, and Reyna will always be a sensitive dog who is harder to handle than the golden next door. I wouldnt trade her and her lessons for any dog. I cannot thank her enough for all that she teaches me, and for this second chance at ....everything!