Friday, May 13, 2005

"When Smart Dogs Don't Listen"

Recall is an activity I do on a regular basis to see if Rowena is still listening to me. This training activity is especially important when we play out in the field or forest as I take her off- leash. She needs to come promptly when I call her and obey all the commands I "bark" her way for her safety, my safety and the safety of others. I have never had to have her on a leash in the field since day one. Yes, day one she was responding to her name and never running off. She has always been very good at listening to me, coming when called, & recently, refocussing. On one occasion in the City Forest, she chose to not listen to a single command, angering me red. Assuming a touch of adolescent behavior, I threaten Rowena with Leash restrictions next walk. However, by two weeks she was fine. Well, this past tuesday, our busy day, I took Rowena to the field for her weekly scheduled romp. I did some training with her but she didn't seem to want to do anything. At the end, I was going to take her to the pond-like area when she saw a runner making his way off the field, and moving towards the parking lot. She took off and I tried to call her back. No immediate response, but eventually she does turn around and come back towards me. Just when I think I have regained control over her, she turns around and goes after him again! I am yelling at her to COME (now!) and NO which basically means stop doing what you are about to do. She doesn't listen at all. The man turns a round and yells at her to try to startle her back to me. She just kind of runs back a few steps and looks at him like "Are you for real??" Well eventually she comes back and just in time as the runner had proceeded to exit the field and now ran on the parking lot busy with post-lunchtime traffic. So, Here I am, scolding Rowena and trying to get her to refocus, trying to take some deep breathes for myself and thinking that Rowena had indeed refocused successfully as she had been doing really well lately, when She turns around and darts back after this runner who is now running behind parked cars. I lose it. I am screaming at her to come to me in all the ways that are familiar to Rowena and I mean... in near panic. Screaming til the smoothness of my voice actually breaks. It is times like these that I discover how high- pitched and shrill my yelling voice can be. Still, Rowena remains unmoved and undaunted by it. The man appears to be a nice guy as he takes a detour off his running route to run Rowena back onto the field ant to me. I thank him and apologize, stating that this is not her usual behavior. His reply was: "She likes me." I can't think of a whole lot of people she doesn't like. I remember thinking to myself how I was not liking the behavior of this dog smiling coyly in front of me at this moment, panting and expecting another great getaway very soon. I scolded her intensely, gave her some water and snapped her leashed onto her collar. "No. Forget it. Playtime is over. You are on leash-restriction now. That was very, very bad! NO." and I escort her off the field as I try to breathe the anxious uncried tears back down my throat. I look at my watch and am horrified to discover that we may miss the bus. We don't, and I eventually calm myself down and make-up with Rowena. I dread tonight's obedience class, fearing that this whole thing in the field is an example of how class will go. I approach the instructor and tell him before class what had happened, and he simply says that she is still young, testing me, probably just behaving like a teenager. I shouldn't trust her off a leash yet. He doesn't hear me say that this behavior is totally unlike her at all... that she has always been very good at coming when called. Sometimes these "professionals" just do not listen. My words fell on deaf ears. Maybe other people's dogs shouldn't be trusted off- leash, but mine can be. We have been having off-leash playtime with her since we first got her. She does not chase every runner or moving object as this trainer says. She often begins to, but turns around when I call her. These people, they think they know everything, but they don't know me or my dog at all. That just is NOT Rowena. Tomorrow, 3 days after Rowena's disobedience at of-leash playtime, I will try again in the field. I will not give her as many second- chances this time. Maybe it is time for me to do another "Alpha take-down". Maybe she is forgetting who is the Alpha in this partnership.

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