ALL of our successes in life come from failures -- ours or someone else's. This is a short story about one such failure, and the success that grew out of it.
Mary Bell is a shepherd mix at the Humane Society and rather new. Her card says that she is VERY hard to get out of the kennel and seeing that as a challenge I looked in on her. She is very wary of humans, and would go to the opposite side of the kennel away from any human. So I sat in her kennel for about 5 minutes and although she laid down, she never really relaxed. After a hide & seek game several times I decided to close off part of the kennel so I could contain her. After another 10 minutes of sitting -- no touch, no talk, no eye contact -- she still hadn't truly relaxed so I took a chance on introducing the leash to her.
She was very anxious and was deep into avoidance, but once the leash was on she seemed to snap out of her shell. A short trip to the off-leash yard and she seemed relaxed enough so I took her off the leash. She ran off and stayed at a comfortable distance for quite so time. I wanted to have her be outside and enjoy the fresh air but it seemed as if she was patrolling the perimeter. After I ignored her for a while she got into the pool and laid down.
Success, right? I thought so, until I approached in her direction and she quickly maintained the distance bubble between us. So I shadowed her for a while, figuring I would drain some of her energy so she would relax, but Mary Bell is a focused little girl. After about 25 minutes of this dizzying circling she showed signs of being a little more drained, but nowhere close to giving up. I was even beginning to imagine trying to do this in the dark after everyone had gone home... not a pretty picture, but I wasn't going to give up on her.
In the corner is a gated passageway to another yard, also gated. I figured I would open one of the gates and corral her by walking her in that direction. After the third fly by, she entered and I had her. Once again, she was very skittish and thought about snapping at me when I finally reached for her collar. Leash attached, away she went like nothing happened except a bit of exercise. The success is that she walks extremely well on the leash. But take the leash off, even in a smal kennel, and she shuts down. The solution? Next time, after we're inside, the leash will not come off but rather she can drag it around with her which will make it easier to regain control during the "patrolling".
So what went wrong? I misread that she would do well completely off the leash since she was walking so well on it and forgotten about "testing" this by having her drag the leash on her travels. Just because our own dogs walk well with us doesn't mean that they're ready for that freedom, especially when recall is not a particularly strong suit. What we want, and the reality of that happening, is only divided by the investment of time that we put into the outcome and wishing it to happen is, once again, humans rationalizing emotions.
Remember, don't repeat the same failures over and over again while expected success. Use a different perspective and stay calm and focused!