|Max on his Roxie pillow|
Happily, Max and Roxie got along with each other, and when I took them to our new dog park, they both had a great time chasing around with all the other dogs. A couple of years went by and one day at the dog park he decided to lunge at a cute little golden retriever puppy there. I was really shocked and surprised, he had never done that before! The next time I took him, he got into it with some Old English Sheepdogs about twice his size before the owner could step in and separate them. Eventually I stopped taking him to the dog park because he would get into it with any dog that came near us. Brian thought maybe he was protecting me, but I didn't know what was going on. Additionally, he started having panic attacks during rainstorms and thunderstorms. We always know when a weather front is rolling through because Max starts panting, drooling and shaking.
After speaking with the owner of the training center, she thought that it would be ok to bring him, and we would just keep an eye on him. He did really well, as long as no other dogs got too close to him. Then he would put on his Cujo show. We could reduce the tendency by putting benches in between him and the other dog, but at least once a class he would bring out his Cujo impersonation.
None the less, we ended up passing the Canine Good Citizen test at the end of the class, with the exception of the test of being left alone for 3 minutes out of sight of me.
The owner suggested that in the spring, he would be a good candidate for Rally, a competitive obedience sport, ON-leash, where dogs and owners run a course filled with obstacles like, sit, down and stay, turn in a circle, figure eights between cones, etc. all while heeling on a leash with their handler. We signed up for it and had a great time. Max did really well with the obstacles but still managed to pull a few Cujo's out each class. In the middle of all this, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I missed the class the night I found out, but we managed to finish the class.
Max was definitely my cancer/chemo buddy, he was always there if I needed a snuggle partner. When I had the energy I worked with him on small tricks, my favorite one being "Wipe your Feet" when coming in from the winter rains and brief snows that we had. I had already taught him to shake with both front paws, so I just added a sit on the mat at the door, and a back feet command to wipe all the mud, snow or whatever out of his furry little webbed toes. I also taught him to spin in circles and rollover, as well as relax, which HE actually taught me, and I went with it and made it a real rewardable trick for him to do.
Once my chemo was over, I started thinking about taking him back for some more training. I didn't feel comfortable with going to the intermediate Rally class, so we signed up to do the Intro to Rally again. This time, the class was held in the outdoor arena versus the indoor metal pole barn where we had taken all our classes before.
The outdoor training arena is WAAAAY more interesting and distracting than the indoor one, all sorts of outdoor smells, and countless dogs that had trained there before. Additionally, they split the course in 1/2 to combine two different classes, our Rally class on the entrance side, and an Agility class on the far side of the arena, separated by a snow fence. Max, true to form, had his little tantrums with each of the dogs in our class, luckily, only about 4 at any one time. Unfortunately, he also had about 8 other strange dogs on the OTHER side of him that would cross back and forth in front of him periodically. The last two weeks of the class, he had managed to drag me across the grass twice, and pulled the leash completely out of my hand, to get into it with a bigger border collie. We had one class to go--the final exam as it were-- where we wouldn't have any instruction, just run a few courses for a score, just like a real Rally competition. I got an email a few days before from the owner of the facility telling me that she and the trainer thought that Max's behavior was escalating and that he probably shouldn't come back in for the final class, due to safety reasons. I was crushed, one, because I'm madly in love with my dog, but two because I had no idea what or why he acted the way he acted. They recommended I see a behaviorist in town, who runs Reactive Dog classes, before he returned for any more classes at the facility.
I contacted Christine, who I had met with before, and she told me that she didn't have any classes running at time, but would be willing to work with me either privately or semi privately. So I agreed, and we turned up at her house 2 weeks ago for "Bad Dog School". Of course, since there were no dogs around, he was the perfect gentleman, sweet, doting, only slightly shell shocked when I put his Halti head halter on and took him for a walk. She gave us homework, a book for me to read and a recommendation for a product called 'composure', which is an all natural herbal supplement that helps anxious dogs.
I read through the book, practiced our exercises--go to place, and walking on a head halter-- even teaching Max a new trick..."is your nose itchy? scratch it" (it's adorable). Tomorrow is our next appointment, and I think that there will be at least one other dog there. I'm a little nervous how it's going to turn out. I plan to stop off at the store beforehand for a canister of squeeze cheez bacon flavor to really motivate Max. I hope it works. I guess we will have to wait and see!