One of the very early posts I wrote on this blog was about why I loved all of Silas’s “problem” qualities. Go read it; I’ll wait.
While his problems are a little different these days, all of those things are still true.
Most importantly, Silas is a paranoid, anxious mess because he is an incredibly smart, very sensitive dog.
His big brain makes my life hard. He never forgets anything. “One time we walked down that trail, and the park maintenance man was there on a golf cart, so I’m never going down that one again.” I think this is why, despite my unflagging belief in the system, I’ve never had unequivocal success counter-conditioning him to anything. We made good progress on the doorbell, for example, as long as he’s in a particular place, doing a particular behavior, and I’m the one ringing the bell.
I love how smart he is, though. As long as I’m teaching a trick that Silas can understand (he’s better with big movements than small ones), I can get a pretty solid start on a new behavior in one session. One short session. And he adores training.
I’m not making that up. Here’s my proof: Silas is not a tail wagger. It happens rarely enough that my husband and I have been known to point it out to each other when it happens. Last night I was teaching him some new tricks, and we were both sitting on the rug. I stood up to start setting up the next bit of training, and I realized that there, out behind him where I hadn’t been able to see it, was a wagging tail.
That’s the best thing of all. This face?
You’re only going to get that with a combination of play and training. And I love that about him. It’s a good thing I think teaching behaviors is fun.