Yesterday, I took Amicus to Mowatt Bay, where it is nice and isolated, and we were having a great game of fetch (chuck-it) when this pickup arrived and guy and dog disembarked, a big brown mastiff, and the guy threw his ball and Ami wasn’t looking and suddenly this big dog ran into Ami`s play arena area and, because he was surprised and protective of his ball, he attacked the bigger dog, and of course the dog fought back and I just got back from the vet.
Ami’s got a bloody scratch on his face just under his eye, but luckily it’s neither deep nor serious, just a surface wound and I have anti-bacterial cream to apply twice a day, plus it was a good opportunity to talk to the vet. We both agreed that the pickup guy should not just have recklessly thrown his ball over into Ami’s area especially when Ami wasn’t even aware they’d arrived. Although he must be taught that aggression is not ever appropriate, it was not a normal aggression situation. The vet agrees and thinks Ami is super smart and super trainable and he gave me good advice about two trainers in town who give classes where you go and there are other dogs there which the vet says is much better than isolating a dog.
I left a message for one of the trainers, and she phoned me back and we talked for about 20 minutes and she gave me some excellent advice about how I must make Amicus see me as completely in control of everything and how to do that. Unfortunately right now, she’s only teaching a puppy class, but she did let me know about another place in town that has ongoing classes, so I will investigate that. She talked to me for free and I garnered so much useful information from her and she was very good at explaining things clearly to me (probably why she`s such a good dog trainer).
So last night, it began and my dad is totally on board now, also. Now, before he throws the ball (we play a lot of fetch in the house because my dad can’t walk particularly well) he makes Ami sit, then praises him, and he’s getting more alpha with Ami which is good because my dad was being too much of a softie with Ami.
This morning I decided to go the seawalk and implement the dog trainer’s advice. Instead of saying no and pulling Ami away, I growled and roared at him like a demonic jackel (which is strangely satisfying and got some very perplexed looks from passersby) and yanked with fair ferocity on his leash when he wanted to rush at a dog. It really worked!
Dog training is really all about people taking Dog as a Second Language classes. Dog is a beautiful, simple, and clear language and I am honoured to be learning it. Saying “No, no, no, no,” or yelling things in English is pointless, she says, and when I mean no, I have to speak vehement growling dog and when I want him to do something good, I say in a high sweet loving voice elongating vowels, “Siiiiit,” or “Coooome,” or Staaaay,” and then give him a treat. She recommends I reintroduce treats back into his training and his walks, but instead of giving him additional treats, to give him like half of his breakfast and dinner.
Now, I make him do almost everything on my terms. Boundaries and limitations, and he’s not allowed on the couch or my bed for a while (which is a tough one, ’cause he’s my scooshy pooshy) and I have to make him sit and stay before eating, leaving, entering. He tends to sigh deeply sometimes, like I’m sure I would if I ever joined the army and someone started ordering me around, but he is actually very obedient when he understands the command. The dog trainer said German Shepherds and Collies (Ami’s two halves) are amazingly trainable if you speak Dog well and she also said that he doesn`t sound aggressive, per se, but just not thoroughly trained and vying for dominance because he is still unsure of his place in the world because of his unstable and “sheltered” background.
So I feel so much better to have received some expert guidance that actually works and to be implementing solutions. It makes me feel confident, more self-assured, and not alone. I will keep you posted on investigating and instigating ongoing classes for Ami and how that fares. Importantly, my friends and family have also been giving me really helpful and supportive advice. It is touching and soothing to feel firmly that Ami and I are definitely not alone on our journey and that people want to help us.
I am also learning that if what I think is fully informed and functional, then other people’s opinions have less power or I give them less power, and know that what I am now doing is right.. There is so much to be said, in my opinion, for having full facts and expertise on my side, even if that expertise isn’t mine -yet.
I also think receiving help and being able to give help may be another huge lesson that Ami and I are learning.
I am also learning what being out there involved in living is like and what other people feel and think and how much we’re all actually alike, and how I need to let my guard down, open up, and stop judging myself and others so harshly. We’re all on this adventure together and maybe we’re specifically all here to help each other out.
I am also learning just how important clarity is; how so very important. No one is a mind reader and some people/creatures don’t share my language. Clarity is so simple and yet so easily dismissed. Let me give you an example. To say to someone, “Blah blah blah blah,” in a really loud voice means nothing, but to say, “Don’t do that,” in their own language might produce an actual result that can be repeated.
To explain to someone what I really mean also lets them know that my shit is all about me and there’s nothing for them to take personally because what I say and do and how I react is all about me. I have to work on being clear and non-reactive in the “moment,” which is the hard part because that’s not my default. I think it is really important also to stay engaged with other people, not to hide or shy away, but to talk things through, to find common ground, to be kind rather than right, but maybe I’m getting off track now, and if I am, that’s okay, too.
Basically I guess I am slowly striving to reprogram my defaults or at least reset them to what they perhaps once were. Sometimes I’m not even sure what I am learning, just that I am and that every so often I go, Oh, wow, so that’s what I just learned. Amicus is like a whole self-help university all in one dog. I’m so glad I met him and so glad he’s my good friend. Canis Emeritus Amicus.