Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy drive

I've been leaving the dogs out in the mornings when I go to the gym. And mostly it's worked out really well. They haven't gotten into much and since they're crated all day, I like to leave them out during this time.

Being as they'd been doing so well, when I had some errands to run on Saturday I left them all out.

I returned home to disaster. Zipper had gotten into the bathroom cabinet, scattering toilet paper and feminine items everywhere. The toilet paper roll looked like rats had been at it. They'd pulled the mat off of a tea table by the window, and in doing so had broken a vase and yanked down a basket that had felt padding and peanuts in it. Peanuts and broken glass everywhere. I'm amazed nobody had cut pads. All I said was, "Oh no, that's BAD dogs." Ever since then, when I come home from the Gym Zipper is nowhere to be found. A close look finds him well out of reach looking at me tentatively, tail vibrating but clearly waiting for me to make the first move.

In agility, Zipper has been doing very, very well in Jumping. He's a natural jumper with really good form and can easily pop over jumps even from a standstill. Last night we tried something new. Two jumps set very close together at a bit of an angle (like a ">") then a space of about 12 feet, then another set of jumps identical to the first. Zipper took the first two jumps then ran rapidly to the second set, where he jumped the first jump and was going too fast to get the second one. He sent it flying, hitting it pretty hard. After that, he didn't want to jump any more. We went right back to basics, lowered the jumps, and with lots of praise and encouragement had him jumping at a full run again by the end of the class.

Zipper has happy drive. What does that mean? It means that he's got drive--he likes to move fast, he likes to work, he likes to learn things. He loves treats and toys and tugs like a fiend. He has the capability of being a fast and confident agility dog. But that's when things are going well. Zipper hates being wrong, is devastated when he thinks I'm mad at him and he doesn't really want to be surprised. And though he's actually pretty resilient, he certainly doesn't want to be hurt. Zipper is a dog who if pushed too hard, too fast, could turn off to agility all together because it will have become a stressful place for him, and he doesn't like stress, he likes happy.

I'd venture to say that most dogs have happy drive. The dogs who will push through any adversity to get to work, who are both physically and mentally tough, who can take a punishment or accident and get right back up and keep working—those dogs are a minority, a small minority. My two dobermans are that way, so are many border collies. But since that's the sort of thing we all want for our dogs, we tend to try to treat them as if they were all infinitely resilient. They're not.

If your dog has happy drive then enjoy it! You're going to have a tremendous working dog. But don't take it for granted and don't push it too far.

No comments:

The DDGraphix store!