It has not been that easy to decide whether to blog about Zazzy's running dog walk. I rather hoped that I would be able to retrain her from a stopped contact to running over the winter, but unfortunately neither hope nor determination turned out to be enough! What we absolutely did need is regular access to an adjustable dog walk!! The training was going so well that is makes me really sad to admit defeat. But unfortunately, the only adjustable dog walk I have access to requires a 50 mile round trip and to hire an indoor school. This means that we have not even managed to keep up once a week training, it has been a couple of months now and we have had very few sessions. On top of that the show season has started, and as the running contact behavior is not ready for competition, we have been using a stop. At the last training session I could not get Zazzy to run the contact, she seemed to think I was proofing her stop (even though the two behaviours are on different cues, I think the new run cue is just too new and too infrequently used). I don't think it would be fair to keep going with it now, I don't want to confuse her. The mat and plank work went really well, and I have to say Zazzy absolutely loved the running contact training! She was shouting for more!
Mat work is easy to do as I could take mats anywhere, we could do some lunchtime running where ever we were. Making transportable planks was fairly arduous, but once I had made them, I could take those on occasion too, and/or use them in my back garden. Once we were on a dog walk plank, and the early stages of raising it, well that wasn't too difficult to set up at friendly venues. However, March came around too soon, so we went back to a stopped contact for our Crufts team event. Around that time I started to struggle with not having a full dog walk set up that I could use regularly. If we had not started the show season, if I could have let her forget the stopping behaviour, and if I had a set up that we could use regularly, I have no doubt that Zazzy could have acheived a successful switch from stopped to running. She really seemed to 'get' it. Here is a bit of video to show where she had got to by February.
I am glad that I have given it a try, we have both really enjoyed it, and I have learnt loads about how dogs move, as well as getting more experience of shaping behaviours. I could not get a second video to load, but it shows clearly that without shaping, zazzy would not run just through the end of the contact, she would stride over it most the time. I also would love to have another go! Teaching it as a first behaviour, rather than a re-train, is something I would love to try.
Unfortunately early May has become a sad time of year for me, as I lost my treasured little Becky to cancer in May two years ago. Because I always cry when I think about it, I don't speak about it very much, even two years on. She was only 11 years old and I feel she should have had many more years, she was taken from me far too soon, and I still feel a huge amount of grief, sadness and devastation. When I lost her I learnt so much more than I previouly realised about how precious my dogs are to me, how their time with us is far too short, and how it is really important to make the most of every moment. Someone very wise said to me recently, it is not the length of life that is important, it is the quality of the lives we live while we are here. Well Becky and I sure had one hell of a good time together! I don't think I am exaggerating to say that she turned my life onto a different path, perhaps that's why I miss her walking next to me so much. However, slowly (thanks to my wonderful friends for their patience!) I feel that I am thinking more about all the good, amazing, brilliant times she filled my life with, and dwelling less on the sadness of losing her. I felt for a very long time that I could not have another dog because it was just too painful when you lose them. However now I also realise that the reason that they leave such a big hole in your life is because they enrich your life so much when they are here. If you try to avoid the pain of losing your best friend by not having one, you miss out on an immensely rich tapestry of life, and it is even sader to not live to the full during the relatively short time you are alive and able! Every day my little guys make me laugh with their joyful antics, and I feel so lucky to have such a great rapport with them.
Rest In Peace Becky, thank you for the wonderful time we had.