Thanks for your very thoughtful comments yesterday. I had no idea how many people had experienced similar feelings about a parent's death as I have. You helped me see how many people never stop grieving a beloved parent and that many of you have experienced a feeling of disquiet when your age approached the age of your parent's death.
Today is training update day. Shyla has had a stupendous week of training. We had a few fabulous trips into town, visiting shopping areas and the spooky park where the skateboards scared her so much last time she was there. She handled everything in stride during socialization this week although she was not tested by skateboards. She was tested by a hand-truck in the vet's lobby, and she declined to go anywhere near it. That was fine because she bounced back from her initial fear so quickly that the hand-truck fear didn't affect anything else about our outing.
At home, we kept working on old tricks and new tricks. On one evening walk, it was just me and Shyla (the boys were running), and she did a prolonged off-leash heel despite many distractions. I was very proud of her because I consider off-leash heeling to be a critical part of staying safe during our hikes and bike rides. I'm still working on teaching her to heel next to my bike - that's more of a challenge but we'll get it eventually!
We practiced her "relax" cue in all sorts of places.
We have expanded her retrieve so that she'll pick up and return a variety of objects. A piece of PVC pipe...
Shyla has started creating her own tricks, which is one of the most fun parts of clicker training - dogs are not afraid to try out new behaviors. As you know, I've taught her to "take a bow".
Our last thing for the coming week is that I want to continue to teach Shyla that nail-clipping is not a bad thing (we had quite a struggle over nail-clipping last week). I'm using a Youtube video as my guide. Basically, I started by taking her to the spot where I always clip nails and having her lie down. Then, I held her paw in my hand numerous times, rewarding her with a click/treat each time if she didn't pull away. Over a 10 minute session, I worked up to holding her paw while spreading out her toes and touching a nail with the nail clipper, without any signs of stress from her. I hope that I'll be able to clip a nail without any resistance within the next week.
I am finding that Shyla is perhaps the most trainable dog who I've ever worked with. She loves to learn, loves to get praise, and loves to puzzle out what I'm trying to entice her to do. I think that, in terms of training specific behaviors (e.g., tricks), the sky is the limit. In terms of socialization, I'm not sure where the limit is (e.g., skateboards may never be okay) but we'll keep working at it so that Shyla can eventually handle most things in the everyday world without a hitch.