We had a problem. I'd done everything to train Shyla to come when called and to stay close when we went for bike rides together that I'd done with my previous dogs. By Shyla's age, K had been a very reliable biking dog. I was getting aggravated with Shyla almost daily, feeling upset with her tendency to choose the temptations in the forest instead of coming to me.
The carcass run-away was a wake-up call for me. I knew that I needed to address the issue or else stop taking Shyla on bike rides with me. Not taking her on bike rides would have broken my heart. That left one option.
That very day, the Fenzi school opened up registration for a new round of classes, and one of them was "Recalls". I hesitated for a moment, thinking that I already knew how to teach a dog a recall. Then, it hit me. I didn't know how to teach *sensitive Shyla* a recall. My methods had worked for other dogs but not for her.
So, I signed up. The class is now over, although our hard work is not. We've come a MILLION miles since the class began. We started from ground zero with a new recall word, and we practiced a zillion "set-up" scenarios, teaching Shyla to choose to come to me instead of chewing on bones or eating bad stuff.
We practiced throughout our trip to Wyoming and the Colorado mountains. She wore a 20' long line for most of our practice so that she couldn't fail. The photos are from after she'd graduated from the long line when we were in the wildflowers of the Colorado mountains.
One of the biggest parts of retraining Shyla is retraining ME. I am an intense person. When I fail, I try harder and with greater ferocity. It turns out that my intensity scares Shyla and makes her much less likely to come to me or stay near me.
I've had to learn to stay lighthearted and happy with Shyla, no matter how worried I am about the situation that we find ourselves in. For example, if she finds a fresh animal body part from an animal killed by a mountain lion, I still call her in a sing-song way and play with her as if there's no danger nearby. That part is very hard for me...
But, we've been very successful with our recalls since returning from our trip. After our bike rides, I'm happy and smiling rather than stressed and upset by Shyla's latest escapade. She's staying by my side while I ride, and she chooses me over the many temptations in the forest. I also set up temptations for her, like planting a bone in the middle of the trail, and then asking her to recall to me and away from the bone. I carry yummy treats, and she is now consistently choosing me.
I know that I have to keep practicing, especially so that my attitude remains light and happy. I can't let the "intense KB" make too many appearances or we'll be back where we started.
For now, I'm nothing but happy. I've learned how to train my sensitive Shyla much better, and that's worth its weight in gold.
Sometimes it's worth taking the blame upon yourself like I did when Shyla landed in the hospital, not so that you wallow in it, but so that you take positive action to change.
I'm so grateful that we've reached this point, where I'm starting to trust Shyla again in the forest. A million thanks to our teacher who helped us so much!