As I’ve been mulling over our first flyball tournament, something keeps coming back to me:
This is what it looks like to have boundaries respected.
One thing that made an impression on me was when Lina (a prime Ladybug-spoiler) stopped in the middle of a conversation, looked at me, and asked if I wanted people to stop giving Ladybug treats. I’d said it was okay, but she wanted to make sure I really was okay instead of just being polite.
I appreciate that more than I can say.
For the record, yes I am okay (for now) with our team giving her treats. Particularly the men. Well, not if she’s barking and misbehaving. 😛 She’s still learning to trust, settle down, and become part of the group. If a bit of sausage now and then teaches her that this is a safe space…then sausage it will be.
Do I want people feeding her treats long-term?
I don’t usually let anyone give her treats, except the vet or if a child asks. (I can’t resist children. 😛 ) If we have a play with another dog in the park and that dog’s mum or dad asks to give her one, I might say yes. (Honestly, mostly to be polite.) Sometimes a trainer/teacher or someone similar.
But for the most part, nope. Treats come from me.
So why have I readily agreed for a group of flyballers to feed my dog?
I admit, the first time I was taken aback. I nearly said, “Wait, please don’t feed my dog.” Ladybug was lunging and barking at a guy we’d just met, and he kept telling me that it was okay. To let her approach him, and that it would be okay. He fed her a treat. The little madam gulped her treat and barked again. This was repeated a few times. 😛
I didn’t say anything, partly out of politeness but mainly because the motivation and method were 100% about reassuring Ladybug. He was gentle, slow, and didn’t get too close to her. She still barked her head off. 😛
In the next practices, various people came up and asked to feed her treats. The first time was so incredibly effective (well, if you give my dog sausage when she’s never, ever allowed it from mummy!), and it was immediately followed by good, focused training.
If people are willing to spoil and coddle my puppy so she learns big-girl things like resting in a crate or running over jumps–without bothering other dogs afterward–then treat away!
The second Ladybug learns that this is a safe space, though, I’ll ask people to put the treats away. Once now and then for a special fuss or reward, sure. But I don’t want to have “that” dog, the one who won’t leave people alone. Just like I’ll allow Ladybug (up to a point) to paw at or jump up for a cuddle if people are okay with it–but only for now. Once she feels safe, mummy’s discipline will return.
If she’s learning something for the treat, sure. If she’s learning to let someone else hold her or help us with training, that’s okay.
But until Lina asked me, in front of everyone, whether I preferred for people to stop giving her treats, I hadn’t thought much about it.
To be honest, with flyball it’s been a day by day, minute by minute kind of experience. Will she be okay today? Will she be okay for the next five minutes? I’m still holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and wondering if this is all too good to be true. Agility was amazing…until it wasn’t. Our first and only friend was great…until she wasn’t. The jury is still out whether flyball will be another hope dashed. I really, really want to believe it’s not, but only time will tell.
That’s why I refuse to seriously consider competition for Ladybug. If it happens and we can afford it, great. If it doesn’t, I don’t care. I refuse to care, or I will worry and stress about getting things right with her. We’re starting flyball the way a desperately sick child might have started ballet lessons–as a way to develop strength and health after a long illness.
It was such a pleasant experience to be asked whether I really was okay with how people interacted with my dog. It was probably because of my tone–oh sure, whatever, let her have treats–but that was more about me sighing at throwing my own rules out the window. At home, we have very strict rules. I’d really prefer to enforce them consistently, but I’ve learned in the past few months that progress isn’t straightforward. We work on something, have a setback, and start again. It’s disheartening, but she does still make progress. Each time we start again, it’s not as difficult as before. Plus, she’s better able to handle a challenge the next time.
Right now, she’s learning to trust people. She’s learning to tolerate a few chosen men (trust will take an extremely long time, for both of us). That lesson is far more important than food manners, at least right now.
I know this, but the mummy in me winces at letting the rules go. 😛 But I’ve done it before, for very good reason, and it was okay.
She lost almost all of her discipline in the hospital and recovery period afterward, as all of my energy was consumed in getting her to eat. We are still working on getting her back to good eating habits.
(Oh, a funny moment! When I gave someone treats to give her, he said, “It’s a wonder you’re not fat with all the treats you get!” 😀 I was so pleased! She must look like a healthy dog at a healthy weight for someone to say that! It’s been so many months of blood, sweat, and tears to get food into her. For the record, though, she almost never gets treats at home. Just for training, and many days we have to skip at-home training because she can’t afford to eat the treats. Not due to weight gain–I only wish!–but because she hasn’t eaten any/enough regular food, and the treats will make her sick. Plus, she’s so erratic with her food intake that she’s still probably not consuming as much as she burns. Have to weigh her to see whether she’s regained her most recent weight loss.)
I really want Ladybug to work for a toy/tuggy as much as possible. Then I won’t have to worry so much about her getting an upset stomach. It didn’t work last week (little madam had refused food the entire day and evening before, so she was ravenous), but maybe this week. 😀
Or if the babybrat would work for kibble again, grr! I’m so annoyed that we’ve lost that. She was wonderful at working for kibble until the hospitalization. I keep hoping we can get that again, but it’s been a long, hard-fought battle to get her to eat kibble at all.
Over the past few months, we’ve found a new set of rules that works for our new circumstances. She’s now allowed on the sofa, which was an absolute no-no before. (Boy did she like to test that one!) I’m not pleased that she thinks she can jump onto furniture, but the hard floor is too uncomfortable for cuddling. She now sleeps in my bed. I’d always permitted (wanted) that, but she refused. I think that’s my favorite change post-hospital. It’s lovely to snuggle with her at night, and I’ve slept a lot better. It does mean changing the bedding a lot, though. 😛
Some rules have stayed the same, and others need more work because of different circumstances. She didn’t use to jump quite so much when I came home because she had a big house to run around in.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but allowing people to give Ladybug treats is another way I’ve begun trusting again. I didn’t even notice it, either! That was a sore point before, that someone was giving her treats constantly (to the detriment of her health and nutrition, as she refused to eat her kibble), just for the fun and ego boost of having Ladybug as a constant shadow. It became a point of contention, but I didn’t mind for flyball. At least not once I got over my initial discomfort (and that was more about not asking my permission first than giving the actual treat). She’s older now, more secure in her attachment to me, and more clearly understands that she’s mine (lol, well, that I’m hers) and not anyone else’s.
That was the biggest difficulty I had training and raising her in the early days. Because I was constantly undermined and no one respected my wishes regarding her, she never got consistent discipline. Everyone liked the fun of a new puppy when she was fun, but no one took responsibility when she wasn’t. She was my first dog, so I believed all the criticism that I was doing everything wrong.
(I’ve later found out that much of what I’d wanted is recommended by trainers–things like working for kibble, keeping training treats as tiny as possible, consistency in training, and that training little behaviors does help with overall discipline. Sitting and waiting at the door may not seem like a big thing, but it helps to establish boundaries.)
It’s quite nice, being asked what is okay for my dog.
It’s a nice change.
I look forward to the day when Ladybug trusts our flyball team enough to not need treats for reassurance (this person is safe), but for now I’ll enjoy watching everyone spoil her. Adore her, pet her, and joke that I should put her in their van to take home after practice. (Puppy-napping! 😛 )
“You spoil my dog,” I said as I served the Rice Krispie treats, “and I’ll spoil you.”
Someone laughed. “And what’s wrong with that?”
Not one blessed thing.