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Second session with animal communicator (long)

In early
2007, we began having problems again with Lilly wandering the neighborhood. The
snow drifts were taller than our fences, so it was easy for her to get out.
This is also around the same time as the snarking began at our rally obedience
classes, which we were doing to try and build ring confidence for agility. Can you say backfire? So, I asked the communicator to find out what was up. Here are the

in mind that the communicator is British, so when she says garden, she means
yard. Oh, and we don’t have a boat, but our neighbors do. (Hey, again, Katy …
Lilly loves your boat for some reason.) To my knowledge, Lilly has never been
on a boat.

the notes talk about Lilly “attacking” other dogs. But, that’s something she
doesn’t do. She’ll bark, growl and show her teeth, but she’s never truly went
after or hurt another dog. So, take that word as used below, with a bit of

and we were already using click-to-calm methods mentioned long before the
snarking started.

Lilly is
keen as ever to connect with me and she opens the session by barking at me
excitedly and spinning to the right, wanting me to follow closely. She takes me
outside and leads me to where a boat is (normally) parked. The scene does not
refer to today, as there is no snow on the ground. She is showing me around. When
I ask what it is about the boat, she shows me an outing in the vehicle to a
lake that she enjoyed and then moves quickly to what I think is your backyard. I
see a play frame of sorts, like part of a house and also a see-saw. (This is her home agility course.) She likes to be
outside, and she likes to play out here. She is full of energy and excitement,
she feels light and engaging.

I let her
know why I am here and explain that things have changed recently. She continues
to flit around with her thoughts, and so I ask her how she feels about the snow.
It’s pretty much been white and covered a lot of her activities. She shows me
that there is less to do and see in the garden, and so she feels she needs to
explore and find other exciting things to do.

You haven’t
been out together so much on your walks, and she has taken it upon herself to
walk. She sees others do that in the neighborhood and believes it’s quite
alright.  She shows me the snow-drifts in
the garden and specifically points out the top right hand corner of the
property. As I start to say that you’re worried about her leaving. She
continues with how she’s alright and can take care of herself. She has always
been alright, and she always comes home. I point out that we know she can take
care of herself and appreciate her intelligence. It’s not so much her as the
road conditions for the vehicles, the deep snow drifts and the weather changes.
It would be preferable if she asked you to go with her and see if you couldn’t
go out together for a wee while.

I share
your message about the rally ring to her, so that she knows where the
conversation is leading. I am not personally familiar with the rally obedience
training and ask Lilly to show me some scenes. She shares an activity of
herself and other dogs standing one end and the people the other end – in
effect they are loose and not on leads or lines. The purposes is for there to
be distance training and obedience with them ultimately coming to their person.

Prior to
this & while she is still on a lead I see her shut-down. She is lying down
and solid as a rock, with intermittent shaking. As though she looses her mind
and is no longer present, in a way as though something has caused intense fear
(I see it a bit like if someone has seen a scary sight). “Its alright Lilly” –
you say to her as you massage, touch & stroke her.

“What makes
you so worried”, I ask? She is instant and clear with the answer. It’s the
stimulus, outside stimulus. She is highly sensitive and she hears all the
noises, the sounds, the distractions. She looses her focus, and she can no
longer decipher your words amongst the rest. There is much going on with the
other people, the dogs (although focused on their people), the movement around
her and you. She finds it really difficult to understand you.

She is so
keen to show me that she is good. She goes right back to your garden and her
ability to perform when it’s the 2 of you!  She really is trying, but she
cannot seem to make it work.

She shows
me a golden retriever who does the class really well. This particular dog must
have been physically close to her at some point, because the perfection
aggravated her. I wonder if she can’t have her own time, where only she performs, then
she watches and maybe there are only 2 dogs going at the same time.
shows me that she got pretty mad and literally ran across the area to attack
(so to speak) another. She shows me barking too, it appears to be
excitement, but it’s more of a stressful/overload situation. Her mind is
exceedingly active and while she begins to process one cue, she already has
moved onto the next one, while taking in her environment and processing her
natural needs and desires too, which ultimately builds up into tension and
confusion. It makes sense why the one-on-one works better for her.

obviously missed a piece here, because we return to the attacking and although
from a scientific standpoint I don’t know how this would be received, but Lilly feels as
though the other dogs don’t understand her. She feels like they are mocking her
inability to do this
. There are many wonderfully behaved and talented
dogs there. I believe this adds another perspective and dynamic to the picture.
It will have appeared like the other dog did nothing to the people watching on,
but Lilly felt slighted.  

I take a
moment to explain to her that some dogs really enjoy their work, they find it
easy to focus on a person and can literally close out the stimulus, it’s not so
much mocking as a pure enjoyment. I cannot, of course, assure her that nobody
feels this way, as I am not there.

I continue
to explain to her that she cannot go around attacking other dogs in class or in
general. That she is so smart, agile and strong that she needs to stay watching
you. When she feels less than the others, come to you. Walk away from the situation
and come to you.

She tells
me that she has done this, that she has shown her concern prior to the class,
that she has laid down, you have reassured her through your means. This has
only given her enough to walk on through but when she looses it again, now she
takes it to the next level. The acu-pressure/massage is not the answer she
tells me. It only helps in the moment, it soothes, but it doesn’t look at the
root cause.

As I write
this, I remember conversations I have had with my girlfriend in CA about
clicker training and the expo I have been to. You may really find that clicker
training is a wonderful way forward for you both. The trainers can assist with teaching focus,
direction while creating a confident being. 

Lilly lacks the focus and
the confidence right now to get her through this, but it doesn’t mean that she
is incapable of learning any of these classes. She may need to step back and begin by
learning to relax on cue, learning to focus on cue and then moving forward to
blocking out other stimulus – this will truly build her confidence to face

I don’t get
the sense that any incident in particular has caused this behavior. I think
it’s a build up to this point and that Lilly learns differently, because of her
personality and make-up.

The help
can come in so many ways and I believe it’s a good start with the clicker
training – teaching her to relax etc. I ask her to explain her work and play
time……she shows me a ball. The situation she shares is that the work and play
has no pressure, it’s a matter of incorporating lessons within play. She
decides that she wants a ball and throws her weight around. She challenges
another with her energy and growling and takes it up to the next level.

appears to be another kind of possessiveness but also dominance.  Part of her is proud when she achieves the
result, and she thinks she will be seen as a top dog. In other words she is gaining
something by this behavior now
. Both scenarios are different, but she is
learning that she gains something. I begin to share with her that this is not
acceptable, it’s not kind behavior and will not serve her. This behavior will
isolate her from others, and she will not be able to play, be free or join the
class. The friendly way of playing, sharing and having fun will mean that there
is more play time, which she loves! 

I consider
many aspects and let her know that her mind is so busy, she loves to explore
and see new things, here you are prepared to go that extra mile with her, but
she needs to co-operate. The only way you can do this together is if she plays
fair and has fun with others.

I believe that you made need to go back to
basics with her before you can proceed too much and the above suggestions will
help to make a resolution program
. I ask her if she wants to create some kind of sign for you
to see that she is getting worried that you will be willing to notice this sign
and try to act on it before she gets too worried. She shows herself lying down and rather than
the acu-pressure alone, she shows me a picture of you leading her away. Taking
a bit of time out and then returning, this may actually build her up and help
her – knowing that she can leave and then return later and not be surrounded by
what is upsetting her. Taking her away for a bit, taking her mind of things,
walking around thereby dispersing the energy, re-evaluating the situation,
calming through voice, reassurance and then returning
(This cue relates
more to training than the playtime as that is a different cause).

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.