Loki passed his ABC (A Behaved Canine) certification this weekend. I never thought it would happen for this alligator on a leash. The judges had us perform one extra exercise that is not required for the certification, but merely had us do it just to see us sweat. All dogs had to stay down while a loose dog did a running recall right through all the down dogs to its owner. No big deal, but we were standing 15 feet away. Loki has a hard time resisting the temptation of a running dog. In fact, a few weeks ago, during an off-leash exercise on the training field, Loki chose to take off after a running/recalling husky instead of performing the off leash command I gave him. It was the longest 2 minutes of my life to get him back to me. That day we worked his obedience with "that" dog and he was never allowed to look at "that" dog again. Now he's very confident while other dogs run, and sits mostly quietly at my side waiting for his turn. When he knows he's working, he goes into his zone and then he just rocks my world.
At class, prior to his testing, the instructors set up a competition. Dogs had to go through a tunnel and then lay down near an orange pylon just outside the tunnel on your command. The dog closest to the pylon would win. The first dog, a low-key Labrador, did it perfectly. Loki, who isn't exactly "low-key," has speed and excitement working against him in exercises like this and can blow right past the pylon. Coming out of the tunnel to do his command, who do we find running loose? "That" dog he chased after a few weeks ago, which goes right up to the end tunnel just as Loki is coming out and faces him squarely, just as I'm giving him his down command. The look on Loki's face was priceless. He saw "that" dog, froze his body and completely turned his head, ears flat, "I'm not looking. I-SWEAR-TO-GOD-I'M-NOT-LOOKING. I'll just stay in this tunnel where I won't get in any trouble." That takes a lot of work for a dominant dog like Loki.
The owner collected the dog, I gave Loki his release command and then his command to down at the pylon and he did it perfectly. It took every fiber in my body to keep from jumping up and down with joy, which would have just made him think it was party time. He was one of the top 3 winners of about 20 dogs. Of course 20 minutes later, he pulled out his typical naughty stunt on a recall and blew right passed me to a dog he wanted to play-bully. Sigh. We still have work. But it sure is nice to make it through a one-hour class with only the occasional humiliating outburst versus 60-minutes of a temper-tantrum-throwing alligator. Most of the owners know him by now and though nobody likes him being naughty, they generally like him and are really impressed with how far he's come. One particular owner of a naughty dog totally digs it and giggles when Loki misbehaves.
Still, others have their moments to shine naughty. One of the most obedient dogs in the school, a golden retriever who never acts out, really misbehaved on Saturday and took off after one of the most aggressive dog in the class, a Saint Bernard. I stood there shaking in my boots hoping that it would end peacefully. When the dogs separated I couldn't help but sigh loudly "Phew! For ONCE that wasn't MY dog!" That caught a few laughs.
Loki is going all the way--to a higher level of obedience certification (Iron Dog). I'm also thinking about what working services he can do. Because there's a lot he can do. It's evident in everything he does how much he wants to work and I cannot deny him his natural drives. I didn't go looking for a dog like Loki. I wanted a dog that needed help with challenging behavior. But I never dreamed of having a dog with this much drive and desire to work just for the sake of working. It's pretty fabulous.
Rescue dogs come with a lot of baggage. Loki's becoming a great example of what a little time, obedience and positive reinforcement can do to help him become who he and every dog could and wants to be-a damn good dog.