In an attempt to continue on a path towards a less chaotic and integrated life, I've finally engaged the services of a professional dog trainer.  This, after yet another trip to the lovely Jarrett Small Animal Hospital due to yet another dog fight.  Greg Lyon of Mutts and manners came over for an initial visit and talked with me about the issues - dominance, hyperactivity, aggression... all the not-so-cute facets of my beloved Boston Terriers.  I learned about his training philosophies and methods using the electronic "IQ" collar made by Dogtra.  Even though I was skeptical at first and emotionally, it still turns me off, the sensation produced by the collar only ranges from the vibration of a cell phone to an almost imperceptible electrical tap.  I decided to bight the financial bullet and give THIS form of training a try. 

I have two Bostons, Bobby and Birdy.  Bobby is about seven and has been very difficult from the very beginning - I even had to drop out of a training class since he bloodied 3 dogs' noses and got loose and attacked the instructor's dog on the first night.  Needless to say I sent flowers and apologies and spared the other dogs and owners from further trauma by never returning.  Even with a great deal of training effort on my part, I eventually gave up trying to walk him and have pretty much kept him away from other dogs ever since we came to Kansas three years ago.  He is an absolute sweetie pie when it's just the two of us, don't get me wrong, he's adorable and very playful... and of course I love him very much...

Birdy is about three and is very trainable, walks great on and off leash and seems to respond to any instruction (unless she's in the "zone").  Here she is in the St. Patrick's Day parade.... we were part of a "float" for The Dog House - a collection of dog related products and services vendors.

The fighting issue arises when anyone comes to the door.  Bobby is beside himself with excitement and Birdy attacks him.....to curtail the energy? I think that's what the dog whisperer would say, but I'm not sure.  So.. to begin the training, I opted for working with Bobby, in hopes of being able to walk him and thereby begin to change the dynamics.

At our first lesson, Greg decided to wait out Bobby's obsession with the leash - give him a change to "get it all out of his system".  Greg walked him back and forth in the living room and then in the front yard hundreds of times while Bobby chewed and attacked and wrestled with the leash with unending ferocity.

You can see by the last picture that Bobby was getting pretty tired. Eventually, after almost an hour and a half, Bobby chewed right through the brand-new deluxe ten foot leash and still would not let go. 

The first lesson ended up being almost three hours long and by the conclusion, Bobby was walking on leash for short stretches without pulling and responding to come and sit commands.

This was remarkable progress and a testament to Greg's patience and experience.

Bobby's progress and my goal of reducing vet fees from fighting Bostons is dependent on how much energy I am willing to put into the endeavor.  There's nothing new here in terms of understanding CHANGE from an intellectual point of view. However, since I live most of the time in my own personal la-la-right-brain fantasy land, this is a challenging transition for both Bobby and me.

We've had our second lesson since these pictures were taken and there was still quite a bit of leash obsession, however, with lots of reminders, we were able to walk as a team for substantial stretches.  This is a fantastic improvement from him pulling so hard (even with one of those poky chain collar things) as a young dog that he rubbed his paws pads raw on walks back in Seattle.

Although I am hopeful in theory, we've been back to the vet again (only $67 this time...) and had several other fights not resulting in injury.  Each fight, each struggle with the leash just trying to go out and do some training homework, each swipe of the credit card erodes my momentum. 

This the year of integration though, and as you are my witness, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, slow and steady progression towards balance, peace and harmony - and just a bit of snorting/snuffling/Boston Terrier love.

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