Cura and I have been together since 2009. We want to thank all of you who followed the early days as well as those who popped back on occasion during the long hiatus. Training was done, the days passed, and we were settling into our life together.
Fast forward: Cura is slowing down and a new member of the family is in training. On top of that, we are all busy with our new calling . . . Running the Training Department for Paws and Stripes. Join us on our journey!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Inside vs. Outside

I mentioned that Cura was a Rescue Dog . . . because of this, we have had some interesting challenges when it comes to Inside vs. Outside. Hmmm, I used the past tense and that is not exactly accurate because the basic Inside vs. Outside issues continue, though the way they manifest is constantly in flux. Many of Cura's reactions are completely understandable, given her experiences.

When she was in the shelter, she was in an outside pod with a metal roof. One of the first challenges we had to work through was her dislike for the indoors. Whenever we were in a building or room, she wanted out. It didn't really matter to her what route -- window or door -- any way that led Outside was her focus. Her favorite method of attempting to achieve Outside was to lay down as requested and then inch her way toward the nearest opening. If I had a nickle for every time I had to get her up and put her back in the initial spot . . .

That first round of basic training that we went through when she was still living at the shelter was frequently more focused on working Cura through her anxiety about Inside that working on the obedience commands. We tended to work on obedience in those initial days with much more success if she was Outside, so the actual classes were more about getting her to feel more comfortable Inside. Since the classes took up only a small part of our time together, there was plenty of time to enforce the commands. Even by the time she came home, Cura was not overly pleased about being Inside. I was not sure how she was going to react to being in the house -- but, for the most part, I need not have worried.

She became comfortable Inside very quickly. In fact, the second or third day she was home, we were out walking and some hot air balloons were going up. Once I convinced her that running away (in ANY direction) was not an option, all she wanted was to get Inside! Now, if we are out in the back yard and she doesn't like something (the weather, balloons, noises, whatever) she makes a beeline for the door to get in the house. But, one of the things that I have to do is get her to be comfortable in these kinds of trigger situations, so she can't just go Inside if something bothers her. In order to help her get over these things, I can't just let her in the house because she is freaked -- that would accomplish nothing but enforce the anxiety. So, she has to stay out for at least a little bit before she is let Inside.

Now, I am not saying that there were not some rather funny moments involving Inside. For example, about three weeks after she came home, Cura noticed a recessed light in the ceiling of the family room. Who knows why she had never noticed it before or why it bothered her so much all of a sudden -- but she didn't and it did. It took about 10 minutes to get her to stop grumbling at it (having now heard her growl, I would not call the sound she made at that time growling, exactly) and another 20 minutes before she began to stop looking at it and eventually ignore it completely. That is about the average time it takes Cura to work past things that do not involve noises. If the situation involves noises that she finds disturbing, the process can take much longer -- some of them are still challenges after almost twelve weeks, though Cura's reactions are getting better.

In some cases the progress is slow and it is important to recognize the 'little successes' and ALWAYS end on them (something that is not always easy -- I am getting pretty good at recognizing the 'silver lining' -- this whole process really reinforces a 'glass is half full' mentality). In an ideal world, I would NEVER end an experience on anything but a positive note for Cura -- ending on even a little success makes the next situation that much better for her. But, this is not an ideal world, so that is not always possible. When that happens, I just remind myself that tomorrow is another day and I approach each situation AS IF she HAD a little success last time. Believe it or not, frequently that actually works -- who knew! It is true that attitude is most of the 'battle'. If I am confident, calm, consistent, and persistent, Cura does well. If I am uncertain, anxious, scattered, and give up, it affects Cura's success. We are a team and I have to hold up my end of the bargain so that she can learn how to consistently hold up hers. She already knows that she has a job -- I just have to help her understand exactly what it is and help her to always be comfortable regardless of whether she is Inside or Outside. A tall order -- but I do my best to fill it.

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