Self control is not always easy

Many of us struggle with self control; put a bag of plain salted chips in front of me and I don't have much control.  Our dogs are the same; some of course struggle more than others.  Some dogs have a very hard controlling themselves around food; others have their own objects that they are uncontrollable over.  Many dogs have a difficult time controlling themselves from moving objects; this can be an extremely dangerous one.  A very common object that many dogs find themselves uncontrollable around are balls.  Elsa is one of these.  So we work very hard at gaining control around balls; it is a never ending work in progress.

Yesterday I decided to do some further work on the ball.  We have worked on not stealing other dog's balls and not ripping strangers to shreds while in pursuit of a ball that they are holding.  Out of all of Elsa's toys, and she has a lot; the large Kong tennis type ball is by far the favorite.  So, we used that for practice, not easy.

Control is essential; the more out of control a dog is the more danger they put themselves in.  Once a dog zones out it can be nearly impossible to get a hold of that gray matter we call the brain. The first thing you need to do is to tell yourself that you can do this.  You can get control.  Too often I hear "I can't do it."  Yes you can.  Baby steps, don't think at the big picture; think small doable steps.  Elsa's first step was for me to just drop the ball in front of her after telling her to wait.  This was hard enough but the ground work needed to let her know that the game had changed.  I enforced the "wait" with an ahhhh and body language whe she reacted, as I knew that she would. 

If you are having a hard time gaining control then throw a leash on for assistance.  If you cannot verbally control your dog then you may need help in the beginning.  Stepping on the leash and showing your dog what the new rules are can be a crucial step in the learning curve.  When we first start teaching physical boundaries; a leash is often required, especially in a highly dangerous zone.  The same thing can be needed for a new game changing rule. 

Elsa of course is catching on very quickly; she is an amazingly smart girl, although it is very difficult for her.  She's got drive and she LOVES chasing, catching and retrieving her ball.  But implementing new rules and teaching lessons is always good.  By adding a twist to an old game; she must learn to listen more carefully.  The game change creates a need for more attention, not just reaction.  When I pick up a ball, Elsa is instantly transformed into Elsa the intense retriever.  Her entire body and mind changes in that moment; breaking through can be a challenge.  But if I can teach the uber intensely  driven Tilley to wait and give Luke a turn with the Frisbee; any dog can learn to wait for direction.