You may remember that we adopted, Stella, a 10-month old Bichon almost exactly 2 years ago. She came from a home where she was not treated well, and we had a lot of challenges to overcome. Some we have, some we haven’t, despite training sessions (Stella Goes to School) and my best efforts.
The thing that we struggle with the most is getting Stella to come on command. She knows what she is supposed to do when I call her. If I have a treat in my hand, she’ll come immediately. But when treats aren’t involved, she will only come about 70% of the time. Even then she crouches down, as close to the ground as she can get, and creeps slowly toward me. I can almost see the mental struggle she is having, wanting to obey but afraid of getting hurt. She came to us with that behavior, so I continually give her praise, no matter how long it takes her to come to me. I constantly snuggle with her and tell her that she is safe with me, hoping that one day she’ll really believe it.
So that other 30% of the time? It’s totally opposite of the 70% crouching-creeping behavior. It is almost defiant, really. She is more interested in what she is doing than she is in behaving properly or making me happy. She is self-assured and determined. This was pretty evident yesterday. I rarely let her out of the house without being on a leash -just because I don’t know if she will respond in the 70% way or the 30% way when I call her. But yesterday I let my guard down. I walked to my car, and let her tag along – no leash. She walked with me to the car, then stopped, lifted her head, looked down the driveway and took off.
Her favorite thing to do off-leash is to run down our driveway and then down a large hill to a flat plateau. She will sit there and just look around. She appears to be looking at the birds, at the sky, at the trees and the things that creep in the grass. My guess is that she would sit there, looking out over the valley for hours, if I would let her.
When she is in her “happy place,” Stella won’t come when I call. Period. But she will stay there until I come and get her. And honestly? THAT is a big improvement, considering that she used to run away.
But in this case, I have a hard time getting mad at her. Who wouldn’t want to sit on a grassy hill, soaking up the sunshine, enjoying the scenery?
Honestly, though, I know I should spend more time working with her on this command. Sometimes I just find it easier to climb down the hill, plop down beside her, and take a short rest myself.