This past year has been a difficult one for me and Vito. With Vito almost 3yrs old, his increased anxieties, and the start of different medications, it seems as thought the dog I have today is completely different than the dog I had a year ago. And I am ashamed to say that I have not been handling it well.
Where the changes are most evident is with our obedience training. I remember being able to get Puppy Vito jazzed up with or without a toy. I was so happy that I would easily be able to transition to being in the ring since it wasn't hard to reward Vito with just physical interaction. My only problem at that time was figuring out the fine line between making it fun and sending him over the top! But now I've discovered that I can't play the games that I used to play with him. Instead of getting him excited, a playful butt tag and running away from him actually seems to worry Vito and he does not drive to me with any zest. I can't try and ruffle him up without him backing away. I may be exaggerating a little as it's actually only a subtle change in his behavior but the difference is there. This was really made evident to me at the Denise Fenzi seminar where my playful attempts only served to over power him.
And now Vito seems to care a lot more about a crowd than he ever did in the past. We were at a run through this month (rare for my schedule!) and my only goal was to work on playing and heeling in the ring. As soon as we approached the steward table I could feel Vito getting a little stressed. Once in the ring he did an ok job so that few watching would even notice. But Vito would only tug at the far end of the ring and wanted nothing to do with it at the side near the audience, although he would take his favorite treats. In the warm up ring he was perfectly fine so I don't think it's the ring gates themselves that Vito is feeling but rather the pressure from an audience. At the Fenzi seminar he also suddenly started eying the audience at one point.
These changes and others (sleeping lots, won't even shake since it involves paw touching...) are something I have been avoiding dealing with. We are not in a weekly obedience class, just playing on our own maybe once a week. Training at home has been practically non existent with Vito not really wanting his food, although his interest has been peaking this last week. But for the most part I haven't been doing anything with Vito the last several months besides weekly agility class and the occasional puttering on our own. It's not so much that I need to relearn everything about my dog, but that I don't know what changes are due to Vito's growing up, increased anxiety issues, or what changes are due to decreased drive from his medications. I recently took Vito off his Alprazolam for his car anxiety since I just can't stand the zombie that it makes him. Some days were better than others but I never knew what dog I was going to have when. But even with him off the Alprazolam I just don't know if he's still somewhat flat from his Prozac or not and it's pissing me off that I don't know. I just don't want to take him off the Prozac as we can leave him alone for 4.5hrs now and he sleeps!!!
I guess if there's a point to this post it's that I am going to recommit myself to figuring out how to train my dog and how to play with him.
Edit: I'm not trying to say that Vito hates obedience. On the contrary, he really loves heeling, loves his dumbbell, and we certainly have fun together. The problem we are having is that I can no longer use the rewards that I used to. So far, safe rewards are tugging, his beloved ball, and treats, but I haven't found a way to insert just me into our obedience training like I used to. I miss playing with my dog, just me and him.