Canine Maserati

 A trainer Rain and I met with before I decided to start with Reactive Rover described Australian shepherds as Maseratis of the dog world. It’s an apt label.

Have you ever driven or ridden in a high-performance sportscar? They’re AMAZING! They can tear around a track in seconds, turn on a dime, and impress people. Shiny!

But if you’re commuting to work in one, you’ll feel every single pothole on the road in your bones. Stopping for groceries after work? HA HA! You won’t have anyplace to put more than a single grocery bag. That turning on a dime thing? It could be deadly when you sneeze and accidentally veer into the lane next to you.

These cars were built to excel at specific things. And so it goes with many working dog breeds.

Australian shepherds (as a breed) were developed to have enough energy to work cattle eight-plus hours a day with their rancher owners. This work requires physical endurance, agility, and tons of intelligence. Suburban life with owners who work in an office all day? Not so much!

Rain came over Friday morning while I was making a salad to have for lunch at work. I walked five feet over to the fridge to put the lettuce container away. Her front paws rose to the cutting board.

Rain! OFF!” I said.
Her response was to snatch the tomato off the counter, scurry into the living room, and scarf the thing in one bite. This wouldn’t have been so bad except it was the very last red tomato of the season from my CSA, and I had just cut into it—she ate most of it.

Oh man, was I angry—and she knew it. The previous morning she got about 1/6 of my breakfast, a toasted bagel with peanut butter. She hadn’t been too much of a counter-surfer before, but she was starting to see her opportunities and seize them.

Over the next several minutes, I barely spoke to her. I just glared. ಠ_ಠ  She understood.

Then it was time to go to the park. I was still angry, but I don’t think dogs understand grudges and she still needed her morning exercise.

We walked and eventually arrived at the playground area that I use as a faux agility course. I had her do a series of jumps over the balance beam and jump up and off one of the platforms on the structure. When responding to “over” she has been starting to launch off the balance beam, so I decided to see if I could get her to stand on the balance beam itself.

I positioned myself next to the balance beam, then grabbed a training cookie and held it in front of my face. It didn’t take too much effort to not only get her balanced on the balance beam, but posed for a photo.

IMG_1117

For just a moment while trying to reach the cookie, her body was in a position I’ve only seen Jay Sisler’s dogs doing. (Check out a short YouTube video of Jay Sisler and his Aussies!)

Rain’s work impressed me so much that I couldn’t hold my grudge. I did a few more exercises with her on the playground and we went about our walk. After she had burned off some energy playing ball, she also nailed two turns…off leash.

Have you ever felt like you’re not worthy of your awesome dog? That you don’t have the resources needed for them to realize their full potential? That’s pretty much how I felt after Friday morning—like a Ford Pinto driver suddenly in possession of a Maserati.

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