The rhythmic bumps on the interstate lulled Java into a slumber for the entire ride. When we reached the hotel, it was a different story. Gathering as much dog stuff as I could in one arm, I took the leashed dog in the other. Down the long, carpeted hallway we trotted, with Java sniffing and pulling like a dog on the trail of a fabulous scent. At the end of the hall was our room. I was exhausted and hoped Java still was, too.
Unclipping her leash, I started to unpack our stuff as Java lunged violently at herself in the mirrors – attacking her likeness but not understanding it was only her own reflection snarling back. She lunged and barked at the door every time shadows of feet passed by in the light, and then spent all night woofing at every little creak and squeak that dared to make a sound.
Needless to say, I arrived at the first day of my Tellington TTouch® training near tears with an over-stressed Plott Hound attached at my hip. It was obvious. Within moments of our arrival, it was like a professional orchestra was being directed. Someone held Java, someone set up my crate, someone handed me a pen to sign some papers, and someone looked me right in the eye and immediately touched my heart with hers.
"She’s only a bit scared, that’s all," Edie Jane (the instructor), said to me then looked down at Java. "Come on, girl. Let’s get you feeling a little better about yourself."
With the wave of her magic wand, Edie Jane whisked Java off to equip her with a head collar, harness and double-ended leash. While Java stood by her side, Edie Jane explained how Java lacked self-control and didn’t have the correct calming signals to tell other dogs she was afraid. In other words, she stared at dogs, unable to make herself look away, until she felt so frightened that she lunged at them. The head collar helped to steer her head away from staring, and the harness around her chest was to help bring her body back into balance when she lunged. Java lunged, and I held my breath, then looked at Edie Jane and smiled. Java’s lunging was easily managed with this equipment and a confident, skilled handler.
Within minutes, Java was learning how to turn her head and bring her body back into balance. Me, I was watching carefully – trying to figure out how on earth I was going to maneuver a leash in each hand and still walk my reactive dog while carrying a cup of coffee!
For what seemed like hours, Java’s behavior served as a teaching moment for the entire class. I felt a strange combination of pride and embarrassment, but Edie Jane showed me quickly, easily and gently how capable Java was. My heart grew in leaps and bounds as I watched Java settle, think, and balance herself. I soon realized that Java was capable of a lot more than I was aware, and so was I. During that first morning of the training, a huge shift took place when I witnessed Java’s true potential around other dogs. Java and I both felt it.
When class resumed after lunch, Java looked at Edie Jane, and acknowledged the woman who was on the other end of the hand that was making her feel so nice. Looking away, Java’s eyes quickly connected with a pit mix across the circle. Java held her gaze and I held my breath.
Lightning fast, I felt Java’s energy shift and her whole body begin to stiffen. Like a Canadian TTouch samurai, Edie Jane turned swiftly to Java, broke her hard gaze by steering her head away, and tapped her ever so gently on top of her head.
"Think about it, girl," Edie Jane said firmly to Java.
"Yeah, right," I thought to myself, but she did! Java turned her head away from the other dog all by herself and looked into Edie Jane’s eyes, and heart. From that moment forward, I believed wholeheartedly in Tellington TTouch®.