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Ziggy Tails: Season 2 Episode 6: SUMMER FUN

If I wasn't such a determined person, I'd give up all this writing, blogging, vlogging stuff. I woke up early and with Ziggy still asleep, I effortlessly composed a blog post that I thought was, witty, entertaining, and insightful. I hit publish but the little wheel thingy just kept spinning, I tried to back out. Wrong thing to do, it deleted my post. Sure, it asked me if I wanted to leave the page I was on. I confirmed, thinking it would save it as a draft. Apparently not! I will attempt to reconstruct the awarding-winning post from earlier. Don't get your hopes up.

Instead of the peace and quiet I enjoyed earlier as I wrote - note to self: get up early for more alone time - I have a dog strapped to my waist and a cat literally climbing the walls and knocking stuff over. Ugh!!! But as I think I wrote in the vanishing post, there are more great times with these beasts than hair-pulling annoyances.

While episode 5 noted how my backpacking adventures have been put on hold as we work with Ziggy on his tenting desires, he is shining in other areas. The heat still exhausts him - another reason to get up earlier or go to bed later. An hour hike followed by a romp in the play-pen area with his herding ball and he is as good as toast for the day. Just another fantastic reason to get up early and be active with my pooch.

Ziggy's terrible days are slowing decreasing and his, not just good, but great days are on the increase. Yay! What I have noticed and maybe I have said it before, but his mood and behavior is directly correlated to mine. When I am in a good mood, so is Ziggy. When I am being a witch he turns into a demonic entity. He just isn't slightly misbehaved, he goes all out psycho. In the beginning I was looking at it backwards. When reviewing the weeks, days, and just moments, I would think, Gee, Ziggy is being horrible, it's not a great time. I was placing the day's value on Ziggy's mood. poor guy, he was wrongly blamed.

Sure, he has off moments and days for no reason, we all do. But most of the time I realized I was usually the cause. Once I realized I could mostly control Ziggy's demeanor with an adjustment in my own attitude, I noticed a huge difference. Our training has become easier, he is more loving (as loving as a velociraptor can be), and his off days are decreasing.

This works with people too. Try it sometime. Enter a room, meeting, store, phone call, etc with a grumpy disposition and see how others react to it. Then do the same with a smile on your face and a jovial spirit. We can set the tone for most situations by our own actions. It works to defuse a situation also. Have you ever been waited on by a rude customer service rep or had to deal with an angry customer. Our normal response is to lash out. But if we stay cool and level-headed, going above and beyond being nice, nothing fake, just being nice, usually that other person will match our own level of temperament, good or bad.

So, my lesson plans with Ziggy all start with me controlling my own head-space and his training is taking on a whole new level of competency. I'd like to take some credit for it, but he is a cattle dog and they are just so intelligent. Check out the video to see what we have been working on.

A few weeks ago Bruce and I were becoming very concerned. Ziggy was showing signs of aggression for no reason, so we thought. But there is always a reason. After seeking professional help and advice from my cattle dog Facebook group we learned he is at the age where he will go through his last fear stage. Life can be scary for a dog during their fear stages and it is up to us to help them through it. Things that once didn't bother him where now frightening.

We concentrated on figuring out what was going on at the time when he would become aggressive. Don't laugh, but he was afraid of paper towels and us cleaning up messes. These dogs are great at perceiving things that aren't right. The act of us tearing a paper towel off, then bending over to wipe up the floor was a trigger for him. In his mind, something was off, not quite right, he wasn't used to that action. I laughed once I realized it. We clean so infrequently that cleaning became a trigger.

Confidence training is supper important to do with a pup. Trips to stores, loud noises, textures, petting, all are things to help them get used to strange sights, smells, noises and surfaces. When we were on our last trip, a hike we went on took us over a grated metal footbridge. We had to go over it or turn around. I didn't want to turn back. Working at his comfort level I encouraged him and helped him work through his fear. It took several minutes but by the time we were done we were going back and forth across the structure with ease.

Earlier this week we did some confidence training with scary open stairs in our barn. Last year as a puppy he would only go up the first two. But this year only after a few minutes of confidence training he went up the whole flight. I only had him do it once. The next day I needed to finish the project I was working on in the barn and brought Ziggy with me. I didn't ask him to go up this time, I figured one day of that training was good for a few days. I went up and got what I wanted. Guess who followed me up, all smiles and wagging tail? I do believe he was beaming with pride.

The lessons we can learn from our pets are amazing. Life can be scary for not just our furry friends but ourselves. When we gain confidence in areas that we are afraid, doors open for us and we can cross over into new territory that is rich with treasures.

The funnest (I know that's not a word, I just had to write funnest in a public forum for my mom, in heaven, to cringe) thing Ziggy did this week boosting his self-assurance was swim! YAY! "Big deal." you say, "He's a dog." It's a huge thing! He loves water, mud, anything wet, but he doesn't like to go deeper than his elbows. He will lie down in the shallow depth if he's super hot, but he will not swim, until yesterday.

We went kayaking Sunday. I wasn't sure he would remember from last summer. But when I turned the boat over, he climbed right on and couldn't wait for me put it in the water. We went for a short cruise. He was having fun but too wiggly for my comfort. We went again yesterday. This time as I approached shore still far enough out to require swimming, two squirrels ran by. Ziggy stood up and was on high alert. With encouragement I calming commanded, "Go get 'em!" He was off the bow in no time swimming a few feet and the chase was on. He came back to me. I was now beached on the rocks and he climbed back on. I pushed back to a deeper depth than before his initial launch and said, "Jump." He did it again. We repeated this one more time until he decided that was enough for one day. You could see the excitement he had for his new found skill. I joined him in the lake and he even swam to me once. I'll take it, it's progress.

Another lesson I am learning from him is patience. Raising two boys you'd think I would have tons of it. In reality, I don't possess much of it, but each day and week I see growth. With two Appalachian Trail Thur-hikes under my boots and now raising a cattle dog in my 50's patience is becoming second hand. I scream or yell. I didn't throw my computer or bang on it when it deleted my initial post. Instead, I calmly walked away to work on something else. I think I went and got Ziggy up so we could cuddle. See, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Happy Hiking,



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