This is going to be long and very poorly written, I imagine, so I apologize in advance. Simi turns 8 months tomorrow and in the past month or so I've noticed a huge difference in her desire to work with me, or even interact at all with me. When I picked her at a young age she was very "into" me and the breeder described her as a "people pleaser" and that never faltered in her early weeks and months. However, I'm seeing a difference in that. In the last little while at obedience I've been struggling with desire to work, attention span, drive, enthusiasm. I put it all up to her stressing because it's an indoor environment with an echo and can be a little loud and hectic. At agility fun matches she was very on and would do drives to tugs, sit stays, restrained recalls, and even obedience tasks. But as soon as we got to obedience she would cower in the car and try to get away from the building. All the while, she would pull me to things that belong to me, my coat, my bag, my car, etc.. She had no interest in staying WITH me, but would turn herself inside out to get to something that was mine. We started agility classes 3 or 4 weeks back and I had a bit of this same issue. Rather than staring off into space like she did at obedience, however, she would stare at other dogs, and so we've done a lot of clicking and treating for making the choice to look back at me and we're having less of an issue. It's still very hard to get her interested in tugging or playing with me. She'd rather sit beside me, look at other dogs, look back. We originally had her crate in the field with us to work on crate games, but she would pull me across the field to get into her crate. Tonight she ran off from me in class, jumped over the fence (where it was down) and ran about 200 feet away with her tug toy. I chased her for a bit, hoping to grab her leash, but no luck. So I stopped and ran the other way, she dropped the toy and ran back to me, but even when she got to me, it wasn't really a "don't leave me!" it was more of a "oh, you're running, fun!" there wasn't any big hoorah to see me. When we got home from agility and after she'd napped for a while I decided to take her out to the field on her long line and have mom hold her back from me while I teased her with the tug and tried to get her amped up to see me. She would just stare off into space, there was no desire at all to come to me. A couple times I got a good bit of interest and then a pull to get to me and a good game of tug, but never with as much ooomph as I was looking for. Other bits of information: She hasn't gone into heat yet, and is 8 months old tomorrow. She's been on a very limited play time/hanging out in the house time schedule the last little while because a) her shoulder injury, that is now healed, b) having other dogs in the house (first a puppies, then Swiper, then Pecker). She gets two training classes a week, monday night Agility, Tuesday night obedience (now wednesday) besides that she gets a little extra training but not much. I know this is a problem, and I've been working on it. Other people in the house pay her little to no attention and she rarely asks for it from other people. She's not a cuddler and rarely comes asking for pats. She'll come over, let you snuggle for maybe a minute then she's off to harass a dog or find something to get into. But mostly she just clobbers me and then leaves. She has had a jolly ball in the fence that she will carry around 100% of the time outside when she's out. I've taken that away from her now. She's fed at night by me, and in the morning by mom. However it's a put the food in the bowl when they offer going into the crate and wait calmly. There are toys laying around that she will play with without human interaction. She's very into the other dogs. Will pull me to get to others, etc., and it's something I've been working on. I realize that these ^ are probably the root of my problem and that I'll need to change things a LOT, but basically I'm looking for someone to just simplify what I need to do to try and get my dog to actually LIKE me. It's just frustrating and I know I have it easy with Psyche and that's what makes it hard for me to deal with. Psyche thinks the world revolves around me. She won't go potty unless I tell her to. She is so devoted to me. Then I look at Simi... and yeah. She's happy to stare off into space, even when I leave her alone in a strange place.
If you read all of that, here's a cookie. *hands cookie* If not and you just skipped to this part, hey, that's cool too! So in the past week we've been doing a lot of me and Simi time, no toys, no treats, just her and I hanging out, going for walks on the trials around out place and in the back pastures. Already I noticed a difference in her, but I also contacted her breeder to go out and talk to her about it. Today we went out.
Upon first getting there, Simi cowered in the car, as she sometimes does. We waited while our breeder, Robin, finished up with someone else and Simi and I stood in the shade to keep cool. Simi was clearly not comfortable. Not crazy stressy, and not trying to pull me to my car, but not at ease. When it was time for us, Robin came over and when she did, Simi barked at her, Robin just ignored her and Simi dropped it, she started sniffing her and was fine. If people don't give a reaction to her barking, she's fine. So out into the field we go. We start with some restrained recalls, first without a toy or treat, and upon leaving Simi with Robin, she pulled trying to get to me, or get away from Robin, and when I called her she came running to me with so much speed and drive... but then kept on booking it past me probably 50 feet. So I turned and walked back to Robin and where I'd left my toys, to get a tug to try it with a toy, she ran over to me then and stopped and looked at me, and got a verbal praise and a pat. Took out a tug, did a restrained recall again. This time with me running, with the tug. Same reaction. Pulling to get to me, running as fast as she can to me, but then going right past me. She did this for every single recall we did. So I dropped the toy on the ground and drug it around and Simi came over and grabbed on for a game of tug, then she "won" I dropped the tug, grabbed the leash and she got her victory lap. Headed back over to Robin, rinse and repeat.
Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. When I first got her tug out, Robin told me to play a game of tug with her, so I started how I usually do, smacking it on my legs, making lots of growly "gett ittttt" noises and nothing, so then I pulled the next trick in my book, pushing the tug forward into her face. Robin then told me to let it drag on the ground and let her chase it, and I did, and immediately she was on for a game of tug, that really turned her on, so that was what we did for tugging the rest of the session -- no more of that pushing the tug into her face thing.
So we did some recalls and then I went over to sit with Robin and she let me know what she thought. She figures a few things. A) Simi and I have a very poor bond. This wasn't surprising, I was assuming this was at least part, if not all, of our issue. and B) She thinks perhaps Simi is going through a fear stage. This makes complete sense. It would explain why I'm noticing it lately. It's not like Simi and I ever had a really strong bond, so that's not new, but the combination of the fear and the lack of bond together is the difference I'm noticing.
From there she recommended a few things. She tells me to cut out one of Simi's meals a day, and hand feed the other. Simi's fed twice a day, so I can handle this. No more breakfast, and handfed dinner. She said I can make her do simple things for her food when handfeeding or I can use that as a chance to shape new behaviors. She said that for our bond, we should be doing some obedience and stuff but not in a formal setting. So I'm going to go back to really basic, easy stuff here at home and make it as fun as possible. And for the fear thing she reccomends the buddy system, so to speak. She thinks that since Simi's so into the other dogs in the house I should use that at this stage. She said that I should be taking Simi lots of new places, with Psyche. This makes total sense to me. And it all kind of hit me there. Simi is a-okay at agility trials, fun matches, etc.. Those are all places I have Psyche with us! Even if they're not together, she always knows I have Psyche too. So I'm going to take Simi to some new places with Psyche, maybe even to the agility field a few times outside of classes with Psyche to let her see that it's a fun places. I'm going to make it my goal to take them on some adventures as much as possible. Am thinking we might take a trip to the docks later tonight. Robin said that letting Simi learn from the other dogs that things aren't scary, in this stage will help. I realize, though, I'm going to have to pair this time with lots of bonding time with Simi and I too, though, and I'll do that.
As a side note, I also got to see Lava, the bitch from the litter that Robin kept, and Simi is slightly smaller than her, and weighs less. But you can SO tell they're related. They've got the same adorable ears.
So there's where I sit right now. I'm going to give it a shot and see how it goes. Simi and I were also invited out to the "puppy classes" that she offers for the Schutzhund club, so we're going to try a few of those, too, probably.
And just because this was a LOT of words... here's a picture of Simi from last week: