Sky doesn’t look her age, but she’s going to be ten next month. I make sure she eats a super good diet, gets lots of rest and very important, gets exercise for both her body and her mind.
On the way to the gym where I swim and work out with my fabulous trainer to build powerful core muscles, Sky and I play. She doesn’t mind – in fact, she adores – playing the same game every time we go. While I would occasionally add a new twist to an old game, now I am adding new games to challenge her mind while she’s having fun. In doing so, of course, we are both learning. Isn’t this always true when training and playing with dogs? I get glimpses into the way she perceives things, into the way she thinks and remembers, and so I can adjust the teaching of each new game, breaking each step into the right amount of parts. Sometimes we have to go back and go more slowly. Other times she gets the game as a whole, all at once. She’s a very intuitive little dog and often seems to understand sentences, even sentences I wouldn’t think she would understand. But she has always read intent, and perhaps that’s the secret.
Even in the gym, where Sky tends to be unobtrusive, we have developed some routines that give her pleasure, make her think and sometimes, give me a break. When we leave the pool with Sky off leash, there’s a sort of bridge that leads back to the rest of the gym. We rarely pass more than one other person and no one seems to mind that she’s free for the moment. At the end of the bridge there’s a bench and once, when my back was sore, I asked her to hop up so that I could put the leash back on without bending. Now that hop is added to the routine and of course Sky has generalized and will get up on whatever’s around when I need to leash her up.
At home, we find new twists for old games all the time. I love to see how fast Sky learns and to see the sparkle in her eyes when she gets it. How long did it take to train that dog? I am asked. We’re still working on it, I say, and we always will.