Breaking Good

by Doranna

speech-bubble-mdThe broken brain.  It is Teh Stoopit.  It looks at things it’s known how to do forEVER and it says, “I got nuthin’.”

When it comes to the dogs, I can often see it coming…if not always.  “Nope, can’t teach this new skill right now, because it will break something that I need in the immediate future.”

When I was teaching agility and rally, I saw broken dog brains all the time.  Dogs learning how to back up would forget how to sit.  Dogs learning to stand from sit would forget how to finish to heel.  Dogs learning to stand from down would forget something else altogether.

“But he knows how to do this!”

It wasn’t pretty.

But it wasn’t bad, either.  It was breaking good.

I’d tell them this: There’s only so much room in there.  Learning how to do new things takes up more room than knowing how to do them.  So while a dog is learning, they temporarily eject stuff to make room.”

Okay, I’m sure there’s an actual scientific explanation for that.  Don’t ask me.  I like my version, anyway.

Connery’s renewed work with Open obedience isn’t of this nature–which is one reason, at his age, I was willing to sneak it in there.  I actually taught him all the basics back when he was three, before the attack that broke us both bad for a very long time.  (The one that so ironically occurred as we were walking away from purchasing the fancy collar and lead for him to wear in Open obedience.)

So he needs encouragement and polishing and confidence, but the skills have been there for seven years and more and I didn’t expect the work to break his brain and so far it hasn’t.  (Maybe, in the end, it still won’t be right for him; he’s never lost the extreme concern about scrutiny from either dog or human in the wake of the attack, and some judges watch Very Closely indeed.)


Dart, on the other hand, is learning new skills.  Like, he’s learning blind crosses in agility and that broke his heeling in certain profound, publicly humiliating, and quirksome ways.

So when his broad jump broke wide open, it could only mean there’s something processing behind that over-active brain of his.  I just don’t know what it is.

Still.  It wasn’t pretty.  He can:

…Run over top the boards…

…Run eagerly to put himself in heel in spite of the very difficult angle of approach for this…

…Run around the outside of the boards…

…Sit and look blankly at me…

And each time I fixed one thing, he’d come up with another.

Really.  I have no idea.  But at this point, I’m not “fixing” the broken pieces.  I’ve gone right back to the beginning:  One flat board.  Two.  Several boards stacked.  Two leaning against a central third…


…and then three in a row.  And three in a row with gaps.  Jumping them no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

Plus, the VERY BEST TOY.


When Dart does things, he doesn’t do them halfway.  It’s not in his nature.  So by golly, if he’s going to break a skill, he’s going to break it creatively.  And thoroughly.

But it’s not a bad thing.  It’s really not.  It just means he’s processing something else, even if I’m not sure what it is.

So all in all, it’s a sign of progress.  It’s breaking good!

(And that’s what you can tell yourself the next time you’re staring blankly at your computer thinking, “I know how to do this–!”)



About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
This entry was posted in Agility, ConneryBeagle, D'Artagnan Beagle, The Dogs! and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Breaking Good

  1. Suzan Morrow Farrell says:

    I just thought it was my old brain saying it couldn’t stretch any more to get more knowledge in there.

  2. Patty says:

    In the horses, I’d call training a spiral that trends upward but sure has some down ward days. Interesting post!

  3. dunladyfan says:

    You’ve mentioned the attack many times in posts – is the an archived post that explains what happened?

    • Doranna says:

      Hmm, sort of. There’s a post from when I launched the Heart of Dog Anthology. It’s a little outdated now, in that after three years I do currently have a handle on his health situation (as much as can be had–I don’t want to get cocky about that!). And he’s earned more titles since then! But the stuff about the attacks is current and complete.

      PS love your blog handle!

      • dunladyfan says:

        Thanks! So horrible to read about Connery’s attacks. It is a testament to your work he is where he is now 🙂

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