Nine months.  Or maybe ten months.

That is the answer to the question, “When did Lyra start to love her work?”

I’ve gone on faith that she would grow to love her work but it certainly wasn’t obvious to a casual observer.  Indeed, I’ve gotten used to people commenting on her charming personality – with a notable lack of mention of her work.

Now Lyra fights to get out the door when she thinks it’s training time.  She runs past guests in my front yard and heads straight to the training field, and she starts engaging me immediately.  Her default speed is no longer a modest trot – Lyra runs when fetching her toys or coming back to me for more tug.  She leaps at me and grabs my arms or clothes in her excitement to get started, but she maintains a clear head and is immediately focused when I ask her to begin work.  I’ve always known she had a clear head; it was present at eight weeks of age.  But the focused drive to work and to play…that’s been slower in coming.

Did my foundation and approach to training create her enthusiasm for work, or did her genetic package kick in a little late?

Environment and genetics are so tightly intertwined that it’s almost impossible to figure out where one leaves off and the other begins, so I will never know.  What I do know is that I didn’t crush her desire to interact by placing unreasonable expectations on her.  I didn’t try to overwhelm her need to look at her environment, nor did I insist that she work when she wasn’t interested or ready.     I respected her right to set the pace, and I’m confident that I will reap the benefits now, in a clear headed and stable worker with very good enthusiasm for her work.  A trainer can do a lot of damage by having high expectations of an immature dog; I see it too often.

Now the fun begins.  I have a dog who wants to learn.