There are many ways to tackle an issue
A straightforward, head on approach is my normal mode when dealing with people but I have come to realize more and more that with animals sometimes using the back door is much more effective.
By that I mean working on training problems indirectly can lead to faster better results than pounding away at an issue.
Let’s take Thea as an example
Thea was occasionally afraid of most agility equipment – I was encouraged to lure her over and through way too much. (oh the price our early dogs pay for our errors). Until I found her back door I pretty much resigned myself to doing jumpers only – she might be afraid of a chute or a tunnel or a dog walk at seemingly random times. Then I found her back door – do things she is successful at, rev her to the moon, do the things she is good interspersed with the things that might make her leery … we got our teeter back, dog walk no issue, tunnels are never anything but fun now …. if she even looks sideways at something in training – quick quick where’s an aframe? then scary thing … zooooooooooooom … she’s forgotten to be afraid … we no longer do teeters in public as she’s had too many flyoffs for me to think they are safe for her but otherwise apart from the odd dark chute the world is her oyster
Yen is, umm, a little excitable. She is loud and proud and full of life. If ever I thought there was a small dog that would never be loose around horses it was her. Last night we walked out to a field at the barn I’m teaching at and she came with us – puttered in the field while I taught. She had a great time – so did miss pony pants and so did I. We got there not by forcing her to be quiet and still around the horses but by letting her run far enough away that the horses paid her no mind. Horses were never exciting to her. She also had plenty of opportunities to practice her truly rocket recall with horses quite far away so when they were closer it didn’t occur to her to not come. She was truly perfect yesterday.
This is Harri (aka DUDE). When Harri arrived at the barn he couldn’t be cross-tied. He couldn’t be held for the blacksmith and he was quite hysterical. Rather than fighting with 1200 + pounds of horse I simply brought him into the barn every day, stood him in the spot I wanted to cross-tie him in momentarily and put him in a stall (also a source of stress). I’d putter away with a horse who enjoyed being cross tied and love on them occasionally walking over to pat Harri. I groomed him loose in the stall and was amazed at how quickly he started to settle and not walk away. Within two weeks he was quite content to cross-tie while I fussed away with him. The blacksmith is stunned by how calm he is every time he sees him (he had seen him prior to being at our barn). The other day I untacked Harri and left him in the cross tie spot forgetting to put a halter on him while I went in and out of various tack rooms. He had no reason to stand except habit and wanting more TLC. He stood like a super trooper.
Back door solutions sometimes just happen, sometimes they require a plan but they are always worth considering in a problem solving approach. (On reflection I probably use this approach with people too)