I thought it was about time that Me and Marley began again. Talking about our journey OUR way. No filtering and having to await others approval, but posts the way that actually describe what is going on..
Who are we?
I’m Zara and I’m a dog trainer at Wagging Wonders Lincoln. I have had this business set up 3 years having worked directly with other dogs (generally dog reactive) for the last 4 years.
Marley was my inspiration, having bought him from an unscrupulous breeder he was full of issues. I had to learn very fast how to deal with them, and learning more about dogs was something i was already keen on. I spent every waking moment learning from resources abound, books, videos and other trainers online. I met another trainer and began working with them , training didnt go to plan for Marley so we will leave it there. We want to focus on the now and the future.
Starting again with marley proved a challenge, it had been suggested he was miserable and i was making him worse by trying to train him and improve his quality of life. Which was not only unkind and unfair, but simply short sighted and untrue.
Marley is an intelligent 5 year old whippet, he lives with me, Ollie, Womble and my brother and mum. Ollie is an 8 year old whippet and womble a 10 year old JRTx.
To sum Marley up in a single word? Neurotic! He is both people and dog reactive. As well as this reactive to cyclists, joggers, cats, unexpected items (new road signs). On top of this hes hyperactive, obsessive and enjoys the sound of his own voice. He also has serious issues with Ollie and used to fight alot with him.
In March when we began our journey again he was a terrible state. Although treats were used in the last few years the methods involved shutting a dog down and ignoring them. Marley didn’t believe he could trust me, which had an effect on many aspects of his behaviour. We couldn’t walk off the road without him having a “panic attack”. I will use this term alot, and what it simply means is he thrashes about trying to escape his harness and the situation. Alot of this behaviour was habit and continuous cycle of fear and a response he’d got himself stuck in. We had to start from scratch.
Marley would react to people from large distances, barking and lunging at them from across the road. Giving a more intense reaction to dogs. Both of these had improved however after being advised to not walk him anymore he was no longer habituated to basic life stimulus. Traffic sounds, people talking, all would cause extreme anxiety in Marley. Marley is highly intelligent but incredibly obsessive. Creating alot of negative Conditioned Emotional Responses over the last few years.
However anyone meeting Marley now would be unlikely to guess his issues. In fact this weekend we attend the Great Greyhound Gathering in Nottingham and most people commented on how he didn’t seem reactive, with people commenting how well behaved he has been at previous shows! Its all been a shock but we are not home and dry yet. Marley is a dog who had no socialisation and along with various issues needs continued socialisation and a heavy amount of training. So i have to put that in. It can be demanding. Having a reactive dog is heartbreaking but having a people and dog reactive dog is twice the work. It can be soul destroying. Watching others dogs without issues enjoying life, wondering what has gone wrong for yours. But when progress is made, it is a level of joy those owners may not understand. That moment when they watch a dog without reacting for the first time, sheer elation! The first time they don’t fear a stranger, Bliss!
He has conquered a major fear of his , travelling in the car. He now does it at least once a week, with his new best friend Blossom. He used to throw up if in one for just 2 minutes! This weekend he travelled from Lincoln to Nottingham.
His relationship with Ollie? Much improved, they spend their days like this now…
Reaction to other dogs? Dwindling
When a dog has complex or multiple issues the world can feel isolating and it can weigh you down. Whether your dog is reacting from fear, excitement, frustration, prey drive. Its hard. It will get you down, but hopefully Marleys blog will help other owners see it can be done. We don’t intend to sugar coat things, if we make a mistake we will post about it! Everyone makes mistakes, even dog trainers! The last 7 months have been a good start, we are looking forward to an even more exciting future!
We are both very thankful to some truly amazing people along the way who helped give us the confidence to go forward. You have changed his life by pushing me and making me believe we can do it. We are very lucky to have some amazing friends.