It has almost been a year since Arthur came into our house like a little whirlwind! He came in and changed life for all of us with his various quirks. He settled in beautifully with Marley, and they have become firm friends, despite a few challenges along the way (Marley’s determination Arthur’s ears are detachable being just one!)
It’s hard to believe that in February of last year Marley was struggling badly with pain and his behaviour was spiralling to such a bad level. Marley had always been reactive to people and dogs on walks, but this had become very manageable with a lot of work and commitment, with him and Ollie able to walk and see dogs with no reaction to the majority of dogs we saw. HowevMarley’seys behaviour was becoming very worrying in the home, he had began to redirect on people and dogs at events that triggered his anxiety. Mainly if someone at the door or dogs the other side of the fence. Marley would began to grab and bite whoever was closest whether human or canine when he could hear the neighbours dogs, and began to snap and bite towards us when we went to answer the door.
Along with this he had become hesitant about walking again, and had several episodes where he became lame suddenly and his gait just seemed “off” to me. He had begun growling when any of the dogs went near him when sleeping and started to lash out more and more. Marley has always had a lot of problems, quite a few of the more serious ones in recent years related to his Epilepsy. But he was becoming harder and harder to handle, and more and more agitated. We were told to greatly reduce his exercise to look for improvement. This seemed to help, and I continued to work solidly on his behaviour. Keeping him onlead in the garden and away from the fencing. Very carefully desensitizing him to the door being knocked on and me answering it, as well as ensuring he got the most amazing treats throughout. Marley is a pessimistic dog, so training is always a challenge. He needs so many more positive or neutral experiences to counter balance old behaviour patterns than the average dog. His behaviour began to improve again and he began to relax more and more. (This is the super short version of his training!)
After many tests and vet visits he was diagnosed with Cervical Disc Disease, this was shortly after Arthur came home. Having a diagnosis was a great relief. Arthur began to bond closely with Marley and seemed to provide him much comfort when he was uncertain. I reduced Marley’s out of the home exercise for a while. It was becoming a challenge to walk him without him reacting due to pain, and on equipment that didn’t cause him further discomfort (he found harnesses most uncomfortable for some reason!) He has enjoyed much playing with Arthur, and brain games and only recently have I realised that Marley is actually much calmer and happier. I had always been incredibly worried about adding a puppy into the home with Marley, however for Marley it seems to have provided him a comfort. Marley has not had a seizure since September 2017. This is the longest period of time he hasn’t had a seizure since his epilepsy began.
Marley is enjoying life at the pace he dictates, and he’s loving that! He gets a walk if he wants, fuss when he wants, puzzles and training when he wants! He is still a much more confident dog than he ever was and I am keen to keep him that way by still taking him out whenever he wants a walk or to meet friends and their dogs he loves!
You may have noticed that it has been some time since I posted an update on Arthur’s blog. What can I say, teenage dogs are not quite as straight forward as puppies! Arthur has been going through his teenage rebellion stage and in all honesty, its been HELL.
Anyone who has reached here in the past in relation to my reactive Whippet Marley will know that I’m all about honesty, so it would be a big fat whopping lie for me to say having a teenage dog has gone smoothly…and I’m fairly confident that anyone who has seen Arthur at classes of late will know totally that saying he has been angelic would know I’m telling porkies! I can now say without any hesitation that having a teenage dog has been more of a challenge for me than my 2 reactive dogs put together!
Hormones make our cute sweet little puppies turn into crazed little devils, this is the time when they are wired to take more risks, to spread their wings and fly. Arthur has taken this incredibly seriously, he is more like a Lemming than dog, throwing himself at anything and everything that could be AMAZING FUN. If a wall gets in the way or a gate, it’s no worries, just run at it and hope for the best. Adolescence causes our dogs to become less consistent with progress, more all over the place. So how has Arthur been going through this developmental period? Let’s start from the start…
Arthur’s separation anxiety got worse. Much worse. His anxiety got worse and combined with no frustration tolerance and teen lower tolerance I found myself unable to leave the house alone without pure precision planning. Lots of exercise, training games, valerian drops and getting my coat on and bag out of view and flying out the door. Walking the others caused him to dig at the doors and SCREAM. Living with separation anxiety is a whole blog post in itself, you cannot escape it. It is always there, you have to plan your life around it.
Arthur’s recall has been iffy from the beginning, where most pups follow you offlead Arthur would happily plonk down and stay sat at the opposite end of the field. It didn’t matter would i attempted to engage him within those early weeks he just sat. So we lost valuable time there. He began tracking scents at a young age and racing off at high speed (think spaniel..not whippet, hes got a few identity issues it would seem!) This became combined with ANOTHER issue. Arthur started to become OBSESSED by other dogs. The grass is always greener springs to mind. I couldn’t wait to get a pup who wanted to be around dogs and people, but onlead (and off!) he began with another issue…He would lay down on sight of a dog and do a Collie Creep and stalk. Yep identity issues. He had it down to perfection and its such a focussed fixed stare no food, toy or games can get him out of it. I have to wait until dog passes, or says hello.
You are thinking, why not walk Arthur with Ollie. Ollie is a supremely well behaved older whippet of mine who is so laid back, with beautiful leadwork and recall. Why not? Arthur loves Ollie. LOVES Ollie. He decided to spend his days humping Ollie. Even when onlead, which I can assure anyone, is not easy to handle on a walk! Arthur was just so over enthused at Ollie joining him Ollie decided to start running home when I let him offlead once, even with Arthur onlead. This a dog who has never run from me a day in his life! Arthur was just high on life, this was an over excitement issue, not something that neutering would resolve.
So you are all waiting what super amazing tips have I got, how did I resolve all of these issues (or have I?!) I would love to sit here and type this wonderful magical programme that has cured Arthur of all these issues. A plan that works for every dog, you follow it and POOF your issues are gone. I know people who will convince others that such things exist… but I’ll let you in on my secret to adolescence. Just remember they aren’t doing it to spite you. Be patient, be consistent in your training. BREATHE.
A few months on from the beginning of Arthur’s adolescence, I can safely say he’s starting to become quite the pleasant little dog. His separation anxiety, it’s dwindling with every passing day, becoming less and less of an issue. Rarely does he become distressed now (a whole entire blog for another day though!) Humping Ollie? It still happens, but much rarer. If he does hump, he will respond to his cue “off” and go and settle on his mat instead. Other dogs are becoming less interesting again, its a work in progress but it’s going much more smoothly now his hormones seem to have settled. His frustration tolerance has increased naturally. He actually cares about working through Kongs now, and similar puzzles. Tasks which caused him to give up instantly only a few weeks ago. He has stopped pulling on the lead again, something he began not long ago. Settling and snoozing with the others is now preferable to tearing around the living room looking for mischief to get into.
I can see him, very slowly, maturing into a lovely young dog. One my other dogs enjoy being around rather than just tolerating. Yes, I’ve had to be constantly careful and supervising and put many hours in. But he will be worth it in the end…I am certain! Next job…nailing this recall!
Pups are hard work, teenage dogs even harder. The key is persistence, patience and not chopping and changing methods. It can feel tempting to throw away positive techniques to train your puppy, as they are firing off all sorts of new behaviours. But Arthur would have some severe issues if I hadn’t tackled this period of time with patience and positivity. If I had left him to howl and cry, he would simply learn that I will not help him, and it would have increased his stress levels likely leading him to more serious issues in other areas of his life. If I shouted at or physically corrected him for any of his behaviours I would be dealing with a handshy dog who was working to avoid various situations, instead, he is finally starting to WANT to engage with me.
It’s a hard time, but it will be infinitely worth it. So keep your eyes peeled for my practical tips to surviving adolescence!