Training the dog in front of you

Training the dog in front of you. It’s one of those things I feel is really important.

No dog is the same. They all have different likes and dislikes, they all have different quirks to their character. They can be the same breed as other dogs you have had in the past, they can be the same age as things you have taught previous dogs. But they cannot be the same dog.

Arthur has been with us for almost 2 years now. I knew I should expect many challenges adding another dog to the household. Marley and Womble are both reactive and highly strung, but both were at a point where they were much improved. I knew my biggest battle would be preventing reactivity in this loudmouth little puppy. Arthur has developed a few quirks as he has matured, however I am starting to realise something very important. Arthur is not Marley. Arthur is his own dog, I need to relax!!

The last 6 months Arthur’s tolerance for young males has decreased drastically, he has got a little more vocal and bouncy on lead. I have pretty much been avoiding dogs for the last 6 months, not deliberately. Just as a standard I guess. Once issues appear, you need to manage them. I am so used to Marley’s much more severe issues, it seemed the sensible step. But I found the more I have avoided…the more tense I have become. The more I have avoided, the more stressed I have been.

I should add I don’t mean walking him at midnight but instead seeing dogs and crossing roads. Avoiding areas where dogs go off lead. It was easier, less stressful. It became the new normal. However, I stumbled back into a routine of walking where many dogs go again recently. Every time someone asks “Is he friendly?” I feel myself hesitate and pause for so long ” Erm..yeah…I guess..He can be a bit much though?” I should answer YES he is friendly! There is nothing wrong with Arthur. Yep, he will tell inappropriate young males off..but that is fair. He probably pushes it a little now and then, but the other dogs push him as a starting point. He doesn’t really deserve to be postured at and jumped all over. It probably hurts him with his incredibly light frame!

On meeting more and more dogs again,I realised that actually, Arthur hasn’t had an issue…I have. I have been so worried that actually, Arthur was the problem. When I know if I was working with him as a customers dog, I would explain that although Arthur needs to learn manners in some situations, most of the time he’s being on the ball when telling another dog to back off- and he has every right to. I let Marley’s issue’s take over (Well, he doesn’t like to be left out!)

Do I have much to work on with Arthur? Absolutely! But I need to work on it and realise he won’t be dreadful, and he won’t be traumatized, and he won’t traumatize another dog. Arthur is Arthur. I need to not get worried he will be like Marley. They are almost polar opposites in every way.

Whether it is another dog you have or have had in the past, or even a friend’s dog; don’t expect the same behaviour. Don’t expect to resolve it in the same way. Appreciate your dog for who he is. And ensure that you are respecting them for the individual they are.

I realise that once again I have neglected this blog! Life has got in the way, as it easily can.

Expect to see more of my inane ramblings in future, on my 4 dogs and a bit more on the work we do with customer’s dogs now and then!

Growing Up – Arthur’s Adventures

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!