Don’t feel sorry. Work through it.

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Like most people, I hate to see dogs struggle. Whether they struggle with fear, anxiety, aggression, it really doesn’t matter what the issue is, its a shame to see a dog struggle. That brings me to something that just happened to me tonight. I’m currently training an 8 month old Golden Retriever named Mason. He’s your typical happy go lucky pup who just wants to play and be loved. Its possible not to love a dog like this. He’s in for training for the typical crazy pup behadog working through fearvior, jumping, counter surfing, pulling on the leash, too hyper in the house, you name it.

During a training session, I had on my agenda to start working on his obedience outdoors in a more distracting environment. As we are walking around my house, he sees about a 4 foot tall black garbage can. He immediately puts on the brakes, becomes a bucking bronco and would not get any closer.

Okay, so Mason is clearly afraid of this garbage can. Did he have a bad experience with one before? Is this the first time he’s ever seeing one? To be honest, it doesn’t matter why he’s afraid of it. The only thing that matters is overcoming the fear of it. Simple as that.

As a dog trainer, I don’t put too much thought into why a dog is afraid of something. If I know that “something” cannot harm the dog, I work them through it. Right then and there. I put whatever plans I had on hold and we work through the issue. There is no reason for a dog to be left stuck in a mental state of fear. If I were to coddle him, get down on his level and feel sorry for him saying “Aw, Mason, it’s okay little guy… the garbage can won’t hurt you” He doesn’t understand what I’m saying. At that point, all I am doing is reinforcing his fear, essentially rewarding it by comforting him. From that point on, he would always be afraid of garbage cans.

Instead I work dogs through that fear. I know there is nothing to be afraid of, but they don’t. So I show them that. So we kept walking past the garbage can, little by little making progress. Not even 5 minutes later, Mason was laying down eating his kibble right next to it, eventually sniffing and touching the garbage can. All it took was 5 minutes of my time and a mindset of “Mason, we’re working you through with whether you like it or not because its in your best interest and you’ll thank me later”

So please, next time you notice your dog afraid of something work them through it. Don’t feel sorry and leave them stuck in fear. I know feeling sorry and wanting to comfort them might seem like the right thing to do, or the natural thing to do, but it does more harm than good, especially in the long run.

 

 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

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So while I am on my trip in Ticonderoga, NY visiting Joshua Hurlburt from Calm and Connected K9 I ran into a lady and I would like to share my experience with the hopes of shedding some light on dog training and how much it is relationship based.

As I walked out of my hotel room one morning with Sage my 14 month old GSD I see an employee vacuuming the hallway. The vacuum stopped and I hear a faint voice saying “Your dog is so well behaved, my GSD isn’t like that” so I walk closer to her and say thank you. We stop and chat for a bit and she continues to go on about how badly behaved her 125lb 2 year old GSD is.

When I say badly behaved this lady blatantly stated her dog recently bit her arm. She admits he runs the house, does what he wants, when he wants. Her and her husband are scared of the dog at times. This is absolutely no way for an owner to be living with their dog.

After hearing how serious of a situation she was in, I let her know that I am actually a dog trainer from Florida but that I could refer her to a trainer in town. She immediately said “who, Josh?” If you’ve never been to Ticonderoga, NY it’s an extremely small town where everyone knows everyone. I’m not even sure why they have stop signs. But anyway for the next 20 minutes I told this lady the truth about her situation. I didn’t try to scare her but I was scared for her.

She admits she lets the dog do what he wants out of fear. When she puts the food down the dog growls at her. The dog sleeps in bed with her and her husband. Pulls on the leash and is reactive to other dogs. The dog has tried to attack a friends dog. The dog has free roam of the house at all times. In a nutshell, this dog is not in a healthy mental state of mind. She clearly isn’t setting any rules, boundaries, or giving the dog the structure and guidance it needs.

So I asked, “why haven’t you brought the dog to Josh yet?” And her answer was something along the lines of “I’ve had 5 other GSD in the past with no issues but this one is giving me a hard time, I thought as the dog got older it would get better but it hasn’t”

I very politely (as politely as I could in this situation) told her “you’ve got a different dog on your hands this time around, clearly what you’ve been doing for the past 2 years isn’t working with him, look at where it has gotten you. He already bit you once it’s only a matter of time until it happens again”

She agreed and knew she needed to make a change and bring her dog to a trainer. This lady has a daughter and granddaughter. For the safety of her and her family, lifestyle changes with that dog need to be made. I told her I knew she loved her dog but she’s been loving it the wrong way thus far.

She was a smart lady in the sense that she knew the best home for her dog was with her but her relationship with the dog had to change dramatically and quickly. A dog like that would end up dead in a shelter.

I really hope she decides to take action. The cool thing about this situation is, she created the problem but she also has the ability to fix it. That’s not to say it won’t be a long tough road to change that dogs association to her and her house but it’s possible. I just hope she doesn’t wait until it’s too late.