So this wasn’t an entirely planned blog but I think it’s a super important point to make in the interest of your dog and something I had never considered before.
So Buddy had been doing soooo well with calm at home. Almost ignoring all TV noises with the occasional glance to me. Although the I am still feeding and using most of his daily food allowance on training to ignore inside and outside noises.
Coming back to me in the garden instead of chasing birds was also going well, and I could sense a lot more calm, well as calm as can be for Buddy! Just being able to shower without him barking at the neighbour wheeling thier bin down the side of the house was a big win!
This was mainly down to the great advice from our pro dog trainer and my real life superhero Nikki from On the Ball Dog Training. We talked through some of Buddys issues and the plan was to ditch off lead walks for two weeks, with maybe one good off lead run, lots of calmness at home, kongs, chews licki mats, nothing too exciting in terms of games, basically try and keep everything as low key as possible. The boy has gotta learn to chill!
We do have a tendency to try and keep up with Buddy and end up working at his speed, with his thirst for games and play, and it generally has a negative effect, his bucket overflows and suddenly he can’t handle the world. Very akin to my super sensitive child but that’s another Blog…
So, a week and a half in I’m like yeah, hes doing sooo good, Ferry Meadows here we come, off lead fun, ball games, you name it. Brilliant time. That would have probably been okay had I then not taken him on another very exciting off lead run back at home in the afternoon, followed by training and a few ball and frisbee games thrown in. Looking back he also had a particularly stressful day previously having been barked at by several off lead dogs all in the same day (that ‘oh he’s friendly’ chestnut!)
Anyway, oh dear, we are back into old habits and boom. That evening he’s barking at noises again, running and jumping at full force (he’s strong now!) at anyone moving in a state of anxiety to figure out where the ‘people’ he can hear are coming from.
He’s too aroused to entertain a kong, chew or licky mat. My usual calm down techniques work, but not for long. Queue zoomies which I quickly move into the garden to start damage limitation protocol.
When I do get him in his pen and leave him for a few minutes the bed gets eaten up and fluff is appearing everywhere. I make the fatal mistake of trying to get his bed off him before he eats it and although my boy doesn’t resource guard food, I’ve noticed recently that anything he might accidentally destroy, like a piece of paper, or tissue, he regards as gold dust, especially fluff!!! I’ve seen the resource guard twitch of the head! So it’s always cleared up with Buddy well out of sight to avoid this escalating into anything more and off course now he never has a chance to destroy anything at all.
It really surprises me as I spent a lot of time swapping things out as a puppy, with food and toys, and I have no qualms about putting my hand anywhere near his mouth when he’s eating or chewing, in fact he brings his slobbery chews up to me right in my face while I’m sat in the sofa and will eat them on my lap! I even hold them for him. Regardless I always tell my son not to touch him if he does have food or a chew – he’s still a dog and you can never know for sure what he might be thinking in that moment.
Anyway, this all goes out of my head as I grab the bed and he immediately jumps on my hand to grab the bed and me with his mouth in a very assertive ‘get the hell off my bed lady’ manner. There was no snarling or growling but I know he was pissed off that I was attempting to take his special fluff away that he was enjoying pulling out of his bed. Total bitch I know.
He’s also in no state of mind to make any good decisions.
At this point I’m nearly in tears, feeling like a failure, that I may have inadvetnatly created a fluff guarding monster, that i can’t control my dog, that I seem to have forget everything I’ve learnt. Then In that moment I remember that we have Agility training in the morning and I feel like utter shit. He’s going to be crazy and it’s going to be awful.
I know, when he’s like this it will take a few days to empty that bucket.
But agility is great for his confidence, he’s also learning some boundaries while being there, and it’s good for me too – I don’t want to miss out!
I have a rant in my training academy group and my dog trainer picks it up.
Seriously don’t worry she said. There are options. See how he is in the morning. Bring him. You can either do a bit of training and see how he goes then put him in then vehicle for a rest. Or leave him for a rest altogether and train one of the other dogs, or just watch. Whatever you want to do is totally fine there is no pressure.
Relief flooded over me. Either way we won’t miss out.
This is key here and something I never thought about.
Firstly, don’t train your dog if they really aren’t in the right frame of mind and are completely and utterly over aroused.
Always set your dog up for success. You know them best, and when they are a ‘naughty but nice’ dog like mine, you will hopefully know by now when they will be able to handle certain situations.
Secondly, If you aren’t sure, have some backup options like I did. Take your dog and suss it out. If it’s too much for them dont let them fail just to save face. Any good trainer will understand that you, know your dog better than anyone. And if they don’t and force you to continue the session without offering at least an alternative like somewhere to calm down away from distractions, find another trainer.
So what happened? Well we went. I spent a lot of time on calming transitions with Buddy. Between activities we did some figure of 8 walking and just general loose lead walking with lots of changing directions. Some scatter feeding. And we also practiced on his favourite equipment (tunnnneeel!!) with his favourite toys so I knew he wouldn’t fail.
We adapted to the situation. He wouldn’t stay calmly on his boundary when I walked away and we could see it was stressing him, so we boundary hopped near the activities while we waited for our turns.
At the end he went back in the car (covered crate) and I stayed for the next session while he had some well needed downtime.
So it worked out, we had lots of tools in our ‘toolkit’ to take away with us.
I’m sure it won’t be the first time I’ve had to make the decision to train or not to train, maybe next time he won’t make the sessIon, but at least I know I always have options, and that his best interests will always come first.