Without doubt something that I struggle with is GUILT. It’s something I’m getting better at coping with but every now and again it rears it’s ugly head.
When I ditch the guilt I see a noticeable improvement in Buddy. Because I take off the expectations that are drilled into us as dog owners, that we must force our dogs to fit into the same hole that we see other dogs fill. But whether I like it or not, my dog is a slightly different shape.
The thing is Buddy started out as a puppy that was very friendly, came on the school run, walked every day, came to the pub, had fuss and belly rubs from people and children. I was extremely proud of how sociable he was with both adults, children and other dogs. I could take him anywhere – the pet shops and the pub. Between 5 months and a year old, he started to show uncertainty towards other dogs and people. It was very gradual. He would bark at things in the distance if he wasn’t quite sure who or what it was. Then through training it improved and it all but disappeared. I thought it was a phase. But then it gradually came back. At one point he was even scared of his squeaking toys. I totally believe that hormones and genetics play a HUGE part in this. The thing is. When your dog has setbacks like this, it’s important to take the pressure off.
But we are so hard wired that our dogs must fit in with our hectic and busy lives, that we expect SO much from them. And that in order for them to be fulfilled we think we must walk them three times a day, introduce them to everyone, regardless of how stressful they may find that walk or greeting. The guilt is just so overwhelming we do it anyway. We feel must take our dogs to places, or take them for walks with our friend’s dogs or send them to day care three days a week to ‘socialise’ them.
Pressure from family, friends and even well-meaning trainers who may not have a lot of experience with sensitive dogs or who follow an older outdated style of training.
Buddy is proof, that concept training works. The past two months have been amazing. We are walking past people and dogs in the countryside without any negative reactions. He is starting to realise that there is nothing to be scared of and that actually, he doesn’t need to greet everyone he sees, the pressure has been off so that he generally only has good experiences as I try and time his training walks with when I know he has a relatively empty bucket. Even when he gets off lead dogs running up and barking in his face (eye roll to the dog owners who can’t control their dogs and don’t put them back on lead when the dog approaching is on lead!) he still doesn’t react. How amazing is that?!
Does this mean I can start taking him out three times a day in busier surroundings? Heck no! We are building the foundations here. If I do that now, I may as well start all over again.
But I am confident that with the progress he has making now, Buddy will be a much happier dog.
Adolescence is a trying time for both dog and owners. But the best thing we can do is practice patience, ditch the guilt and keep training.
You are the best advocate for your dog. Get your big girl, or big boy pants on, and do what you know is best for them, not what other people ‘think’ is best for them.
Do you have an anxious dog with struggles that you are working through? We have an emotional support group on facebook which is a safe space to come and let it all out when you are not feeling great and we share some positivity to get you back on track! Just click here to join.