Anyone that owns a reactive dog will know the shame and guilt that you go through.
Firstly it’s almost like grief. You got a dog for a reason. Long walks in the countryside, a family pet that will happily mooch around the house and enjoy cuddles with the kids. When that dream doesn’t play out there is a sort of grieving process that you go through.
We have this fixed kind of view that dogs should just ‘fit’ into our lifestyles and get on with it. I feel like we’ve got to a point where we put way too many expectations on dogs and have forgotten that they are in fact animals. And as domesticated as they are, they still have deep wild instincts that we seem to have forgotten about
I followed the advice…it still didn’t work
I followed all the trainers advice when Buddy was a puppy.
I socialised my dog like the good pet parent I was. It was drummed into me that so long as I socialised him, everything would turn out fine. Forget everything else – this was the number one priority to stop a dog from becoming reactive to other dogs and god forbid, people.
So we took him everywhere. The pub, garden centre, school run. He’s seen and done it all.
His submissive personality I took to be a bit of shyness. I was told it was ‘good for him’ to have all these experiences as it meant he knew ‘nothing bad was going to happen’
I look back now and wonder how someone would assume that? How do we ever know what Buddy is thinking exactly?
Then the reactivity started…
So as soon as adolescence hit, the reactivity crept in. Super slowly at first. And it started with reactivity to noises. It was intense – we had to have the subtitles on the TV at one point and I remember him lunging at me over the noise the wrapper was making that I was holding.
Eventually he was barking and lunging at people. It started with a few barks at strange voices in the pub. So we stopped taking him.
Then the postman.
Then before I knew it he was barking and lunging at random people on walks. He looked ‘aggressive’ and I was mortified.
I remember a passer by telling me that I ‘needed to get him out more and he’s soon get used to it’ But I was already doing that! And it just seemed to be making it worse. But why?
We couldn’t even have strangers in the house and I was very cautious around any friends or family visiting.
I felt hopeless. I didn’t know where to turn. The trainers I was using at the time were lovely, but I didn’t feel like they were up to the kind of experiences I was having. Nothing I was learning I could transfer to my life. My dog didn’t want to stay in a ‘place’ and he absolutely wasn’t walking to heel.
I felt out of my depth.
The realisation hit me that I would have to give up my dog. I wasn’t cut out for this. Something was really wrong and I assumed I was part of the problem.
I looked online at places like the Border Collie Trust, looked on Border Collie forums. It seemed to be a common problem for collies. And the sad thing was that so many people did give up on their dogs and couldn’t cope.
I felt awful.
If I sent him to one of these places what would happen then? Would he go somewhere they couldn’t manage him and he bit them? What would his future look like then? The rescues have got enough to deal with.
If you know me you’ll know that I’m one of the most positive and optimistic people you will ever meet. I am full of energy and always look for opportunities in everything.
I made a decision right then to never give up on him. No matter what I would find the answers and I would fix this. I had to.
The turning point…
One day I saw AbsoluteDOGS on Facebook. I wasn’t sure what it was at first – it looked like these amazing sports dogs doing tricks and sitting nicely on their beds.
It popped up a few more times and I decided to take a look at their training. It was only £30 a month so I thought I’d give it a try.
Then randomly at the same time I found a new local trainer who had been trained by AbsoluteDOGS! Coincidence or the universe sending me a sign?
I started to work with her, and used all of the AbsoluteDOGS training methods and everything that had ever happened and was happening to Buddy suddenly made sense!
In a few short months I totally understood why my dog was doing the things he was, that it wasn’t my fault, and what I could do better to help him. And most importantly we started to see small wins. Glimmers of hope that the future was actually looking a lot brighter.
I am so grateful that these guys appeared to me at just the right time. I dread to think where I might have turned if not. I also get a lot of what I need as a person from the training. An optimism boost and mindset coaching – which is just as important as looking at the dog.
If you aren’t in the right mindset then you wont get far with your dog. A positive and healthy mindset is just as important as the training itself.
We are now walking past people on walks, going back to in person classes. And yesterday for the first time in a long time, he didn’t bark at people that were on our property. We’ve had a builder over and every time he’s seen him when we’ve been out the front, he hasn’t once reacted to him.
On Tuesday 12th July these amazing guys are running a 14 day course (recorded so you can catch up anytime) going into everything you need to know about this training and steps you can make today. It’s just £27. (you can check it out here)
Knowledge is power.
And once you have knowledge you can overcome anything.
This could very well be the little sign from the universe for you that I got a few years ago.
The most important thing you can ever do is try. I totally understand there are times when rehoming is the only way. But if you can muster the energy for that one last push – then do it. It will be the best decision you ever make and one you should be massively proud of.