I have had the pleasure to work with mainly happy go-lucky dogs with minor problems. Problems like pulling on the leash, jumping up on people, obedience training, whining/barking, counter surfing, puppy behavior, potty training, kennel training, door bolting, etc.
So, when I get a dog who has anxiety, leadership problems, or an adult dog who gets a little mouthy, this is a more serious problem – to me. I’m sure more experienced trainers would have no problems with this. However, since I’m inexperienced and don’t know shit, these problems are challenging for me. I like a good challenge, and in no way is this a bad thing. I’m not overwhelmed, nor do I feel like I don’t how to handle the problem… most of the time.
I don’t feel like I have a pride complex or anything – I can admit when a dog is too much for me or when I handled a situation in the wrong way. I usually know if I can handle the problem within the first initial consultation or phone call. Aggression, hyper-activity [extreme], pushy behavior [again, to the extreme], OCD behavior, or using any sort of eTouch device are all things that I don’t handle yet, though I’m excited to work with these types of issues and equipment in time. I want to be able to handle anything that gets thrown my way.
Recently, I have met a few exceptionally difficult dogs. You remember Ryder? Well, he is improving, especially when he gets to go to socials every weekend. I see improvements, and now, he has come so far that I don’t even see leadership challenges much anymore-at home that is. In public, he feels he can still push you around. He still has lots of learning to do, but the family has come so far, and they really want what is best for him, so they are trying, and it shows. He is honestly not a dog I would consider a ‘huge’ problem anymore. Yes, he still needs a lot of work, but recently… I have seen a lot worse.
Anyway, back to the difficult dogs. I have met a few that I already knew within the first few minutes they are too much for me. So, I recommend another trainer. I have no remorse, jealousy, or feel ashamed when I do this. Basically, if I take on a case that is too much for me, I waste my time, the client’s time and money, and I can possibly do more damage to the dog’s mental state. Especially with aggression cases, I could put myself, the dog, and any person in the vicinity of the dog at risk if something happens.
Instead of feeling like, ‘Oh, poor me, I can’t handle difficult issues. I’m such a failure, and I should be able to do this’. I say to myself, ‘Eventually, I’ll be able to handle issues like this. Right now, I can’t help this dog. But I will be able to after I get my certification and get some experience working with these types of dogs For now, let’s get this dog a trainer who can help him!’ I feel I am strong because of this. And smart. I will make mistakes, and I don’t feel I should be chastised for this. I can learn from my mistakes and become a better trainer. I am not rushing, but I always want to do more. By enrolling in all these classes, I feel I am succeeding.
Babysitting Checkers was a mistake for me – he was too much. He needs a specialized board and train program for his needs, not just a babysitter. He is the most difficult dog I have ever met in my career. Again, compared to other trainers, this may not be saying much. But I’m done comparing myself to other trainers. I will now ‘compare’ to my experiences. So, in my experience, Checkers is the most difficult dog I have come across.
Since I babysat him, I have encountered a few more difficult dogs from clients that I have referred to another trainer in my area. I want to do everything. Big goal, huh? Well, it gives me some projects to do, and to network with other trainers to get some tips and pointers about seminars, workshops, and places to go to learn. I have recently registered for a course in dealing with difficult dogs. I’m excited, but also a little anxious. I don’t know why… maybe it’s nerves.
I have spoken to my local trainer friend, and she says she gets dogs like Checkers on a daily basis. It sounds exhausting. But, if I’m able to handle all his issues later on, I would assume I wouldn’t feel as flustered as I did when Checkers as at my house, and I was trying every tool I had at my disposal. He was only out of my sight for 5 minutes in 4 days while he was out of the kennel, and managed to get himself into trouble. He was tethered to me the whole time or to an object within the house. In those 4 days, I spent about 30-35 hours of active training. Because I already knew exercise wouldn’t do the trick, we worked in the backyard instead, as he fought the Halti like a bat out of hell and I was not going to reward that behavior by taking him on a walk. He honestly, didn’t get much exercise [physical, I mean], but we did psychological exercises and worked on targeting. He did respond to SATS when we did some targeting, but I lost his focus within about 10 minutes. Well, 10 minutes is better than nothing.
This experience really opened my eyes to what a ‘board and train’ program means, as well as what working with difficult dogs mean. And why trainers can charge so much when working with them. It is a lot of work, and it is hard work. Again, once I get the training, I feel like I could have handled a few things differently. I felt I was never in any danger of getting attacked – she showed no aggression towards me, just over-adrenalized when he was around Napoleon, toys, food, people, a leash… actually, he was just adrenalized the entire time we had him. Which took about 6 hours to get them to be acceptable while they were off the leash together. Not bad, but I can do better. And I’m sure I made many mistakes. But that’s because I’m human, right?
Anyway, I was just thinking about this today, so I thought I would jot it down and open this up to the world to read about. Maybe it will also help other people will struggles they are experiencing in other careers, at school, or even with their own dog.
Anything is possible, and knowledge is power… Ignorance is bliss. I don’t want to live in bliss. I want to educate, and learn, and be great. And I will be. [Take on the world attitude again]