Stages of Grief

Ryder was not my dog. Sometimes, like when he was at my house for boarding or for workshops, I felt like he was. He got to stay in my basement and snuggle up with Napoleon right at my feet while we watched movies. I really miss him.

Over the weekend , I boarded a few dogs, and on Friday when I got home from the vet, I heard one of them barking. Without thinking, I asked my husband, “Is that Ryder barking?”

My husband looks at me and says, “That’s not Ryder, Heather.” And that’s when it really hit me. At the vet, it felt like he was going to wake up at any second. He looked like he was just sleeping. I was honored I got to spend the last few moments with him and whisper to him how much he meant to everyone and how much I loved him, and how this wasn’t his fault. How he’ll be able to play all day with the other dogs and chew on as many bones as he wants. He’ll be free.

I don’t believe in a heaven or hell or God or devils. I believe that all life is returned to the planet. No, I’m not stealing the plot from Final Fantasy VII, it’s just the best way I can explain it. When a person, animal, or plant dies, their spirit is returned to the planet so we can keep living on this Earth. I believe this, and I believe Ryder lives on in a different way. I won’t see him again, but I’ll feel him. I’ll feel him in the air, and in the trees, I’ll see moments of him in my clients’ dogs or within my own house. I’ll remember him and laugh at how goofy he could be.

I know I made the right decision, and the family knows that too. But I’m feeling all the things anyone would feel for making a hard decision. Guilt, pain, sadness, depression, anger. Sometimes, I’m inconsolable.  I’ll be sitting at my computer, or talking to a friend, and then I’m completely overwhelmed with sadness and I just end up crying.

GriefI’m experiencing the 5 stages of grief, and as soon as I feel like I’m ok, I remember something about him that was goofy and silly. Like how, when he thought he was going to get some food or a treat, he would sit automatically and back up about a foot so that his long legs could comfortably sit on the ground. Then he’d stare at you with his adorable face. If you waited long enough, he would paw at you to give him what he wants. No, this isn’t ideal behavior, and we had really worked on this. But last week, he got away with it. Why not? He was on death row, he could have whatever he wanted.

Or that time when he was at my house for the workshop and was exhausted at the end of the day. I accidentally dropped the leash and he bolted into my house, down into the basement and snuggled up in his kennel all on his own. I miss these moments, and he’s not even my dog. I just… got attached.

And it will take time to be ok. Sometimes, it’s only once a day where I am in a depressive state. Other times, it’s pretty much the whole day.  I know I’ll feel  better with time, and I know this was right. Sometimes, it feels like I have to remind myself that this is what he needed. Because it feels like I made the decision to kill him. Which isn’t what happened, but emotions sometimes overcome logic.

Today, one of my coworkers asked me how I was doing, and I could barely speak. If I kept talking, I would start crying and would have to step out. So I said I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. But on Sunday, I could talk about it, and I felt confident with my decision. Yesterday, I had a migraine to keep me occupied, but then when I was feeling better, I just wanted to curl up in bed and go to sleep. So, I went to bed around 9:00 pm and didn’t go to sleep until after midnight because I was crying. It just hurts so much sometimes.  So, if you ask me about it, there is a chance it could go either way. I could be fine and tell you about Ryder and about my decision, or I could be completely overwhelmed with sadness and be put into a depressive state… walking on eggshells, I guess.

In time, everything will go back to normal.

His story comes to an end

Hard decisions make us the people we are. We want to be the one to make the hard decisions and take charge of a difficult situation. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Sometimes, we want to be the person who is being taken care of, instead of the decision maker.

You see, when you become a trainer, it’s not all about playing with puppies and teaching Sit/Stays. You have to work through the hard issues too. Hard issues like euthanasia of a difficult dog. Hard issues like the possibility of having an aggressive or dangerous, unpredictable dog in the presence of a child. Specifically a very large dog who is unpredictable.

You can work as hard as you can, but it’s not enough. Again, now is one of those times. I did everything I knew how to do and exhausted every resource. I made all the recommendations, and the family followed through with all the homework. They really did everything, too. But it comes down to how much progress has been done and how much more needs to be accomplished. It’s more than what I can do, it’s more than what the family could do. Even if he went with the best trainer in the world, I believe the outcome may have been the same. There was a ‘right’ family out there for him, but either it wasn’t the right time, they weren’t experienced enough yet, or they didn’t hear my cries for help. Either way, the decision has been made and the end has come. I also can’t think like that anymore – there is always something else to do. That’s a pet owner’s way of thinking, and I will torture myself thinking ‘What if?’. Thinking as a trainer, I exhausted all resources and didn’t come to this decision lightly.

The question needs to be asked, “Can you trust this dog to make the right decision?”. The answer was No. It has been no for the last 8 months, and I don’t see this changing. With dogs like this, you have to constantly be on your guard and be ready in case things go bad. The one time you let your guard down will be the one time something might happen. This dog was fine 95% of the time, but in those small moments when he wasn’t, bites have happened. A dog that gives no warning is the most dangerous kind of dog. A dog that is unpredictable makes this situation even worse. Even though he is sweet 95% of the time… the moment you let your guard down is when something will happen. This dog was not a monster, but sweet and confused. The product of a hard puppy-hood and negligence and malnutrition. He was a great dog.

It’s exhausting, and you don’t see an end. A decision needs to be made. Can you rehome the dog? Can you adopt them out? Is euthanasia the only option? How do you find the right home? What are the conditions of adopting out an unpredictable, dominant, possibly aggressive dog? What about liability? Is that a life for the family? Why should they have to do this? What kind of quality is that kind of life for a dog? And what if, at some point, he does finally get to be a decent dog? How much time will this senior dane have left? How much time will he get to enjoy his hard-earned freedom? How many people are willing to take on a project senior Great Dane who is likely to bite again? These were all things that we discussed. These were all valid points, and unfortunately, the answer was that in the most ideal family, and with the best training, he would still be a project dog and once the training was ‘done’ (because training is never ‘done’), he wouldn’t have much time left in his short life.

That’s always something to think about. At some point, you need to weigh the cost and quality of life for the animal. Euthanasia is a better alternative, and this way, he can be happy.

Sometimes, that means euthanasia is the best option. Weighing this option is never an easy topic. It’s never easy to think about or discuss, especially with a dog that isn’t yours. How do you even bring up this topic? What if you get attached and you don’t want to accept it yourself?

I have always been of the opinion that euthanasia was an unnecessary option. It was a ‘lazy’ option for people who didn’t want to fix the problem. But after seeing some of the best trainers in the United States have to make the same decisions, my opinion was swayed. I still want to do everything else to not have to make this decision, and I thought that when I had to discuss with a client, it wouldn’t be this dog. It wouldn’t be this client, and it would be years later in my training. But after exploring every angle, talking to the best trainers, and discussing options with the family, I am confident this is the right decision. Even though it hurts and feels like I’m being ripped apart. I know in my heart this is right.

What happens when you have to have this discussion, not only with a client, but with a friend? I handled it in a way that I knew how. I thought about how, if a trainer told me this was the best option for MY dog, how would I want to be told? These are my friends, and I love this dog. But that doesn’t mean it made it any easier. In fact, this made it harder. Part of the job – the hardest part. This is the part where trainers get judged the most, and where second guessing makes this decision even harder.

I’m trying to turn this around and think in a positive light. This will make me a better trainer. I’m sure I will have this same discussion again in the future. If I want to work with difficult dogs, which I do – this is not the last time I will discus euthanasia. I can do it, and I will learn how to better handle these situations. I can learn from this experience and I can learn from everything this dog had to teach me. I won’t forget anything, and I won’t tarnish his memory by making the same mistakes again. I will remember this dog and all the work the family did, the dog did, and how much I put into him. It’s not anyone’s fault it didn’t work out. I will get better, and just like Albert, I will learn from Ryder. To see all of Ryder’s progress, see his notes here.

I love you, kid.

R.I.P. Ryder
2010-2013

Taken on 7/24/13

Taken on 7/24/13

MemorialStone1

A Hard Decision

Ryder2I have done everything. I trained, I trained my heart out with this dog. I went to workshops, I learned more about how to handle dogs like him. I have seen other trainers, and used their expertise. I have worked with the family, and they have done everything.  It isn’t their fault. It isn’t my fault, I know that too. But I can’t help but feel like I failed.

We have done training, we have sought out other trainers’ advice, I tried to find the right home to adopt him, and I have tried to adopt him myself. He is SOOOO much better, but not good enough.  It is no one faults’ but the person who had him from when he was puppy.

They just tied him up in the backyard and left him there with little food. The first 2 years of his life he was set up to fail. We spent 8 months undoing 2 years of neglect. And he was set up to succeed from the beginning. However… hard core, intense training is exhausting and hard for the family. I’m so proud of them for sticking it out as long as they did.

We cannot adopt him out because of liability. I didn’t even think about this before, but because I am the trainer, I am an ‘expert’ in my field. I am supposed to fix everything and be able to have answers to everything. I have sought out help from another trainer friend in my area. She informed me of the problems of adopting out a dog like this. I was completely unaware of the risks and felt pretty naïve once I understand why I shouldn’t.

Here are the reasons why he should not be adopted out.

-He has received 8 months of training from yours truly. Whether the family discloses the information or not, I am legally responsible for the training he has received so far. Which means I am liable if anything happens.

-He has the potential to do a lot of damage in the wrong home. There are not a lot of ‘right’ homes for dogs like Ryder. Someone will need to be home at least 70% of the time for training. No cats, no kids, and the family must have experience with difficult or aggressive dogs in the past.  The family must understand this is a difficult dog and potentially dangerous.

-Putting Ryder in a home that isn’t 100% perfect is setting him up to fail.

-Training him for another year or even a few years is not a guarantee he will get better. It’s just a recommendation. Meaning the current family or a new family could continue training forever, but he may not get better.

-Even if he does benefit from another 2-3 years of intense training, he is nearing the end of his Great Dane life at that point, and then won’t be able to experience what hard-earned freedom is like. His whole life will be spent with intense training. (Since Great Danes only live to be about 6-8 years old).

So, after many discussions with other trainers, the family, and my husband, we have all agreed this is the best decision and in his best interest to euthanize Ryder. This decision was not taken lightly and we have been discussing this since I took him to the Difficult Dog workshop. It was an option then, and now it is becoming a reality.

I am really struggling with this decision, and I still am. He isn’t sick, he doesn’t have a disease, but at the same time.. he can be dangerous in the wrong situation. And because he is a big dog, he is also harder to physically restrain if needed (which in the case of an inexperienced home, people tend to use physical strength as a training tool). This is not a good position for Ryder to be in – because he will bite.

Please understand, the family and I have talked at length about this decision and it really is the best thing. I don’t want to have to justify this decision over and over again. I don’t like explaining everything because it makes me want to throw up. It makes me want to be put down with him because I am a horrible person for letting this happen.  But inside, I know I’m not and I’ve done everything.

Ryder will be put to sleep at 4:30 on Friday afternoon. I will be with him, along with his doggie dad. I am going to spend some time with him today and let him know how much he is loved and that he won’t have to worry about anything anymore. He will be able to run free and play all he wants soon. The training will end and he will be free to do what he pleases at Rainbow Bridge.

Emma

Pendulum

A poem I found that really describes how I feel about the manic behaviors of being bipolar.

I’ve been a huge bitch lately. What is even worse – is that I don’t care. Is that bad? I really just want to curl up in a blanket, and put all the cushions of my couch over me, and pretend like I don’t exist. I just want it all to stop. Let the world keep going while I stop. I just want it all to all fucking end.

I have caused unnecessary fights with my husband. I have picked fights with friends and intentionally upset people. I regret almost every single thing that comes out of my mouth. I feel this way from time to time, but it usually gets better. For the last month or so, every day gets worse and worse. I am now a rude, hateful person.

I’m making mistakes at home, at training, and at my day job. I over analyze everything and read way too much into each little thing someone tells me. I have irrational thinking, mind reading, I’m emotional, and I have selective listening. There are medical terms for all of those things, but basically, I’m depressed.

I feel physical pain when getting up in the morning. I relive every single thing that happened the day before and start to feel sick because I read too much into every interaction I had with a person and pick out my faults. I analyze every bad thing that is happening and read into it to find out why it happened. Because I’m pessimistic and I’m over analyzing and using non-productive thinking patterns, I blame myself.

Between my friends, the fights with my husband, Ryder, things happening at work, correcting a dog not enough or too much… my fault and I just want it all to end. I can’t stop. I’m manic. Now that I actually know what that means.

I have posted this video before, but I felt I needed to post it again. This is a pretty good representation of what it means to have any mental disorder, so I wanted to share it again.

I’m drowning and I can’t get out. I want to throw up, but I can’t. I want it to stop, but it won’t. I want to kill myself, but I won’t do it. I don’t want to continue going through the motions, but I do. Why do I even try? Because I have to. Because I know that it will get better. I know it will because it always does, but I’ll just spike up again. And take on too much, and then I’ll ‘crash’ again. The highs are like mountains, and the lows are like cliffs.

I have a friend who named the ‘down side’ of her bipolar disorder. I told my therapist about this, and she said because I was high functioning and intelligent, I can differentiate between which stage I am in. I have 2 ‘sides’ to every thought I have. A positive thought and a negative thought. Every thought I have, I have these 2 sides having a conversation before I can even make sense of it. It’s exhausting. She said it might help if I name mine as well. So we did.

There are 10 different negative thinking patterns: Mental Filter, Jumping to conclusions, Mind Reading, Fortune-telling, Labeling, Personalization/Blame, “Should have/Would have” statements, Emotional reasoning, magnification, Discounting the positive, over generalization, all-or-nothing thinking.

My therapist picked out the thinking patterns I use the most when I am depressed, and my personality is named:

Emotional Reasoning
Mental Filter
Mind Reading
All or nothing thinking

Go away, Emma.

And here’s a song I was listening to today that really helped me write this blog today.

Final Chapter: Ryder

Ryder3

Ryder, in the backseat of my car.

Ryder, the project Great Dane I have been working with for the last 8 months. If I were to look back at my notes from my last update and compare what said about him in the beginning to what I say now, here’s a comparison:

In November, 2012:

Ryder is incredibly pushy and a ‘jerk’. He jumps on people, has lunged at men (to bite, not to say hi), chews up everything, breaks out of kennels, counter/refrigerator surfs, jumps on furniture and is ‘out of control’. He is very fast and will knock you down to get where he wants to be. I recommend getting him neutered and we need to potty train and kennel train him first thing. I recommend leash work and mental exercise. I’m not concerned with obedience at this point in time. Receiving a bite may occur out of disrespect, not aggression.

Now:

With the last 8 months of training, Ryder is VERY sensitive towards corrections. Every correction must be very light. If the correction is too harsh (pulling too hard on the leash), he gets mouthy. When he gets frustrated, a bite can happen. The family has worked on Halti work, kennel training, mental exercises, and slowing him down around the house. He is no longer jumping, counter surfing, jumping on the furniture, and has slowed down quite a bit. He has a calmer demeanor and is no longer the jerk he once was. Now, he is very sensitive and wants to know what he can do to make you happy. He is potty and kennel trained, and now has more respect for humans. However, he is not to be trusted in the house or outside alone. He will break through fences to get where he wants, or will chew up things in the house. I recommend being on a leash at all times, even if the leash is dropped. This is a leadership exercise that will teach him you control space.

He has improved so much and has been in a constant state of learning since I have been working with him. He has been at my house a few times for boarding, training, and I took him to the Difficult Dog Workshop to learn more about how to handle dogs like him. While he was visiting me, I taught him how to walk on the treadmill, how to slow down and calm down on a dime in my home, and how to properly behave when he wants to go outside, wants food, or wants to play. Again, he isn’t perfect, but he has made major improvements. There was major work to be done, but I felt we were ½ way there.

I have learned so much from this dog, and I hope he has learned just as much as I have. Unfortunately, working with a difficult dog in an intense boot camp training setting is exhausting. The family has done everything they can, followed my training regimen, and really put the work necessary into working with him. After 8 months of intense training, Ryder has still made mistakes, and those mistakes are sometimes worse than others. The family is ready to find him a new home. I can’t blame them, I completely understand. It doesn’t make them bad owners or bad people. In fact, I LOVE this family.

But to make things even harder… I love this dog too. I am attached to him. My husband and I spoke until we were blue in the face to see if we can make this work. To see if we could take him into our home and work with him. Or at least foster him until we found the right family for him.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t do well with our cats (they are part of the problem – they egg him on until he gets in trouble), and I don’t have the necessary time to devote to working with him. As much as I want to believe I could get up an hour earlier in the mornings, leave earlier to work, come home earlier to work with him, and then train him after my evening training appointments… I know it isn’t realistic. It wouldn’t be fair to him.

failI feel I failed him. I feel like if I had more experience in training, or if I could have done a board and train (not doing those for a while).. things would be different. Did I do something wrong? Have I really failed? What can I do? I’m feeling all kinds of not good feelings about this. I don’t blame the family, it’s not their fault. They hired me to help them train Ryder. And he’s not trained enough. What else could I do? I know this happens in the dog training world. Every dog is an individual and learns at their own pace. I also know he did make major improvements. But it wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t able to keep him in his current situation. Some dogs choose not to learn. I don’t feel this was the case with Ryder. He is just super sensitive, not dumb. I saw remarkable learning capabilities when he was at my house. He learned how to properly walk on a treadmill without me being next to him in 3 days. I’m trying hard to feel that I did everything. I’m trying to hard to feel like I didn’t fail and that I did do everything I could. But now, what else can I do? I can get him into a different situation. I can help find another home for him and get him into a situation where he will succeed.

If you, or someone you know, feels that they can take on Ryder into their family and give him the training and time he deserves, please let me know.  It needs to be a good fit – this is the biggest factor in finding him a new home. I want to set him up to succeed in his new household by starting out on the right foot.

So please – no cats, and no small children. He is good with other dogs, and a calm dog would help him settle in quickly, and teach him how to slow down. He would do best in a household where someone is home during the day so they can continue is training.

Temp Friendships

Temporary friends. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that friendship is only temporary. I have had friends as kids, then as I grew older, I made new friends. I moved, made new friends and old friends fade away. I have never had what you call a life-long friendship.

I had childhood friends – none of whom I even speak to now. I had elementary and Junior high school friends. My best friend in Junior High/Middle School (whatever you call it where you are from) died of leukemia. In high school, I had a group of friends and we were very close. We did everything together, and every Friday night, we would go to someone’s house and listen to music, make potatoes, play video games, and just hang out. I really miss these people. So much it hurts sometimes.

When I graduated 6 months early from high school, I realized how hard this was on our friendship. I tried to come home every weekend and hang out, but between the hour drive and the homework I always had on weekends, it was really difficult.

I made friends in college, and knowing full well that they were moving back to wherever ‘home’ was when we graduated – I got close to them. I made some very good friends. Some of my happiest memories of my life are with them.

I graduated college with my Bachelor’s Degree when I was around 20 years old. I tried to reconnect with my friends from high school and keep in touch with my friends from college. My HS friends were jobless and partying and trying to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. I had graduated early from high school, got my BA degree in less than 2 years, and I had a high paying entry level programming position. Not that I was better, just we were in different stages of our lives now. I found myself downplaying how hard I worked to get my BA degree so quickly. It wasn’t a big deal. Meh… whatever.

Eventually, we stopped hanging out altogether. We are connected on Facebook, but random status posts, and ‘likes’ are about the extent of our friendship now. My college friends? Well, we keep in touch, but I have no idea what is happening with their lives now. I don’t know what they are doing, what they are thinking about, or why they have made the choices they have.

I have been left out. I am friendless, and I have to accept it. Should I just shell up and not talk to people? It’s easier. I won’t keep feeling like my heart is being ripped apart. I will feel less anxiety, I won’t have as much drama. Is it worth it to even continue to try to have personal relationships? I have a lot of acquaintances, but friends? Should I even try?

Friends step in and out of your life, and if you are careful – you can protect yourself by keeping them at a distance. Realize they are temporary, and that they will eventually move on. Not in a mean way. They aren’t intentionally leaving you or hurting you because you aren’t good enough. Just… you aren’t a big part of their life anymore.

Treated

…so I’m protecting myself.

I want to protect myself. I want to curl up in a tiny little ball and sink into the cushions in my sofa with a blanket. I want to just disappear to make it easier for everyone to severe ties.

But I don’t. Why? I keep inviting people to do things, I want to hang out, I want to have friends. I want to tell people my secrets and have fun. I want to be with people and have them love me for me. I love all my friends for who they are. It feels like I’m not appreciated for me. Everyone is leaving me behind.

Maybe I’ll just create a Sims neighborhood with all my ‘temp friends’ who I want to still hang out with and just live virtually. That way, when they leave for good, it will be because I have chosen them to do so. I’ll turn off age limits, and we’ll have unlimited amounts of money. We can do whatever we want, when we want. We’ll go downtown to go drinking, we’ll go horseback riding and go to the arcade. We’ll roam the city and tip the street guitarists. We’ll have lunch at the bistro and then head to the book store. Maybe head to the gym and work on the machines and then go swimming.  Who knows? I get to hang out with my virtual friends whenever I want.

To all my temp friends – I’m making peace with it. Don’t invite me places if you feel sorry for me. Don’t call or text me to say hi if you don’t genuinely want to be in my life. I understand you will someday leave me.

To all my real friends – Please don’t become a temp friend. Stay friends with me. Communicate when you are disappointed. Tell me when you want to do something. Have I hurt your feelings? Tell me. I want you in my life, do you want me in yours? Show me.

A Few Thoughts

So, I have some catching up to do. My life has gone to the dogs, and that’s a good thing! I have been working tirelessly to make the change, and every day I’m a little closer!

First order of business, I hosted another pack walk and it was very successful. I believe I had around 20-28 dogs. Some people came late, some left early, and some joined in while we were walking. So, getting a hard count was a little difficult. This time was better than my first walk, as I was trying to keep everyone together as a group. The dogs benefit the most from having everyone in a pack, not spread out. I’m getting better at this, but it’s going to take some time.

I LOVE the benefits of pack walks and I enjoy getting everyone together to host them. It’s a great way to safely socialize and a great gateway to doing full blown socials while I’m learning more about dog behavior and getting used to reading every single little subtle sign. It’s exhausting, and I feel I miss a lot. But that takes experience. No book or seminar will teach me everything – I have to get out there and do it. At a safe pace of course. I’m not about to take on a really nasty behavioral problem just because I need the experience.

Here’s a video of the walk. If you follow through my comments, you’ll see how every person and dog’s behavior smooths out near the end of the walk. There were a few dogs who needed additional help (The German Shepherd for one), but for the most part, the dogs’ calmed down pretty well.

Secondly, I have started helping with Wasatch Canine Camp’s socials. How awesome is that? (HUGE SWELLING HAPPY FEELING!) However, I feel like I’m miles behind the trainer and her skillset (won’t mention names for privacy), and I have so much to learn. She has also been doing this a lot longer than I have. But I won’t give up, and I’m trying very hard to not feel down when I realize this. I just focus on the good things – like how much progress I have made within the last year, and where I will be at the end of this year. Someday, maybe I will have a facility. It’s a dream right now, but maybe if I work hard enough, I can get there.

The hard part about socials is that you can’t really talk to people while you are there. I’m still in ‘spectator’ mode instead of ‘presenter’ mode. I have to watch every single dog and every interaction to make sure it is appropriate interactions between people and dogs. I feel like I have to be in every place at once, and sometimes I feel like I can’t keep up. At K9 Lifeline, the instructor (again, I won’t say names) said you’ll get a feel for when things are about to happen before they actually do. Like when the energy changes in a particular part of the room/area. I haven’t felt that yet. Will I get there? I feel like I have to be in all places at once, and I don’t think this class can be taught with just one person. Well, the size of the class matters, of course. On average, the class is about 30-40 dogs. I don’t know if I would be comfortable taking that much responsibility yet. Maybe someday – just not yet.  I’m not scared, just… I don’t know enough and I feel I’m a ‘baby’ in this field. It’s comforting to know I have more experienced trainers watching my back while I’m learning, but giving me enough room to grow and to make mistakes. I really look up to these women, and I hope someday I can be as successful as them.

Napoleon

Napoleon, waking me up in the morning

Something else I have noticed is that I find myself being passive around more experienced trainers. Not as assertive as I normally am or I shut down, in one particular person’s case. Like to the point where I can’t speak – I can hardly breathe and I end up having a panic attack.  This affects my performance, the way the animals see me, and I’m not as strong of a leader as I need to be. I have started working on this and I mentally prepare myself before going to class or to an event where more qualified people will gather. One step at a time – I have started asking questions about social, asking about behavior I have missed, and I’m beginning to analyze every dog I see. Sometimes I wish I could turn that off, but other times I’m proud I see so much more than the average dog owner. At first, I was ashamed I needed to ask any questions. But then, I realized that everyone has to start somewhere, and to be the best I can be, I have to stop worrying about what people think about me. I need to buck up and ask. I was always worried someone would say, “Well, you are a trainer, you should know that!” or “You call yourself a trainer, but you can’t handle [insert something here]?” I haven’t received that reaction at all – what do I have to be anxious about? …A trainer asked me that about a dog once – and now I’m asking that same question to myself. What do I have to be worried/anxious/scared about? I’m over it.

I want to turn off the auto-dog-evaluations when I’m out with friends, at parks, or when someone says ‘Your dog is so perfect! He loves people and is just happy’. I want to say: “My dog is not happy nor is he perfect by any means. He’s over adrenalized and he isn’t in the right state of mind, and makes bad decisions. He can’t learn anything in this state of mind, and when you are baby talking him and loving on him, you are reinforcing this behavior and undoing work I have done for the past 8 months. I have been working with him about calming down around people, other dogs, and distractions. He was doing well, and now I have to undo all the un-training you just did.”

Ok that’s really harsh and I haven’t ever said that to anyone, but at the same time, it’s true. My dog is high energy, and with the combination of the wrong state of mind (over excited), he can’t learn anything. I have put him into a calm state of mind before any training, or he won’t learn anything. No, he’s not perfect. He really isn’t, but he is a gem. He’s my rock, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Not that we were talking about that – but I am constantly looking at dogs, the people handling them, and how they are reacting. Napoleon can get amped up so quickly, so we purchased an eCollar to manage his mindset. It was really made a difference, though I haven’t received any formal training on it yet.

Any who, I think this is a long enough post for today, so I’ll end here. Next time, I am going to post about Ryder, my training challenge right now. I had him again this week, and I really had to take my time with him on most everything.  He’s a bit of a handful when he is being naughty!

And just to show... here's the obedience class I was enrolled in.

And just to show… here’s the obedience class I was enrolled in. (Click for larger image!)