Difficult Dog Workshop 2015

k9Lifeline__heather_beck_difficult_dog_workshop_heather_hamilton_projectk9After an incredible weekend learning new things at the Difficult Dog Workshop at K9 Lifeline, I’m refreshed and refocused. For some reason, this time was different. It seemed every single thing we discussed, every question, every demo, every quote meant something to me. I’m exhausted, but also re-energized and I’m excited to practice all the new thing I learned. I have picked out a few bad habits I need to adjust, and quite a few new things to add to my toolbox of awesome skills. This was quite an emotional weekend for me.

On top of learning a bunch of new things and attending this workshop, I had to deal with my first ever training dog emergency. Of course it happened on the first day of the workshop. I had a training dog, a boxer, who wasn’t doing so great. He started to get lethargic the morning of the workshop, and had refused food for the last few days. He lost some weight, and also had blood in his stool. He was also vomiting. There was blood in his vomit. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him for a few hours, so I called the owners to tell them about the situation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a hold of them. I made a judgment call, called the emergency contact, and got this kid to the vet. Pretty much all morning, I was on the phone with vet techs, my client, the emergency contact, and the vet, trying to figure out what was going on. I decided to send this guy home and we would do training when he was healthy. What an eventful way to handle the first day of the workshop. Updates on the dog now are looking much better, but we still don’t have any answers. We are unsure on what is happening health-wise with this guy.

k9Lifeline_difficult_dog_workshop_heather_hamilton_projectk9Alright, back to the workshop, I realized I do ask for advice, but I don’t always hear the answers. Some stories were shared today about mistakes other people have made, and there were consequences. And I realized all of a sudden, that can happen to any one of us. A little mistake can mean fatal consequences. As I have my own stories of things that have happened, some of the stories I heard were worse than my own.  I won’t get into details, but we all start to deal with the hard stuff at some point. I am changing the way I do things a little to make things even safer than they were before. Just in case. It wasn’t advice I heard in these stories… It was a warning. And I’m going to abide by it.

Whenever I hear other people’s hard stories, and realize I’m not the only one who lost something besides a very special dog… I feel a little less guilty. However, it makes me miss Ryder a lot. He wasn’t ‘just a dog’ to me. He was a milestone in my career. I fell in love with this dog, but I also took it upon myself to fix it. It was my mission, and I failed. I talk about my failures. I’m not ashamed. The scars are how we learn. Damn, this was a hard day. Being at K9 Lifeline, hearing about other people’s stories, remembering my own like it was yesterday… just too much. Lots of tears today. I was very close to having an anxiety attack. It felt like the wound of losing him was ripped open again.

I have to remember to put my emotional side on the back burner and buck up and make dog trainer decisions sometimes. One my clients struggle with is unnecessary affection. Affection is never the answer. I had to learn this too. No petting, talking, or food rewards for dogs who don’t deserve it. I learned this a long time ago, and it took me a long time to realize I wasn’t following the “you get what you pet” rule. Now, I love on my dogs, but only when they are 100% deserving. Just because they want attention, doesn’t mean they deserve it. I have learned to respect dogs’ space by not giving them eye contact, affection, or verbal attention until they are deserving. The hardest part is telling people to ignore my dogs. I have started teaching my clients the “no talk, no touch, no eye contact” when they walk into my house. It’s quite hard for the majority of my clients. Respect their space like you want them to respect your space.

I was able to experience what it feels like to be a decoy for bite dogs. It was AMAZING! It was so fun, and I learned so much about this sport. I have decided I want to get a few of my dogs involved in this, and play. Dante and Jinx. Dante loves any game, but he has a high drive, and a lot of energy. Jinx has the drive, the energy, and she loves to bite. Now, don’t confuse this with aggression. Dogs with aggression should not participate in this sport at all. I realized I don’t know much about bite work, but I’m going to learn. I won’t get too much into this, as that’s a whole new blog post!

Anyway, I’m feeling invigorated by this weekend, and today was the first day I was able to put into practice my new daily routine, the new skills I learned, and focus on my energy a lot more when I’m working with dogs. Today was exhausting too, but I’m so happy. Finishing the day off with what I love to do is the most rewarding thing I could ask for. I absolutely love my life!

k9Lifeline_difficult_dog_workshop_decoy_heather_hamilton_projectk9

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