Christmas Cycle

PK9 Dogs

A few of my kids all curled up

thorinChristmas day started with white, beautiful snow on the ground outside. A lot of it – almost an obscene amount which made me glow with happiness since I LOVE snow and I love that we had so much. Especially on Christmas. I started a fire in the fireplace and watched the snow fall outside. I watch this particular serene beauty blanket the world. It really does look like peace on Earth. Dogs are snoring, asleep curled up in their beds. Dirty dishes in the sink, wrapping paper littering the floor, and I’m curled up on the couch in my comfiest pjs with my coffee. These are the little moments where I miss having someone the most. To curl up, drink coffee in front of the fire with the sleeping dogs, watching the snow. That’s my vision of a perfect Christmas. I better get used to having these alone from now on.

dishesI don’t miss the bullshit, it’s not worth it. Loneliness hurt < Betrayal/Trust broken hurt. Not worth it. But these are the moments where I really love spending it with someone special. These moments are the ones that tear me up inside and it takes a while for me to sew myself back together every single time. This wasn’t supposed to be this way. Not just anyone, but THAT person. Once I feel the hurt and the loneliness set in, the feeling immediately after is hurt and anger and betrayal. Seems I have a lot of that in my life. Seems people love to make me feel this collection of feelings. So, I’ll deal with the loneliness and I’ll compartmentalize these into a box that will remind me to leave my heart there. I have a hard enough time letting people in. Trust takes so long for me… then if it’s broken, it takes years to get it back. Just ask my ex napoleonhusband. He made one mistake that really hurt me years ago, and it took me a little over 2 years to be able to trust him again. It’s not my place to talk about the details of what happened, it’s his story too. After all that’s gone down between us, he’s still one of my best friends. I trust him. I don’t want to put myself out there to trust new people, it just seems to remind me every single fucking time why I don’t bring new people into my life. So, I’m sticking with the friends I know and who I know I can trust. I’m done with taking risks on people. I’ll meet people, sure. But they aren’t getting any pieces of my heart. Emotionally, I’m putting all that into a box. Doesn’t stop me from randomly crying about it though. I can’t stop it, don’t tell me to. Bipolar doesn’t work like that. ‘Just be happy’ doesn’t work for us. Sorry.

christmasmorningAnyway, my family came over, and we spent the morning together. I love spending time with my family, and I wish I had a little more flexibility to go visit them sometimes, but with my business, I can’t leave the dogs that long. And holidays are one of our busiest times because people go out of town. I love what I do, but I’m in the process of trying to make big changes so maybe I can go on vacation sometimes, or take a full day off, or visit my family. I feel a little guilty because Christmas snuck up on me this year, and I didn’t get any gifts for my family. I still plan on getting something really nice, but it’s hard because my dad has EVERYTHING! And gift cards are too mainstream. Anyway, I’ll figure it out! I was also invited to spend Christmas dinner with a client who has turned into a friend. I love her and her dog, and she gifted me a super awesome Jack Skellington shot glass. It means a lot, considering she wanted to keep it, and she absolutely loves it. I love Jack stuff, and she always finds the coolest little NMBC knick knacks!

danteI know I’m going through rapid cycling, because I’ve been really happy, and then really sad within a few minutes of each other. Went snowboarding on Christmas Eve, and that whole day I was off. I didn’t enjoy myself, and would rather just drink coffee, listen to music and watch everyone else ride. So, I did. That’s a rare occurrence when I don’t want to be up there on the mountain. Same thing though-snowy mountains with snow falling, Christmas Eve, and I’m by myself. First ‘single Christmas’ in about 10 years. It’s a much different feeling than I have ever had on Christmas. As I said, I better get used to it since I’m done with letting people in. No, I’m not self wallowing, just reflecting. Don’t feel sorry for me, I’m not asking for sympathy. Just want to explain feelings, and maybe someone else feels the same.

jinxAnyway, I have a showing for my house in a few hours, so I do need to clean up the wrapping paper, do the dishes, and sweep up all the dog hair. So I better get to it. Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

 

snowboard

Welcome to the Family, Jinx!

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Jinx Dog Training

This is Jinx, our newest addition!

Well, we have expanded our family, and adopted a black pitbull named “Jinx”. We are so incredibly lucky and happy to have found her. Once she warms up, she is a complete cuddle bug. We have been looking for so long for a calm, dominant dog who needs little training so they can help me train. She is little insecure about new people, new dogs, new places, etc, but I have confidence that she will gain the confidence after the ‘shelter life’ wears off.  When I met her at the shelter, there was just something about her that I loved. I saw something in her, and I really heavily considered what it would mean to adopt a skinny, insecure pitbull. Worth it.

We see moments of her personality where her spunky, happy attitude shines through. Then, she’s back to being insecure again. We have only had her a few days, so I’m not too worried, and we are taking it slow. I haven’t even introduced the cats to her yet. That will come in time. Again, we want to go slow with this. But her boot camp has started, and we have started basic obedience, leash work, teaching impulse control and manners already. She is excelling at everything. She learns quickly, and is pretty good at waiting already. She waits for the leash, to be let outside, to come down the stairs, for permission to do anything, etc. Tomorrow, we do more Halti work, and I will be introducing the eCollar at the park. I think she will do great on it and give her the confidence she needs. I have a few collars in my inventory to choose from, and I have tested the stim on myself first to make sure it will be light enough. She is very sensitive to correction, so I want to make sure the collar isn’t too hot.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Jinx Dog TrainingShe has already learned not to go in the kitchen, to sit before she gets let outside, or before we put the leash on to go out for a walk, and to wait for permission before she comes back inside. She has learned the ‘Kennel’ command, as well as ‘Come On’, ‘Sit’ and ‘Here’, and she is learning her name. She plays nicely and appropriately every time with Napoleon (she hasn’t played with any of the boarding dogs yet), and all interactions have been completely appropriate with all the dogs. She has corrected Napoleon a few times for being rude (Awesome! You go girl!) as well. We started Halti work today, and went on a meditative pack walk as a family. She is naturally a calm dog (so it seems so far, but I can’t be sure until the ‘shelter mode’ wears off).

She is getting PLENTY of resting time as well as structured feedings and structured activities throughout the day. It will take time, but she shows much promise. The biggest thing about insecurity or anxious dogs is to remember not to baby them or to inadvertently reward that behavior. For example, if a dog seems scared and hides, the instinct is to go to them and comfort them. This is WRONG because you teaching them they get attention for being insecure. Set the example of how you want them to act. If you want calm and confident, you need to be calm and confident. Ignore those behaviors. So, she hasn’t received much actual praise or attention since she isn’t really in the right state of mind yet. When I see that nice, calm, relaxed state of mind, she gets nice deep massages and slow, calm praise. So far, we have seen a very small amount of progress. Which is something, and I’m not getting discouraged. She has been in the shelter for 4 months, so it will take some time.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Jinx Dog Training

Learning to stay out of the kitchen.

She is underweight, so I was concerned about her eating habits at the shelter. The shelter staff said she would go a week without eating. Well, I didn’t have any kibble in the house and I knew she was used to low-quality kibble. Went to the store, bought some kibble. Switching to raw right off the bat may be a disaster, so I have decided to start with a high quality kibble and feed an egg, cottage cheese, and fish oil with her meal every day. I mixed up her food, and she ate all of it with no problem. Food aggression test with other dogs: PASS, no signs of aggression. She was a little rude with Napoleon’s food and kept wanting to steal it. Obviously, I didn’t let her, as that is inappropriate behavior. Napoleon can be rude as well, so some management was necessary. I always feed my pups together, or when we have another trainer’s dogs, we’ll feed them together as well. The board dogs are fed in the kennels, because they aren’t here for training.

Her health isn’t great for a 2 year old. She’s skinny and has mad dandruff. Her coat isn’t as shiny as it could be. She also has horrible teeth. With better nutrition and proper care, she will look better, her oral hygiene will get better, and her overall demeanor will improve as well. Her ears looked great, however.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Jinx Dog Training

Learning to wait at the backdoor for permission to go outside.

Anyway, we took her to social on Saturday. She was a bit overwhelmed, as this was a huge class. There were over 80 dogs in this class, plus all their humans. She was flooded to the point of shutting down and tried to jump a 7 foot fence. Not good. So, she will start on leash next time. I had a feeling we should start her on leash, but I didn’t have any reason to feel that way. It was just a feeling. I should have listened to my feeling and kept her on leash. Lesson learned. Listen to my gut. Got it.

Another concern I had was that she has killed another dog. I don’t know much about the details, but she was at a dog park and a little dog came into the big dog part of the park and was yipping and yapping and being a target. I think the little dog got up in her face and she killed it. From everything I have witnessed so far, all interactions have been appropriate and her corrections have been the right about of bite (only seen on Napoleon, as well). What I think must have happened was the little dog was attacking her, and she defended herself, killing it in the process. I’m really not sure. I’m not saying it wasn’t her fault, I really don’t know what happened. But from her behavior and what I can see and read of her, she doesn’t have any signs of dog aggression, even when she was flooded by 80+ dogs in the social yard on Saturday.

Well, that’s my assessment so far. I don’t know much about her yet, but what I do know… I really love. She is just going to need to take some time to warm up and gain that confidence. We’ve only had her a couple days, so getting her exposed to all kinds of things is crucial to her success. She’s not ready to come with me to clients’ houses, (far from it) but give her a few months and we’ll see where she is. All I can say… is that we are in love with this pup!

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Jinx Dog Training

PTSD Waiting Game

Yesterday, a coworker asked me about Ryder’s progress. Unaware of the depth of this answer, he was genuinely curious.

I repeated the same story I have told a hundred times. And then we started talking about me and where I am in all of this. Which got me thinking about where I actually am in all of this. Am I ‘over it’? Am I still ‘in the thick of all these feelings’? Where am I exactly?

He asked me, “What makes a professional cyclist continue on?” Since I don’t cycle professionally, nor follow the sport, I had no idea. So, I guessed and said ‘determination’. He said no. He then asked me if I have ever seen a professional cyclist who has never fallen off a bike. I knew where he was going with this. It was obvious.

Why do we fall? So we can pick ourselves back up.

Get back up on that horse.

If you fail, try, try again.

It’s not like I haven’t heard these before. I’m a smart individual, so I know what he was saying. Then, he asked me ‘Are you going to let yourself be a great trainer?’. Will you let yourself be good?

That’s a great question. Why did this event affect me this way? Was it because I had to watch Ryder die? Was it because I had to make the decision with the family to put him to sleep? As much as that was awful, it isn’t because of that. It’s because I wasn’t good enough for him. I couldn’t fix him.

But, I also know the same fate would have happened if he was with another trainer. I know that. Why do I still feel like I failed? It comes and goes. Sometimes, I know I did the right thing. Other times, there is that ‘what if’ voice in my head saying I have learned so much since I started working with him.

Hitting the Wall End of my LeashThen, I hear the words from my mentor. ‘You did the right thing. I would have done the same.’ And then, when I had my totally embarrassing day 4 breakdown during my certification course, she said ‘You need to get over it’. Not in a mean way or make things worse, but still – I need to get over it.

The pain is gone. The pain from putting him to sleep, the pain of losing him. That’s gone. The feeling of failure, regret, feeling over my head, not knowing what else to do, and ultimately FAILING…. Is still there.

We have decided not to get a great dane right now. I wanted a blue merle great dane to add to our family. Right now, we have decided to put this off. I also haven’t taken on another difficult case since Ryder. It’s not like I’m avoiding them, just… haven’t had one come along.

I know I’ll have to make this decision again, but how can I move on? How can I get over it when I’m feeling like I could have done more. Will this ever go away? It’s been almost 3 months since we put him to sleep.

My therapist says I have PTSD regarding this situation. She says it will take as long as it takes. But why won’t it just hurry up? I mean, I’m trying to get over it, and triggers keep pulling me back.

All great danes used to get to me after this happened. Then, just merle great danes. Then the name ‘Ryder’. Then stories of unpredictable aggression. Then, I was faced with working in the same facility with Ryder before he died. The same technique I was working on, the same words were spoken to me. I broke down, but I moved past it. Once I moved past these triggers, it’s driving past the pet hospital that gets me sometimes. And then, when I feel I’m stable and getting over it, something else triggers me. Like someone who didn’t know the whole story, asking me about his progress. And I’m back to where I was.

WHY CAN’T I MOVE ON?! I just want to learn from it and move on.

I’m frustrated because it feels like I’m hitting a wall over and over again.  It doesn’t affect my work, I don’t freak out at clients’ houses, but it’s all inside. I’m very good at hiding what I’m feeling in person. People don’t know there is a hurricane of emotions happening on the inside. But there is. And even when people ask me about Ryder or I hit a trigger, I have been able to handle it. Until my workshop. It hit me like a tidal wave, and I couldn’t stop from shaking, hyperventilating, and panicking in front of everyone.

PTSD Drowning End of My LeashIt feels like I’m climbing out of a deep hole, and every time I start to see the light and climb out, the hole grows and I’m climbing again. The hole keeps getting deeper, and it feels I’ll never get out.

Or maybe I’m drowning, and every time I swim to the top, water pours down on me and pushes me to the bottom again. How can I ever get back anything if I keep getting pushed back down?

I have this internal wound that won’t heal. Every time it starts to mend, it gets ripped open again, and I’m trying to hard to stop the emotional bleeding. I’m trying to stitch it up the best I can and say ‘it happened, get over it’, ‘suck It up, it was right’, ‘everyone else would have done the same’, ‘he’s at peace now’, etc. But it doesn’t help. Those stitches don’t seem to be enough.

I don’t cry, I don’t show I’m upset, and when people ask me, I put on a smile and say I’m doing fine. I’m faking it to make it. I’ve tried screaming, I’ve tried forcing myself into situations where I have to interact with my triggers. What else can I do?

Just wait. Waiting sucks.

Anniversary Reflections

This month marks the 1 year anniversary of Project K9 being in business. It’s been a long 12 months, but looking back, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I pushed myself, I took on cases that put me out of my comfort zone, but into the ‘learning zone’. I can now tell if a dog will be too much for me. I found this out the hard way, as I took on a case that was too difficult for my current skill set. The learning curve was too high on where I was at that given moment. However, I persevered and in the process, ended up learning some very hard lessons.

Now, I have the confidence, the skill, and the smarts to say ‘This dog is a little above where my skillset is. Let me recommend you a different trainer who will be able to help you.’ No pride, no shame, just fact.

I have made mistakes, and I will continue to make them. But that’s what makes me human. I have learned from them. I am better, I am faster, and I can read behavior more accurately. I have tuned my body language and practiced the things I needed to learn how to get better. In a year, I have made a tremendous leap, and have gained the confidence to call myself a ‘Trainer’.

I have learned how to correctly use different tools on the market, I have taught people how to use them, I have seen success, and I have learned how to modify my body language in order to get across the right message to the dog.

Change is ComingI offer my services with confidence KNOWING I can help. I know what I am doing, and it shows. I will always be a student, and I will always want to learn more about ANYTHING dog. But I know what to do now, and I know where I want to go in my career. My new plans and goals are starting to take form.

I have new goals, I have more education, and I am always realistic. I won’t give up. Tell me I can’t do it. I dare you. By trying to bring me down, it lifts me up. It gives me the drive to keep going. I can do it, and I will. I have, and I will keep going. I will be great.

I am happy with my progress and I have much to show for it. I am ready for what is coming.

Change is coming. Good change, and exciting change. And I’m ready. Bring it.

I Saved Him…

I read this today, and though I’m not feeling this way TODAY, I feel this way on occasion. I just wanted to share a fellow blogger’s thoughts.

mymegaedog

I was feeling pretty down today. Too many homeless dogs, not enough people interested in them. But why? I kept asking myself. Why? Why? Why? This one loves balls, this one likes to snuggle, this one is the friendliest dog I have ever met, this one loves to play Frisbee, this one loves to learn new tricks, this one kisses children right on the face. Why? Panzer and Shelby wouldn’t stand a chance in a shelter, but I love them like crazy. Surely, someone, somewhere, must want to love these dogs, right?

As I was driving home, I started to tear up. I turned up the radio and tried not to think about it. I called my dad and he helped talk me through some of it, but only some. I went to the grocery store, numb, I picked up what I was going there for, having memorized the aisles…

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Reflection of Positivity

Napoleon and I, after a short training session

Napoleon and I, after a short training session

With all of the emotional challenges I have faced recently, I have to keep focusing on the positives. I focus on how much good I do, and I also face the grim truth: We can’t save them all. But, the ones we are able to save will live on with better lives. I have to think positively.

So, this week’s blog is about my successes this year with my business and personal gains. At the beginning of the year, I had set goals.  Goals I had to accomplish in order to make a huge life change. To take a leap of faith, to make the jump. It all comes down to that decision.

My biggest goal was to get my certification. I have been talking to the owner of K9 Lifeline for quite some time (starting over a year ago) about taking her certification course. At the time, it was around $3,000 and 2 weeks long. Well, that means I needed the money, and I also needed 10 days of PTO. It takes a full month for me to earn 1 day. So, that was 10 months of absolutely no sick days, no vacations, and no ½ days for my own personal sanity. I started saving up my time last year around November. I had a few days saved, so if I didn’t take a day off for Christmas or any other holiday, or get sick, or have an emergency, I could take the course in July.

I had the time, but the Difficult Dog Workshop was in June, and I JUST HAD to go. Which cost me 3 days. That’s 3 more months of no sick days or vacation. I can do it, I know I can. That means I can take my certification in October, and to play it safe, let’s plan on November.

Then, I found out the eTouch Workshop was coming in October with another very reputable trainer. Ok, that’s another 2 days. Which means I’m looking at Dec/Jan. Ah man… at this rate, I’ll never get it. And I’ll never take a vacation!

Then I heard from another trainer that the course is a little cheaper, and is only 6 days, instead of 10, but I get the same amount of material. WHAT?!  Really?! I can take it now! So, the plan is in motion, and I hope to get my certification at the end of August! YAY!

Pack Walk 6/28/13

Pack Walk 6/28/13 (Click to enlarge)

I have also started doing my pack walks. This wasn’t a requirement, but it is a success, and I’m proud I have been able to organize this event. Every time I do them, they get a little easier, I gain a little more confidence, and more people show up for them!

I am now offering a nutritional workshop (hopefully twice a year) because so many clients have been interested in what is the best dog food or I’m interested in raw, I’m just feeding chicken, is that ok? I want to educate and help people do what is right for their dog. Wow, another big event, planned. Hook. Line. Sinker.

I have attended a few nutritional workshops, watched online seminars, increased my training network and made some awesome friends as well. I have read so many books, it sometimes feels I’m reading the same things over and over again. But, if I attend a seminar, read a book, or meet with new people at a workshop, and I learn ONE new thing, it was completely worth it. If I learn a lot, that knowledge is invaluable because I will build on that and learn more new things and become an even better trainer.

I have been asked to help during my trainer friend’s Saturday Socials, and I feel I am becoming more and more confident each week.  This was huge for me, because eventually, I want to run these. I have run a small social in my backyard with 11 dogs (specifically picked out who would be able to come) and I was pretty confident (but so nervous too!). I am more confident and assertive when I am by myself because I sometimes feel I am such a baby in this field, so when I am around someone with more experience, I tend to freeze up a little or my heart starts pounding. I have only been ‘on my own’ training for 2 years. I worked at Petsmart and did simple sit/stay training with my dogs in high school, but not like this.  I will someday be as awesome as these trainers. I can do it, and I am well on my way!

Mowgli was here for boarding for a weekend

Mowgli was here for boarding for a weekend

I have started boarding in my own home. This was a scary move, but overall, I really enjoy it. The dogs are kept safe, get plenty of attention and stimulation and are in a loving environment. And I get to experience what handling more dogs feels like in a safe way. I try to only board dogs I know for this reason. Sometimes, I board dogs I haven’t met before, and it can go either way. I had a crazy dog I boarded in the beginning that was a disaster, but right now, I’m boarding 2 that I had never before. Both are sweethearts, and I’m happy to have them! I get to practice some of my own techniques, I get to practice reading dogs I don’t know, and I get to practice walking multiple dogs at the same time. Sometimes this is a huge challenge because I’ll be walking 4 dogs at once, and only one knows how to walk on a leash nicely. So, we take an hour to go around the block. But that’s just it – I get to practice!

I have actually started making money, and even though I won’t show a profit this year (which is actually a good thing for taxes, of course), I will next year. This year, I attended 2 workshops (so far, and plan to attend another) and my certification course, which weren’t cheap. So, I made money, and then spent it all on workshops.

I have plans in the making to get a better ‘dog car’ as mine is really taking a beating with all the dogs coming and going in it. This may not happen next year, but the year after. In the meantime, I need to find a way to keep my seats intact! Even Napoleon’s kennel won’t fit in my backseat.

We have plans about our location for when I get more serious about doing this. Either having a facility on my own lot, or leasing/purchasing a facility in the future. This is WAY in the future, just a dream right now, but it’s something.

The biggest success, if you can call it that, would be the decision the family and I had to make about their dog, Ryder. You can follow his whole story here. He was a very special Merle Great Dane who had an unpredictable streak. He could be loving on you and playing, and then turn and bite someone. Unfortunately, these are some of the hardest dogs to work with because you can’t find a trigger. We thought it was men, hats, uniforms, etc – but, he wouldn’t go after the same person twice, or the same hat, and if you switched the hat with another person, he would be fine. 95% of the time, he was manageable and just needed training. The other 5% of the time, he was unpredictable and could seriously hurt someone. He was hard to adopt out, and we didn’t find the right home. So, we made the decision to euthanize him. We didn’t come to this decision lightly and it was months of talking about options. I won’t get into everything again, but this was the right thing. I cried pretty much the whole week, I was emotionally exhausted, I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, I wanted a miracle to show up on my doorstep and be the perfect place for him, or I wanted Best Friends to take him. Neither happened. But now, I am at peace with this decision and I am still sad of the outcome – it won’t ever be a ‘happy ending’. But, I know he is running free and will be happy now, without having to worry about anything. I had to make this decision and it has made me a better trainer. This was a turning point in my career. I’m sad it had to be him, but I’m happy he is free and healthy now.

Most of all, I can’t ‘count’ how much I have learned this year, but I have really taken an initiative on learning as much as I can, and sacrificing so much to do this. I have also learned so much about myself, and I feel more complete because of what I have accomplished.  I don’t have the constant stress feeling of ‘Am I doing this right?’ or ‘I’m going to fail, what if I fail?’ feelings. If I fail, I get up and try again. If I get bit or kicked in the teeth, I put a band-aid on and try again. I won’t let other trainers, dogs, people, or my mistakes stop me from continuing on. I will learn from them and be a better trainer for them. I’m happy to take constructive criticism and coaching, but please – no need to be an asshat about it. I want to learn, and I can admit I don’t know everything.

I work in the dog industry, a bite is bound to happen. Not that I want it to, but just like working in construction, it’s inevitable. It’s not if, it’s when.

I’m happy, and I see an end to these 100 hour workweeks. I see a light, and I’m excited to see what happens. Scared, but excited.

I can do this.

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

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