Difficult Dog Challenges

DiffdogI 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.

DifficultDogAnyway, 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.

growlI 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]

Ryder, My Project Dog

Rider2Ryder, a 2 year old male merle Great Dane I have been working with for a few months is a PROJECT! He came to my client from a neighbor who didn’t want to take care of him anymore. He was underweight, and completely unsocialized. His problems included jumping on people to say hello, biting the leash while pulling and trying to get away, being rowdy in the house, counter/refrigerator surfing, aggression towards men, and he would ‘play bite’ your face, hands, butt, anything he could reach.

Now, that was a few months ago. Now, he doesn’t jump on people to say hello anymore, no more play biting, and counter surfing has been greatly reduced. We have been working on a leadership program to teach him who is the leader (it isn’t him!), and kennel training. We have also been heavily working on the leash and handling the aggression.

Kennel training was… difficult. 1) Because he’s huge. He didn’t like going in at first, the client would bribe him by putting a bone in the kennel. This is still something we are working on, but now, he will come out of the kennel perfectly. He will lay down until we open the door. He has to be laying down CALMLY before we can let him out. In the beginning, he would try to push you out of the way to get out of the kennel. That was a few months ago. Now, he waits calmly to be called out.

Now, the aggression is still a constant challenge. He lunges at men while barking, and this is not a ‘to say hello’ lunge. He snarls and does a hard stare when there is a strange man across the street or outside.  Now, this goes 2 ways. If the man completely ignores him, he is fine. If he looks at Ryder, he gives a warning hard stare and then a growl. If the man continues to stare, he barks and lunges at him. We have been taking him to a social class to help with this along with one of Ryder’s biggest problems: He’s pushy and dominant.

The rules are coming along, and I see major improvement within the client’s house. The family has learned how to behave around him and all the kids are on board. Even the youngest (around 4, I believe). Obedience is showing improvement, though it is slow.

As for the dominance and pushy behavior, we are teaching him he doesn’t get what he wants by pushing past people or rushing the door. We are making him slow down for ANYTHING he wants by making him sit first, and then wait calmly. Putting the halti on, taking it off, coming inside, going outside, going in the kennel, coming out of the kennel, feeding time, attention, obedience training, etc. We have also stopped him from jumping on the furniture, as this was a problem in the beginning. Still jumps up on the couches when no one is looking, but he has made HUGE progress.

So, overall, we still have a ton of work to do with him, but he made tremendous progress into becoming a loving family pet. I am so impressed with how much the family has been on board, and the progress he has made. Every week (most of the time) I see a change in his behavior.

Successes:
-Counter surfingRider
-Jumping
-Play biting
-Calming down in the house
-Kennel training

Work in progress:
-Loose Leash walking
-Accepting the halti
-Respecting the family
-Aggression towards men
-Pushy/Dominant behavior