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.

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!)