Despite what it may look like in the photo above our dog does not rule our roost.
After our two week trial period and we decided to adopt him it became clear that he’s reactive around some other dogs.
My vet recommended a couple of behaviourists and I got one out and she hung around for an hour or so giving me some tips for him when he sees other dogs, and some recommended training to do with him at home so he’ll stay calm. Of course he’s fine at home, and chucking food at him when he sees other dogs on our walks doesn’t always work. Sometimes a dog will just appear from around a corner and it’s too late to get the food to distract him, especially when I’m trying to hold him as he’s jumping around like a mad thing.
After a month or so of doing this I realised that it wasn’t really working and I wondered about the common sense in getting him not to react to other dogs by not letting him mix with other dogs. It doesn’t help our quality of life, or our dog.
We struggled along for a while and I’d pretty much resigned myself to this is how it is.
A couple of months ago JJ had the side gate open to get some wood and Phoenix got out and bit it. He ran across the road to a dog on the lead who probably hadn’t even looked at him. I don’t know as I was inside. He bit the dog and naturally the owner was upset and I got to pay the vet bill.
I did some more research about dog training methods and realised that there are differing schools of thought to approaching a dog’s behaviour.
It appears as though the behaviourist I got comes from the purely positive dog training and there’s a balanced approach as well where corrections are used. This sounded just like what we needed.
I spoke to a trainer who uses this method and he said to come along to one of his classes.
We got there and stayed well clear of all the puppies and adult dogs because of course Phoenix barked and lunged at them even though we weren’t that close.
I found the trainer and he came over with a choker chain and a long lead and took our dog. He walked over to some other dogs and when Phoenix started doing his lunge and bark he gave him a correction. After about two more of these he handed the lead back to us and Phoenix didn’t leave our side even though he was on a long leash. A little dog came near us but with a small correction Phoenix was fine.
We hung around for a while then joined in the socialisation component of the class and towards the end of it (with no more reactions from Phoenix) he was sat in the middle of a circle of dogs and was just fine.
I’ve since taken him to three more socialisation classes and we’ve been to three obedience classes. The previous behaviourist had not recommended Phoenix attend obedience training because being around the other dogs might flood him.
I’ve been doing some training with him at home and out on walks too. He sits as soon as I stop and now he drops on command 99.9% of the time. He’s even dropped at socialisation classes with all the other dogs around him.
He still pulls on the lead and as I took a break from socialisation the other day, the trainer asked me to come into the middle and put him into a drop. As I was doing this I didn’t have a hold on the lead properly and he got away because a German Shephard looked at him. They had a scuffle and then both got taken aside to do some socialisation with each other. I felt really bad because the German Shephard had been attacked by a dog when he was younger so my dog having a go at him wouldn’t help. Now I know why this dog is so reactive as well. Who knows, maybe the same thing happened to Phoenix.
And the car sickness? He’s been a lot better with that too. He still drools a bit but nowhere near as much as he used to. We even did a two hour car trip a few weeks ago and I dosed him with ginger tablets. The medication I got from the vet was $70 for four tablets and goodness knows what’s in that stuff. He hasn’t been sick in the car for a few months now.
So I’ll continue with obedience and training classes while I can. He’s definitely better out on walks now. Occasionally he’ll growl or lunge still, but overall he’s a lot calmer when we encounter another dog. Unfortunately I won’t ever feel comfortable taking him to an off-lead dog park but they’re not the be all and end all of a dog’s life anyway.
Just as well I love him ey?