Vicky Ewan, 40-something, mother of five, wife of one, and parish secretary/cook:
In our quest to make Miss Pup’s life happier, we recently engaged the services of a dog behavior expert.
Our poor pup has been so anxious around people and other dogs that we felt she was suffering unduly, and we love her too much to tolerate her emotional pain.
From a practical point of view, it would also be wonderful if taking her for walks wasn’t such a problem, especially during the good weather we’ve been enjoying.
The storm-perfect combination of her nervousness, strength, and ruthless home-seeking radar, deployed at the slightest hint of the appearance of alien life, has made exercising her a challenge, to say the least; it is almost impossible for children to take it out alone.
But those individual elements also create a paradox, for unless he socializes, how will he ever learn that other dogs aren’t (usually) the enemy? And how will he ever relax?
We long to be able to visit cafes and populated outdoor spaces; With desperate envy, I have watched dozens of people lolling carelessly in the sun, canine companions obediently lying at their feet. I wish we could do the same with Miss Pup!
As for inviting friends and family over to our house, we feel blocked, worried about his defensive barking, even though he has always been defensive, with no signs of aggression.
The barking is loud and incessant by nature, it would strike fear into the bravest of hearts: the fact that she has chewed through most of the rugs on the lower two floors of the house, leaving the hallway, stairs and dining room in a state of distress. unfortunate and making the facilities unattractive as a foster home, is also a deterrent…
And, of course, there is the question of going on vacation with her, or happily without her: her response to going to a kennel or being transferred to a dog sitter would not be conducive to any of us having some relaxing time away, and her innate mistrust of others has prevented us from traveling with her.
Noticing our struggles and worried that we would never be able to go on vacation again, my thoughtful brother offered to fund a training session to try and help reduce our pup’s anxiety.
A friend of a friend of his had hired the services of a company specialized in canine management, and recommended them because of the results obtained with his own dog.
Although their trainer was not local to us, the company had branches all over the UK, including one that covered our area.
I followed the link provided by my brother and got acquainted with some of the testimonials provided by satisfied customers. The reports were enthusiastic, many mentioning a type of symptoms similar to those shown by Miss Pup; reviewers raved about the level of support they had received, the trust they had developed, and the results her pet had shown.
Full of hope, we contacted the local representative and scheduled a home visit for the following week.
The process went very well that day; our trainer explained that a large part of Miss Pup’s fear was perpetuated by us allowing her to believe that she was the leader of our pack and therefore obligated to protect us, a responsibility that contrasted with her terror and aversion to doing so.
We needed to show him that we were in control so he would relax and reduce his stress and just be our beloved dog.
We were deeply relieved that our trainer emphasized that he could see that Miss Pup’s problems were due more to fear than aggression, and that he was confident that she could improve.
At the end of the session, we were very encouraged by the progress that had been made, progress that could be sustained, as long as we followed a few guidelines and practiced the tips and tricks he had shown us.
Eager to cash in on these new developments, we took a family trip to a local watering hole that night, sitting outside in the deepening darkness and enjoying the novelty of having Miss Pup at our feet.
Although nervous, she coped well with the experience and we were full of optimism for the future.
Unfortunately my husband tested positive for Covid, amazingly for the first time! – the next day, and with all the compromises we needed to make to handle the virus, some of the instructions for our pup fell by the wayside.
He was showing definite improvement in some areas, but others were proving to be more of a challenge.
Trying not to sink into the quagmire of discouragement, I persevered as best I could, and once my husband was better, he and I tested his progress with a trip to a charming community cafe frequented by dogs and their owners.
Although a bit subdued and wary, Miss Pup demonstrated a greater tolerance for other dogs and better responsiveness to our commands than previously observed; for the first time, we were able to linger over a cup of coffee, a dream come true.
There is a long way to go, but it seems we can be cautiously optimistic for a better balance between life and the dog; wish us luck.