Dog Walking Types
Getting to Know You the First 21 Days
So I got this new dog, he’s lovely but……
I hear this phrase often from clients and now it’s my turn.
Three weeks ago I picked up my lovely new fella from his previous home. He has come from a lovely family who had pulled him out of a bad place. Because his start was so poor he came to them with no socialisation or training and they suspected, a situation of neglect and deprivation. They did a great job in helping him to be really good around the house, gentle and tolerant of the children and their much older dog.
Unfortunately though he is scared or reactive around just about every environmental stimulus you can think of. So that’s noises, objects, people, cars, bikes, motorbikes, other dogs, birds, planes, hats and the list goes on. Breed specific traits include a high prey drive so smaller, fluffier dogs would be especially vulnerable around him. Because of this shopping list of ‘issues’ his family found it pretty daunting to walk him or expose him to this myriad of Triggers, so reluctantly decided to re home him and reached out to a charity to help them in their quest.
That’s where I came in. Did I know what I was letting myself in for? Yes, I met him twice and walked with him and saw first hand how low his threshold is.
Yikes! So where to start and how can I help? Slowly is the short answer, but here’s the shopping list of what I’d like to achieve. (In no particular order)
1. Impulse control
3. More exercise
4. Different Diet
8. Coping strategies
9. Less stress
12. Safe expression
13. Mental stimulation
So these first weeks have been all about getting to know him and giving him space for his personality, likes and dislikes to emerge and establishing a routine.
I’m so lucky to have access to private Dog Fields so exercise has been increased. Can I control everything in this environment? No - I know I won’t meet any strange dogs or people there, but I can’t stop a wood pigeon shooting out of a bush, a low flying plane going over or a pheasant shoot happening near by. Can he respond to, look to or listen to me in this environment? Not at first no, everything was so novel and exciting and/or scary, but now, yes!
So that’s how we proceed, a baby step at a time. Can he learn new stuff in the house? Absolutely Yes! Can he do that same training in the garden? After a few repetitions Yes. So the next step is to take that new learning into the field or the bottom of the drive for example, then we’ll go further up the drive, then to the Vets car park etc. etc. etc. It’ll be ages till we can go off on a lovely walk where other walkers and dogs may be. But that’s OK we’ll get there one day. In the meantime it’s my job to keep him under threshold as safe and secure and as confident as it’s possible for him to be at the moment. Oh and keep the dried sprats, venison sausages and/or cream cheese coming, not to mention the new toys and fun games (that’s one of the first jobs - work out the favourite forms of reward!)
Is it going to be easy? NOPE
Am I going to make mistakes? NO DOUBT
Is it going to be rewarding? YEP
Will it ever be boring? NEVER
Jo Boyce. BCCS.Dip.Behav.Prac