Willow is a shy golden mix learns to warm up to the world.
I was delighted to hear from a returning client that she had adopted a rescue and wanted to schedule regular dog walks. I met Willow, an adult Golden Retriever mix, in December. Little is known about her past. She was raised as a farm dog, owners lost the farm, and she ended up in a rescue. She is an adult dog with good house manners. She likes food, brushing, cats, and her new owner. She dislikes car rides, noise, and nail trims. She is anxious around strangers. The only one she will go for a walk with is her owner. She has a lot of boundaries and won’t cross them unless she wants to.
At first, she remained in the closet on my visits. I lured her out with food – mostly string cheese. She would eat kibble in her bowl and retreat to the closet immediately after. A walk was not happening. This was our routine for about one month. Then I started distributing her kibble and a few treats around the house instead of in her bowl. At least she would have to sniff and move to eat. I started getting creative and placing food at different levels, surfaces, and hiding places. She’s a good hunter and sought out every morsel. Still no walk, but she would let me attach her leash. If I tried to get her to walk with me, she sat and put on the brakes.
She was getting used to me and would sit next to me for petting and brushing after her hunting expedition instead of retreating to her quiet spot. I always held back something yummy so she would associate me with things she liked. She didn’t mind dragging the leash around, but still sat when I picked up my end. Not going to walk outside for me yet. By now I am visiting Willow four times a week for four months. Our progress is measured in baby steps and wanes from time to time. I decided it was time for her to meet one of my employees. David is kind and gentle with animals and was able to entice Willow into the backyard first. Little breakthroughs finally led to a big win.
I’m glad that Willow has a wonderful home with a doting owner. Willow has come a long way from our first meeting. We still dream of taking her for a walk, but we will let her decide when that will happen. For now, we take pleasure that has accepted us enough to venture out of the closet to spend time with us and will go outside for a midday potty break. Our patience and kindness paid off.
Does your dog pull excessively on the leash and yank you off balance when he sees a squirrel, cat, or dog? Does he go berserk when he hears or sees the mail truck? Does his hyper vigilance at the window turn nuclear when he sees anything moving past your house? Is he always in motion seemingly unable to relax? Is he too noisy (whining, barking, or howling)?
These are some of the common responses presented by reactive dogs. It’s a challenge to take them for a walk, have visitors, take them to the vet or enroll them in a dog class.
This is not the dog you imagined when you brought him home. You may even be an experienced pet owner and find yourself baffled/embarrassed as to what to do next. If your pup’s fearfulness or anxieties are getting in the way of your quality of life – I want to reassure you that it is not your fault and that there is hope. I know what it’s like to own a reactive dog, the disappointment of being asked to leave dog school, and the frustration of finding a solution. I set out on a quest to learn about them and how to help them. What I discovered was game changing!
I found the solutions from world-class trainers who have made it their niche to focus specifically on reactivity. I applied their wisdom first to Davy, my German Shepherd, and then trialed it with several pet owners who sought my help with their dogs. I am so encouraged by the results that followed that I am offering a Reactive Dog Training program as my signature service. From my own experience, I will tell you that I always loved Davy, but now I like him better. At five-years-old, he is easier to be around. We have a stronger bond and a better partnership. I can show you how to obtain this with your dog too!
We will look at your situation, the needs of you and your dog, and the results that you want. Our progress will include lowering your dog’s arousal and teaching him to relax, identifying and practicing essential skills (recall, walking on a loose lead) that will help you the most, and bringing joy back into your relationship (games, scent work, maybe a trick or two). We will begin in quiet places to build up our foundations before venturing out into more challenging environments. We will set you and your dog up for success through consistency, practice, and using the right tools.
Conventional training did not provide the solution to Davy’s reactivity. In fact, I did not even know where to go or what to do until embarking on a personal quest for the answers. I am ready to share them with you. If you find yourself in a similar situation – contact me, Jeanne, the owner of Crockett’s Critter Care for a discovery call. Learn more about our Reactive Dog Training program here.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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A charming pup is convinced the world is against him! It takes patience and positive training to teach him how to relax.
This February, my friend, Thressa, asked if I could help her dog, Loki, a ten-year-old Portuguese Water Dog who is extremely well trained at all the basic commands but has been plagued by lifelong anxieties. He is fiercely afraid of other dogs and hypervigilant about anything coming near him, his humans, home, or car, reacting with loud barking, growling, and lunging at the perceived danger. None of their three previous trainers had been able to help Loki be more comfortable in the world. Thressa wanted Loki to enjoy walks around their neighborhood and hikes through parks with her, not pulling at his leash, scrambling to return to the safety of his home or car. She also had plans to meet up with friends, family, and their dogs later this summer but was anxious herself about how that could even be possible. After reading my newsletters and other socials, she became hopeful that I might be the missing link in their training. I immediately recognized that Loki is a “reactive dog,” and I agreed to offer my advice to help lower his anxiety.
We got together once or twice a week for two months. We made some seemingly minor adjustments to Loki’s world, such as not feeding him in a bowl and preventing his access to a window view, that had major positive effects. We identified his triggers and then modified his reactive behavior by using fun focus games, lots of Loki’s favorite treats, and calming activities, building positive associations with all of Loki’s triggers and teaching him how to relax. This process not only helped Loki but gave Thressa the tools to feel more in control of situations at home and out on walks. She reframed her mindset from “Oh no, here comes a dog!” to “Oh good! Here’s an opportunity for Loki to reframe his mindset.” We kept track of Loki and Thressa’s “wins” and “areas that weren’t quite there yet” and narrowed the gap between them every week. By the end of two months, we had changed threats into challenges and then successes, counting daily wins instead of disappointments.
Working with Thressa and Loki turned into a power-up experience for all of us. I was delighted when Thressa said, “Working with you has been the best thing that ever happened to me and Loki!”
Even before you picked out your pooch, you were daydreaming about serene strolls around the neighborhood or out in a park. Is that your reality?
It’s enjoyable for you.
It’s enjoyable for your dog.
Both you and your dog feel better at the end of your walk than when you started.
Those three things sound so simple, don’t they? Yet there are so many things that can get in the way of a happy dog walk: a squirrel, a cat, another dog, the mail truck, skateboarders, bicycle riders, birds, airplanes, loud noises, neighbors coming and going, voices, laughter, windy days, thunderstorms, lightning, and a dog that pull’s us down the street with or without the presence of these triggers. Some days the activity we most looked forward to doing when we first got our dog has become one of our most challenging experiences.
The struggle is real for both ends of the leash. Having a stressful walk is horrible. We tend to tighten our grip, pull back on the leash, and let our frustrations get the best of us. Our dogs get all worked up and may pull, lunge, bark, and embarrass us. Subsequently, these responses are just the opposite of what we dreamed walking our dog would be like, look like, and feel like. So how do we fix this?
Our Walk and Train programs are designed to help you understand your dog and take the steps needed to reach the results you want. We offer training programs that will help you and your pet live a happier life. We look forward to helping you both. Our website has more details. Message us or call us to schedule a consultation. In a short time, you and your pooch will be enjoying your new partnership.
Due to quarantine, many people felt it was the perfect time to get a puppy. Now that things are opening up, the pups need to adjust.
Some of my professional pet sitter colleagues have been seeing more aggression, separation anxiety, and fearfulness than ever before with young dogs. We believe the rise in these issues is because people have not been able to properly train or socialize their new pets during the pandemic.
These young dogs are going to be coming out of their quarantine just like we are. But unlike us, they don’t have memories of what it used to be like and are forming their impressions day by day. That can be overwhelming and it’s no wonder they may be insecure or uncomfortable. It’s important for them to be introduced safely to the new experiences.
Here are some examples that I have encountered. There is a dog that I watch named Willow whose world was turned upside down when her owners lost their farm and they couldn’t keep her. She is sweet, but mistrustful. She went from knowing one home to being placed in foster care and then being adopted by my client – all in a few months.
That was a lot to take in. At first, Willow stayed in the closet during my visits. She wasn’t scared of me – but was more at ease watching rather than engaging. I earned her trust with hand feeding, brushing, and playing games. She now joins me in the living room, sits next to me for petting, enjoys being brushed, and even lets me trim her nails without any fuss. We continue to make steady progress.
My sister, who lives out of town, adopted a Beagle puppy when he was almost four months old. Sammy has separation anxiety. He follows her from room to room rarely leaving her side. When my sister goes out (even for a few minutes) the dog is overly stressed. Lucky for Sammy, he has my sister who is patient and doesn’t hesitate to follow my advice. Sammy is learning to cope and is becoming more independent – one small step at a time.
Your dog must be handled with patience, kindness, and praise through this sensitive adjustment period. This is where our knowledge and experience can lead to a smooth transition for you and your pet. We will devise a plan using our training and Fear Free techniques to build your dog’s confidence to calmly face the world as it opens up. We will introduce him to people, places, and things that may be perceived as threats and turn them into challenges and wins. Our approach includes games that are fun and build confidence resulting in a dog that is more comfortable in the real world.