Dear discouraged dog owner

Are you feeling like your dogs behavior will never improve?

You are not alone!

I have trained hundreds of dogs, with great success but I feel like a normal dog owner when it comes to my own dogs sometimes! You take for granted how easy past dogs were when you are faced with a new and in my case young bundle of trouble!

Sunny who we lost recently had his own set of challenges. He was extremely fearful.  Poor guy would tremble if you approached him too quickly in his early years. He would pee if you tried to touch him and the list goes on.  He could also be dog aggressive, which we managed and trained through but it was a lot of work. When he left us last year at 10 years old he was a confident, happy dog.  I took for granted all the training he had under his belt and blissfully enjoyed how well mannered and responsive he was. Tiva who is now 10 and thriving has also had her set of challenges. She had some serious separation anxiety when she was young.  After years, I repeat years we are finally at a place where she can handle being alone.  She has her quirks still, if you have ever crated by us at an agility trial you know how vocal she can be! But overall I am blissfully enjoying how responsive and eager to engage with me she is.

Which leads me to our newest addition Waylon. Waylon came to us at 8 weeks old, is now 1 year old and this fire cracker has been keeping us on our toes ever since.  Adolescent dogs are A LOT of work, I mean a lot! Ive spend several hours each day on his socialization and training. Yet sometimes it feels like he has never had any training at all! Like today for instance, when I asked him to sit and in frustration he let out an ear piercing cry to attract the attention of several people around us. (In his defense we did name him Waylon after Waylon Jennings the famous singer) I joke that he isn’t very good advertising. I could go on for several paragraphs with stories of Waylon embarrassing me in public. Instead I want to tell you about a few things that Waylon does really well. Agility is an outlet that Waylon is thriving in, his confidence and eagerness to learn is a lot of fun! He is also really great with other dogs and people which is so amazing and makes my job a lot easier!

Some things to consider the next time you feel like your dog will be a terror forever.

I said it once and I will say it again. Adolescent dogs are a lot of work. They hit their “teenager” years quick and it takes a lot of management, training and patience to get through them! Hang in there! Stick with your training plan and celebrate every single small victory. I challenge myself to talk about one good thing Waylon did every single day.  Yes sometimes it’s one good thing and one hundred bad things but I laugh a lot. A sense of humor is crucial to getting through the teenager years!

Self care is also important. I was buying wine by the box during Waylon’s early days! Make an effort to do something relaxing that you enjoy after a frustrating day with your dog.

Use all the tools at your disposal. We use a lot of management at our house. Doors closed to prevent clothes and shoes from becoming dog toys. Crates, baby gates and ex-pens to limit access. Interactive food toys are a LIFE SAVER. Just when I feel like I’m on the verge of losing it, I give Waylon a stuffed kong and get 20 minutes to myself! Chiropractic adjustments have been extremely beneficial for Waylon. If he is feeling comfortable it’s much easier for him to relax and not be into something he shouldn’t every 5 seconds!

Appreciate what your dog enjoys and be willing to change old routines to adapt to your dogs needs. Waylon loves to sniff for a really, really long time. This is a hard for me, I want to get out and walk and cover lots of ground but I am doing my best to meet him half way. We do a lot of off leash walks so that I can walk at my own pace and he can sniff for as long as his heart desires. Waylon also loves to swim, so much so that I sometimes can’t get him out of the water! Talk about embarrassing! This I am also trying to meet him half way with. Weather permitting we go swimming at least once a week. I put him on a long leash and let him swim and swim. He does wear his life vest so he doesn’t sink. When he is done swimming, I reward him with high value treats for coming out of the water. There is a give and take with every relationship and that includes your relationship with your dog. Waylon also loves to play with other dogs so I make an effort to schedule regular play dates so he has an outlet for his desire. Tiva is a huge help with this as well!

So bottom line, keep up with reinforcing desirable behavior, use management and humor and you too will survive your dogs bad behavior!

If you need training help reach out, if I can’t help I am happy to connect you with someone that can!

Happy Training!

-Rachel Harris CPDT-KA, owner/trainer

For your amusement! Waylon found an already dead fish and proceeded to swim around with it for several minutes then take it to shore to eat. I had a lot of fun picking it up and carrying it to the trash, not!

If you’d like to follow along on Waylon’s training journey check out his Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/raisingwaylontheamstaff/