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Archive for February, 2010

Dog Trainers

When you first get a puppy it’s with a level of naivety that’s hard to compare.  If you’ve had a dog before, by the time you get another, you’ve probably blocked out the nightmare that can be puppyhood – I think it must be akin to forgetting child birth on the grounds that if you remembered all the details the human race would come to an abrupt end. 

One of the nightmares that I’ve trawled up from the archive is puppy school.

Little Bear started puppy school at around 14 weeks, straight after his jabs.  I’d read all the books and early socialisation was top of my to-dos to make sure he was off to a good start.  The trainer came recommended by someone who ran a local rescue centre so we enrolled for a ten week course and never missed a week.

Looking back, it was the worst place I could have taken him.  Although it was a beginners course, it was a mixed age class and so had adult dogs and puppies learning together.  The puppies weren’t allowed to play together and Little Bear found the whole situation really stressful.  He’d bark at the top of his voice when he saw the other dogs and must have been incredibly frustrated at not being allowed to play.  Although he was a fast learner, some days he’d just be a wriggling ball of teeth and fur on the end of the lead and no amount of treats would distract him.

The trainer recommended a check collar ‘to sort him out’ which I refused on the grounds that I didn’t believe that choking my 14 week old pup would get us off to the right start.  Sadly, I saw her do a brisk trade in the collars to well over half of the class – puppy owners included.

Although positive reinforcement and rewards were used in the class, so too was ‘checking’ i.e. correcting unwanted behaviour with a sharp tug of the lead.  The trainer herself was pleasant enough but with hindsight, I see now that she was completely wrong for both of us.  I don’t believe in controlling dogs through fear and by yanking and pulling them around the neck.  But stupidly, thinking that she was the expert, I kept going to the classes.

As he got older, he started barking manically at people and other dogs when out on walks. He wasn’t at all aggressive but the racket was enough to wake the dead, so I booked a one to one with her for further help. 

With hindsight I can see now that this was being fuelled by his anxiety, but as he’d been labelled as a dominant, over confident dog in training, I couldn’t see it at the time.

The trainer recommended ‘checking’ (of course) and a rattle bottle to shake at him whenever he barked or a Pet Corrector spray.  I tried both.  The rattle bottle worked for about a week, and then failed to have any effect whatsoever.  I moved to the Pet Corrector and this worked for about the same amount of time. 

So, I had a fearful dog who was barking at things he was afraid of and here I was, making his anxiety levels even worse with jars of stones and nasty hissing noises.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it doesn’t stop you kicking yourself when you get it so completely wrong. 

If I could turn back the clock I would have done things a bit differently. 

  • I would have looked for a qualified dog behaviourist not a dog trainer.
    Any fool can train dogs, but what most dogs need is someone who can help their owners understand them.
  • I would have found properly organised puppy play groups instead of mixed age group training classes
  • I would have walked out of any training class the minute I didn’t feel comfortable with the methods used
  • I would have tripled the effort to socialise him
    Even though I took him everywhere with me and introduced him to as many people, kids, dogs and situations as I could

Understanding Little Bear much better now, we use distraction and avoidance to deal with his anxiety and he’s learning to cope much better with situations which worry him.  I’ll write more about that next time.

Useful link:

I found the behaviourist that we’re working with via the Vet, but you can also search for a trainer on the APDT website http://www.apdt.co.uk

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To blog, or not to blog….

This is my first blog so I’ve no idea what I’m doing if I’m honest. I love writing but as my day job bites ever bigger chunks out of my life and my would-be novel sits neglected on my hard drive, I need some kind of workout for my rapidly withering writing muscle.

Bemoaning the fact that my creative writing night class had been cancelled due to low numbers, my other half suggested a blog. “What the hell have I got to blog about?” I snapped ungratefully. The idea of writing about my life seemed ridiculous – who on earth (literally) would bother to read it? Day 43 – Worked late, walked dog, had dinner, fell asleep on the sofa, didn’t get to the gym (again) Tune in next time for the next thrilling instalment…

“I thought the idea was to find an excuse to write” he said matter-of-factly, “so it really doesn’t matter if any actually reads it, does it?”

Bloody good point. “Just write about something you love.” He added.

Now I love a lot of things: People; food; books; music; long walks in the woods, tea and toast in bed to name but a few, but top of the list has to be animals. Put me in a room full of people; add a fury friend and I’ll want to meet the four legged one first. Plus, chances are theirs will be the only name I’ll remember too.

So, working on the advice of ‘write about something you love’, the blog’s about one of my favourite subjects – my dog. Now this isn’t an ode to the perfect canine – although I hold a deep seated desire that this is what it will become one day. No sadly, I don’t have the perfect pooch and he certainly doesn’t have the perfect adoptive mum in me, so the blog will be about how we’re muddling through the process of getting to know each other – warts and all.

Knowing me, it will probably meander a little here and there, but as my plan is only vague anyway, I’m happy with that. Blogdom here I am…

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Hello world!

Welcome to The Little Bear Dog Blog (TLBDB)

My first blog, this is part experiment (will I find the time & discipline to update it?) and part excuse to write about one of my favourite subjects, my dog, Little Bear. 

I’m not a dog expert by any means, just a dog lover who’s had one heck of a learning curve since taking the giant leap of getting a canine friend.  He’s an amazing little chap, but he’s been harder work than I ever would have imagined.

My intention is that the blog will give me an opportunity to record our progress as we work on the issues, while giving me an excuse to write regularly too.  Here goes….

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