It’s a Friday at our house. We work from home so we have lots of flexibility with our schedule, but after this week… Man, I was having difficulty coming down off of high-demand clients and getting into a calm state of mind. It was 2pm. Hubby and I are waiting for our dog training session. Diva Duchess is climbing on me, growling at the wind outside the window (I swear, it’s the wind… there’s nothing out there!). My patience was thin and I honestly felt near tears. Bad day to have someone come in and judge us for all of the wrong puppy-parenting things we’ve been doing, right?
But, ahh…. I had put down a deposit, and this was going to be good for us, so you put on a smile, wait for the door bell, and try to correct the dog before she makes you look too bad in front of the trainer.
Fail. Bark. Jump. Bark. Insanity jump. Sigh.
Impossible to correct. Momma gives up. Starts talking to the trainer in that all-too-familiar resigned, apologetic, “sorry, she’s just like this” tone. Sigh. This was going well.
Carol, the Bark Busters trainer, observed quietly (I felt a little thrown under the bus – I mean, didn’t she just have a magic wand or something that would instantly make this all better?!). Then she invited us to ignore the dog and sit at the table so that she could learn more about Diva Duchess, our concerns, our habits and behaviours, and to do a little presentation.
In total, Carol was here for 4 hours – 3.5 of which were spent with just Hubby and I, and only 30 minutes working with our Yorkie. I mean, I expected her to teach us what we were doing wrong, but I had no idea just how wrong we were!!
We’ve likely all seen tons of TV dog training shows that talk about being the pack leader, and I don’t think anyone tries to NOT be the leader – I know we certainly didn’t (I have TONS of books and pinned articles and saved blog posts pointing me in the ‘right direction’… And yet – diva dog, over here).
But Carol walked us through it. And it was pure and simple… Every behaviour issue we have comes down to one thing – our dog is (was) not able to rely on us to be the leader… Because we weren’t being the leader. I swear…
To start – there’s the everyday behaviour we display around the dog. We had made her such a focal point in our lives that she began to come so demanding of our time and attention- and we were giving in… Like all the time. So – Carol gave us some helpful around-the-house rules for quickly changing this hierarchy.
Next – there is one correction. A single correction, done at different levels of intensity to match the behaviour of the dog (book your appointment to get the details on this). Sounds simple right? It is!
In the animal world, there is no discussion, or reasoning… Only black or white. Yes or no. No ‘maybe’, or ‘ok, just this once’, or ‘I’m too tired to deal with it right now’. Just yes… or no.
So, Diva Duchess becomes the Guinea pig. Hubby takes her out to pee and when she comes back, she jumps up, all excited, onto Carol’s legs (lesson #1). I try the correction. She looks at me… “Meh” (I can practically SEE it in her eyes!), continues jumping. I increase intensity… “Moooooom!? Can’t you see I’m busy here?!“… Still jumping… I bring it to the next level.
Diva Duchess was traumatized!! Now keep in mind, at no point did I have to approach her, or go to her, or touch her in any way! So while the correction came from me – and she knew it! – in no way was she physically dealt with (I much prefer that!).
Tail tucked all the way to her chin, practically, she bee-lined to the back door. I thought “bathroom”… Tried taking her out but that wasn’t it. Back in the house, and she’s crouched at the back door…
Lesson #2 – come when called. So I’m calling this petrified pup – no dice. Correction, low, medium and then finally the higher intensity. And to me she came!!!!
Now – couple every ‘win’ with praise and excitement and more praise and even more excitement. Momma is not scary or mean…she just has expectations.
Poor Diva Duchess was so submissive and taken aback. It shocked Hubby and I… We had never seen this.
And then the saddest comment of the day. Carol explained to us that if this was the first time we’d seen this submission (not fear, but submission and looking for permission, essentially), then Duchess had probably never fully understood all of the corrections we’d been giving her up to this point.
All I could think about was the frustration, anxiety, months of failed corrections… And my poor pooch had no idea what I was expecting or wanting from her because I wasn’t communicating to her in a way that she understood. My heart broke, but I now had hope, and I believed the tools to begin moving forward on the right track.
Lesson #3 – walk without pulling. By now, Duchess was in a shocked/submissive state, but we wanted to at least get her to the side walk so that Carol could show me what to do for walks. Same correction method with the addition of the Bark Busters Wagg Walker (look that one up! This is the miracle for anti-pulling and without having drama!). We needed 2 or 3 quick little corrections – one for another dog walking by – and then she was good. Amazing. Simply amazing.
Carol left, Duchess passed out, Hubby was all mushy about her being so taken aback… And I was sad for the past, excited for the future, and exhausted from the build up. I have a good feeling about this. And I really feel like we are headed in the right direction and that we’re in good hands with Bark Busters.
Here’s to the next 14 days of homework and to changing our lives for good!
Check out the next installment: Puppy Training Homework: Week 1
I can’t say enough good stuff about this program, so if I haven’t convinved you yet, here’s another great video to check out. I watched it before training – found it hard to believe a single word! lol. Now… I watch this thinking “This is EXACTLY how it happened for us!”.