I try and take Abby with me, to as many places as I can. Not just because it’s easier than leaving her at home alone (which is near impossible), but because I like being able to keep up her training, in a wide variety of places. A dog that can only sit, stay, come at home, or in the backyard.. well.. that’s just not very useful. We constantly hear people exclaim “She’s such a good dog! I wish my dog was that good.” or “Wow, your dog is so well behaved!” We’ve gone to Canadian Tire, and cafe’s (some will let you pop in quickly to buy a beverage – and other dog cafe’s encourage you to let your dog roam off leash), we’ve been to festivals, and busy parks, we’ve been to the drive-in theatre, and in hotels. We didn’t get here by accident, and we’re not perfect (FAR from it).
I used to be one of those onlookers, who had a wild and crazy 80lb dog that I couldn’t control. Watching the heeling dog trot by his owners side, thinking “I wish I could have an easy dog like that”. 2 years ago, walking her would consist of her dragging me until she wretched from the collar choking her so much. There was a day that I ended up crying, sitting on the sidewalk, and had to be talked out of returning her to the rescue. Days where I hated her SO much, I had to walk away before I raised more than just my voice. Days where I would cry, begging her to be okay alone, because I longed to be social again. Abby is not easy. She’s incredibly smart, and picks up on obedience and tricks very fast, which is nice. But she is also smart enough to constantly challenge your commands, and smart enough to get bored of typical play or exercise. She needs more mental stimulation than normal dogs. She needs a network of special people to sit with her for hours if we need to go out, because at this point she cannot be kenneled, and cannot be left alone – longer than 30 minutes. Her anxiety over groups of people means that she snaps and lunges sometimes, very unpredictably, and without much ‘notice’. People don’t see the bad days when we take her out, they only see this perfect, handsome dog that I’m sure some people wish they had.
Abby is a good dog. But we did NOT get here by accident. The photo of her sitting at the golf course, off leash.. that took months of off leash training, it took daily commitment. It took money, and research. She will heel in public, walk by dogs without giving them more than a passing glance. She will sit when I stop walking, and stay when I tell her. She resists all urges of chasing squirrels if I tell her to leave it (most of the time). We’re even seeing progress with her anxiety, even after I feel like we’ve tried absolutely everything. Finding a good trainer, well versed in behaviour modification, is hard to do. We’ve had many consultations, with some trainers even telling us they can fix it by teaching us how to walk better (without even seeing us walk). We’ve had trainers berate us for the techniques we’ve used so far (prong collar and e-collar) but I can tell you one thing without a doubt, if we hadn’t used those tools, we wouldn’t have a dog, and I’m certain they’ve saved her life. Now we’ve found a trainer that’s going to save our (social) life. We’ve started working on her anxiety, and we feel hope once again that Abby will eventually have the confidence to be calm and relaxed without us home. Many thanks to The Dog Philosofur for giving us hope again, it’s hard to find the right person to fit with your dogs needs and learning style, but I feel like we’ve found a gem.