Anyone who knows me is aware that I’ve rescued two puppies from Spain in the past few years. To be completely honest however, I love animals, but have very little experience with them.
When our first pup, Bear, arrived, I bought all the right things. Toys to mentally stimulate, toys for play, various treats, chews and teething items. I read a really good training manual and watched lots of different training videos on You Tube. I didn’t know much about dogs, but knew enough to know that training was very important and it was my responsibility to do that for my dog so that he felt comfortable, happy, safe and behaved appropriately.
Bear is a big, but soft, submissive dog and is so eager to learn. He was very easy to train and everyone loves him. He is full of joy and happiness and has such a naughty streak ~ just the look in his eyes can crack me up as I know he’s just about to do something he shouldn’t (know I shouldn’t laugh…..but really….he’s so comical!). Bear makes me smile every single day! Unfortunately with rescue pups, they often come with issues and Bear is extremely fearful of new people. I tried to socialise him and managed to do so with other animals, but he has never been comfortable with strangers and that’s OK. It’s our job as good pet owners to get to know our animal as they are, not try to force them into a mould that terrifies them.
A year later, Lara arrived (see below pic of Lara on the left and Bear on the right, the day she arrived). She was the total opposite of Bear ~ dominant, cocky, tactical, clever and very very fast! Again, I started training straight away, which was a bit of a struggle with two dogs. It quickly became apparent from Lara’s behaviour that a) she was extremely ill when she arrived, having caught some sort of stomach disease on the transport over from Spain and b) she had serious issues! Lara had to learn how to be a normal, healthy dog first before I could start to think about other training.
She didn’t know how to play, cuddle, communicate, love, nothing that most puppies do automatically. Because she was poorly for six months when she arrived, it took an absolute age to house train her too. Lara would sit in a corner away from us all on her own and if another animal approached (other than Bear), she would explode into furious barking and snarling. It took months to train her just to be a normal, happy dog and that is still ongoing every day! Whatever trauma she had experienced as a pup, it has psychologically damaged the entire litter of puppies as every single one of them has the same issues.
Over the past six months however, Lara’s behaviour got worse and worse. She trained well at home, but became a different dog out of the house. She wouldn’t listen, would go completely nuts if she saw another dog during a walk and would viciously turn and attack Bear. The attacks on Bear grew and grew until Lara would aggressively guard/protect every toy, every chew and wouldn’t even let Bear into a room. I had to constantly intervene and try to catch her before she reacted. Bear was so miserable, tip toeing around the house ~ he didn’t understand where his friend and playmate had gone. Neither dog wagged it’s tail and Lara retreated into herself more and more, only coming out to snarl at Bear. She would be fine with the family and people, but as far as other dogs and Bear were concerned, she was vicious. She had two seasons within a few months of each other, so I wasn’t sure if her hormones were playing havoc or what was happening really. At this point, I was at a loss! I don’t have that much experience with dogs and in a fit of desperation, messaged several people from the Rescue Dog Community to seek help.
The advice they gave made sense, but just didn’t seem to fit right for the situation. A clicker was suggested, to be used before any behaviour manifested ~ but that was awkward as I can’t watch the dogs 24/7 and half the time, Lara would explode out of no where and the behaviour was already in action before I could use the clicker. So I meditated on it, quietening my mind until the only thing in it was the two dogs, the issues and all of the advice I’d been given. Am not sure how other people work, but I’ll imagine all those different things floating around my mind in bubbles and certain words or images will sort’ve ‘light up’ or make themselves more prominent somehow, so I know they are the things to listen to/follow.
One piece of advice from the kind rescue ladies was to be happy. That word appeared in my head in bright, neon orange ~ more so than anything else! If I wanted happy dogs, then I should be happy myself as they take their cues from me. To train pups, we often use high, silly, over excited, crazy happy voices as that is what they respond to, but I never realised it was something that could be used all the time. Am not much of a ‘baby voice’ person, but couldn’t deny that it kept ringing in my mind along with the word ‘guarding’.
So I Googled ‘dog guarding’ and came up with the following two websites:
After reading them, I put the training they suggested into practice immediately. I didn’t want to have to re-home Lara as she really is a mummy’s girl and my baby. The thought of not waking up in the morning, saying ‘Good Morning’ in a hugely happy voice and have her little body hurtle round the side of the bed to throw herself on me for a morning cuddle……. the thought of how she’d feel going somewhere strange with people she didn’t know when I know how many issues she has…..it didn’t bear thinking about! So training started in earnest and I spend the majority of my day, every day sounding like I’ve sucked in a good deal of helium! I bought low fat treats and did the treat training over and over every day (do it 3-4 times a day now), got down on the floor and rolled around with them, played with them, danced around like a loon with them, raced around the garden with them….you name it, if I thought they’d find it fun, we tried it.
In just TWO WEEKS ~ using my intuition and implementing the training and suggestions of the above two links (with a few tweaks here and there as some things didn’t quite flow), they are now two completely different dogs. I can now sit them down, side by side, faces turned toward each other and noses touching and treat them. There is no more guarding, no more growling, no more animosity with Bear at all. They’re play fighting, racing around, playing with toys, cuddling up and generally being amazing, bonded, happy dogs. The change is so quick and remarkable ~ am stunned at how much dedicated, heartfelt, disciplined training can change things in such a short time.
The really weird upshot of this is that I’ve changed too! I’m a fairly happy person, but often my work can be quite serious or there is simply tons of it, so life can get a little hectic. It wasn’t until I spent two weeks sounding like a complete idiot, being super happy for my dogs that I’ve realised I haven’t been super happy in myself.
Do you ever have an awareness of something, then suddenly get smacked in the face with it in reality? I know positive thinking and being happy draws more of that into our lives. I know that the energy we give out is what we’ll attract back to us. On many levels, I practice this all the time. Its only in the past week, however, that I realise I’ve been getting sillier, giddier, making more jokes, making a fool of myself and laughing! Laughing much more than I have in a while. It wasn’t that I was unhappy………it’s more a case of not realising I was only 50% happy and that so much more was available!
I used to do daily affirmations, saying cute little things that made me smile or brought joy ~ that’s all gone by the wayside with running a successful website, attending events, writing a holistic degree course and being a mum. These are all important things that feed my soul and am blessed and truly grateful to do something I love and to have such a wonderful family…….but I’d forgotten to play properly, to let the inner child out, to have fun just for the sake of it. There just hasn’t been time (or so it seems)!!
I now understand why they recommend pets to those who suffer from anxiety or depression or who struggle to get through the long, dark, winter months. Pets can help make us feel happier, that we’re wanted, that we aren’t alone and they make us play, laugh, smile and forget the outside world ~ or for some people, they make us get out into the world and experience it from a different perspective. Watching my two dogs romp across the Yorkshire Moors is one of the simplest pleasures in my life. I doubt I’d have been yomping across them otherwise if I didn’t have too hugely energetic hounds to exercise!
Many people say that dogs teach us, not the other way around and I now understand that 100% through experience. My beautiful animals have taught me how to be silly again, to laugh, to jump around like an idiot and chase things around, to act like a 5 year old to be fair……and its SO much FUN ~ we’re absolutely loving it!! Plus I now have two really happy dogs and the energy in the house has become much more positive and relaxed.
I sort’ve applied the same rules to my dogs as I did to my son and step-children. If you have kids, be the best parent you can. If you’re not sure how to do something, ask others, Google it, do the research and find what works best for you and your child, be the best parent you can possibly be. Its the same with pets. Love them unconditionally, accept them for who they are, warts and all, treat them with respect and make sure you provide whatever structure or training is needed for them to feel happy, safe, secure and able to express themselves. If I’m brutally honest, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I can follow the instructions that feel right to me and watch my dogs response to see whether something is working or not.
Our pets can become such important, integrated, beautiful members of the family and bring so much joy and comfort. Be open to learning from them. Be positive. Be happy. The more you can radiate positivity/happiness, the more of it will appear in your life. Our pets, kids, friends, family and partners all benefit too 🙂
With love and brightest of blessings