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A day in the life of a dog trainer!

One of the transition issues dog owners can come across, just when they think their dog is really getting there, the training is really starting to pay off, things are going so well, they start getting more adventurous on walks that once they would have avoided and bang they hit a big dip that feels like a big fat fail. At that point it is really useful for me to watch the handler in that new setting, often from a little way off to really spot what is going wrong…….

Which is why yesterday I met Rob and Rosie the GSD in the centre of Great Dunmow, to help Rob make the transition from training in a familiar setting to the unfamiliar and hustle bustle of a Saturday morning in town, plus how to manage Rosie around unknown dogs in this environment, the other dogs would most likely be on lead or under good control to ensure it wouldn’t be too difficult for her, we have been preparing her for this.

From an early age Rosie was exposed to other dogs and allowed to play freely with other puppies including her litter sister who she didn’t get on so well with. As with many healthy puppies this has lead to Rosie being reactive to other dogs, mostly stemming from a high desire to play with them and not being willing to accept “no” for an answer. (When I say “no” I don’t mean literally but that Rosie becomes very frustrated that she can’t have her own way!)

When we first got Rosie out of the car she was quite high on adrenaline in the excitement of a new location, we spent time putting her back in the car closing the boot and getting her out again, maybe 6 times, giving me and Rob time to chat and get up to date on Rosie’s training. Once Rosie came out of the car and was attentive to Rob and responding to his commands, signals and treats, we moved off, continuing the ask Rosie to engage with Rob by focusing on the training she is now very familiar with and does very well, including short recalls, heel, watch and loose lead work and short lead training. Once really settled we started to cross the car park, I had spotted a dog that I thought was leaving the car park, it looked like a Large Labrador cross or maybe a Ridgeback without the Ridge, some way off, so perfect first dog exposure for Rosie I thought! 5 seconds later the same dog, had broken free of the lady owner, and came charging at Rosie, barking, hackles up, growling and acting pretty scary, even to a dog trainer, and big enough to make Rosie look small!! Fortunately it was raining and I had an umbrella up, I swung the umbrella between the 2 dogs, the Labrador was startled enough to back off momentarily then came back in, I was still swinging the umbrella and manage to back it off to between 2 parked cars, where, luckily, the lead got caught under one of the car wheels and the dog was stopped! The owner arrived and grabbed the lead, Rob then moved away quickly to avoid further problems and we all escaped injury free.

Not surprisingly Rosie was now back on high alert, as were Rob and I, all of us had adrenaline running high! We managed this by taking the time to reset ourselves and Rosie, by returning to the car, giving all 3 of us time to breath and calm down again. Rosie hadn’t forgotten the earlier lesson of coming out of the car and being attentive, we spent the remainder of the session re-establishing relaxation for us all! From our point of view although the session did not go to plan, and we didn’t get far from the car after the incident, it was good to guide Rob through the process of bringing Rosie back down again, from a very challenging event. It is so easy, as an owner, to try and carry on a walk after an incident, but that isn’t necessarily taking care of the dog or yourself, we focused on calm and relaxation, we may not have got a lot of pay off on the day, but Rob will get the rewards in the future, by putting the dogs needs first!

I understand the lady did not mean her dog to get away, she obviously needs help, I was too busy looking after Rosie and Rob to go after her with a business card, I do hope she now gets the help she needs, the dog looked very strong and really meant business, no fun for anyone and surely this dog is hurting other dogs, there is no way he hadn’t done something like this before, he looked very practiced and skilled in his attack!

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