Over the last 4 years, I have continued to learn so much.
What strikes me as perhaps the most important lesson is just how important people’s dogs are to them. This may sound obvious; you hear all the time from owners about how much they love their dogs. I’ve heard it so often I’ve become desensitized to it. When I first started my career in dog training 11 years ago I was very much focused on the science of behaviour, and how we can manipulate behaviour from a scientific perspective. I did not look at things from an emotional dog lovers perspective. In part, this is what makes me a good trainer.
However, over time, I was able to observe the emotional toll on people who owned dogs with significant behavioural issues. As a result, I have come to believe that what I do borders on mental health therapy: I often go home feeling quite emotional about my client’s predicament or sharing in their relief when a positive change has been achieved.
There are good people all over the world who want nothing more than to mend a broken relationship with their dog and enjoy a movie-worthy pet owning experience. Dogs are purchased with dreams as the motivator. Everybody’s path is different but the love of dogs and the fantasies involving the type of bond that can be achieved start very young. Such bonds that are depicted in books, television and film are not hard to find. Yet it is not fictional. These bonds are real; they exist, although sadly they are far less common than you would want.
Popular dog training information available online often causes people’s assumptions on the right way to raise a dog to fall very short of the mark. When time, effort, and heart is given in such abundance by owners trying to develop their dogs in the best way, problems that persist in spite of this have a very strong emotional effect on the owner, and sometimes the whole family. This is something I’ve really come to understand over time: just as other failed or strained relationships cause anguish, so too does a poor relationship with our dogs.
It’s difficult to put into words how difficult it can be when an owner is put in a position where they must consider rehoming their pet, or even euthanasia. The standard ups and downs that come with managing the process of rehoming are joined by the fear of being judged or of not being able to find the right home. Owning a dog with behaviour problems can lead to potential pressure from councils, and the worry of their dog injuring someone or another dog. Such an event can have major financial and legal ramifications, not to mention pressure from what other people in public are thinking when they see your dog acting erratically. There is potential for immense stress that can come from owning a dog with behaviour issues. I’m not only referring to severe issues either, behaviour such as barking or jumping on people can lead to just as much misery.
Added to all of these difficulties is the issue of finding quality help. Ask anybody who owns a dog with a persistent behaviour problem how hard it is to sift the Internet for good help and they will tell you it is a nightmare.
We then have to consider and ask the question of how can people manage their emotions with their troublesome dog. Is their recognition of their dog’s misbehaviour mixed in with their own emotional behaviour? The two need to be separate in order to implement the right strategies for your dog and for yourself.
Recently I have had discussions with a Holistic Counsellor who also works with dogs, and knows personally the love, passion and emotional rollercoaster of owning difficult or misbehaved dogs. Our discussions regarding the emotions that are involved with owning a dog that needs behavioural help have brought us to the realisation that owners would benefit not only with my help training but with personal counselling whilst their dog is in training, in order to benefit both owner and dog. Dogs respond to our energy and can sense our changes emotionally immediately. Therefore combining the two therapies can bring a positive change that advantages owners and their families when it comes to behavioural modification for their dog.
Please register your interest in the combined service, or give me a call to discuss whether this is right for you.