difficult dog

I have a difficult dog - How can I get a break?

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If there’s one thing Growly Dog owners know - it’s that sometimes you just need a break!

However much you love your gorgeous darling reactive dog, it has the potential to become wearing. You don’t want your dog to become a burden! So taking a break, whether for work or pleasure, can let you see how the other half lives while reinforcing your good feelings for your dog - Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that.

A change can also be a good thing, so holidaying with your pet is way up there on the to-do list for many reactive dog-owners. And it may not be as difficult as you think!

How to get a holiday at all

As I have four dogs, holidays in hotels and b&b’s - though possible in theory - really were not fun. All this changed when I got a campervan and I’m now able to swan off with my dogs to all sorts of interesting places - beaches, forests, fields, moors - and enjoy the trip thoroughly.

No campervan? You can rent one!

There are also many places - certainly in the UK - where you can rent a holiday cottage in the depths of the countryside, and dogs are welcome. They often have a well-fenced garden and ready access to walking country, though you’d need to check that first. For me that’s definitely the second-best thing to the van (well, first-best thing in the depths of winter!), and I’ve been introduced to some great new places to explore that way.

So holidaying with your dog, even a very reactive one, is definitely possible. And I know that lots of people set off with some misgivings, only to find that the whole family has a wonderful stress-free time - including, sometimes much to their surprise, their dog!

What about when I can’t take my reactive dog?

But what happens if you can’t take your dog with you and you have to travel? This was me recently, with a business trip. I was fortunate in that I know an amazing place where dogs - especially reactive dogs - are not just welcome, but thoroughly catered for and pampered. It’s not near me - I have to travel two hours to get there - but is it worth it? Heck, yes!

The comfort I get from knowing my precious dogs are in safe hands, with someone who absolutely understands their needs, their individuality, their fears, is priceless. And, of course, this 5* treatment is not cheap. But how much value do you put on your dog’s safety and your own peace of mind?

Now I know a safe place for them, I need have no qualms about future trips away from them.

Previously I would only be away for a day. Then I’d get a carefully-chosen dog minder to visit them two or three times in the day. I didn’t want them walked, just given a break, let out, and played with. This works very well for me, but is limited to just the one day - and a minder who they’ve met and “approved”!

“My dog is such a tie”

So don’t let the fact that your dog does not strew rose petals and rainbows wherever she goes prevent you from taking a holiday - with or without her.

The time to do your research is now, not five minutes before you want to go. You’ll have time to seek advice, check out the places, and carefully get to know the person who will be caring for your dogs.

You’ll have some searching questions if you’re leaving your dog with someone else, and you need to get those questions answered thoroughly. In the case of the place my dogs stayed at, several visits beforehand are a part of the package, so your dog isn’t dumped in a strange place with strangers, and so that you can check out the carer and the premises.

You can see the bond they developed with Clair in this video of the welcome they gave me on my return. They kept running back to her (with the camera) to tell her the exciting news! This is one of many videos and photos sent to me, most while I was away.

 

When you change, your dog will change too

Reactive dog, aggressive dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | It’s not the dog that has to change! Change your own mindset and change your dog!  | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

I wrote recently about how a small change in your own mindset can trigger a dramatic change in your dog’s behaviour - without any “dog training” at all!

And I wanted to revisit this as it’s such an important - and little understood - part of the puzzle.

While we say “My dog is this, my dog does that,” it’s all about the dog. The dog is perceived as the problem. But the fact is that it’s the perception that is wrong!

Once people change their way of thinking and talking about their dog, they get massive change without having to do a thing.

Not only dogs …

As a child I was curious, questioning, always challenging what I was served up as gospel truth. So naturally, teachers didn’t like this and saw me as a threat (yes, even aged three …). So I was labelled “difficult”. I was the naughty child. 

This “knowledge” about me was passed on in reports and staff meetings, so that all new teachers were instantly brought up to speed with this troublemaker, instead of forming their own opinions from facts. The other children began to look to me for a response in new situations: I had a reputation to live up to! 

So my entire school life was coloured by a few instances in kindergarten and junior school - perpetuated despite the fact that I grew and changed. I came to believe these opinions myself. And then had to work through adulthood to shed this nonsense and develop my true self. (I can tell you that making prize-winning drawings and writing bestselling books was definitely not something those teachers foresaw for me!)

Back to dogs again

We have a much shorter time with our dogs - they simply don’t live long enough for us to spend years labelling them and predicting their poor behaviour based on our wrong assumptions.

And these wrong assumptions can creep into every corner of our lives with our dogs. 

Whenever you say “She always does this,” or “She never does that,” you are placing a permanent label on your dog. You are fixing in your mind that she cannot change, that she’s hardwired to behave in a certain way. 

Back to children - there’s a big difference between “You are an untidy child,” and “Your room is in a mess.” Or “You are a bad boy,” and “Was that a good thing to do?”

Focussing on the doing rather than the doer takes blame and finger-pointing out of the picture, leaving the way clear to solutions and change.

And while we look at the behavior rather than the perpetrator, we see that nothing could be further from the truth than the belief that your dog is hardwired to behave in a set fashion. It doesn’t matter how long your dog has been doing a certain thing - you can change it! 

  • She’s afraid of things? You can make her environment less scary while you countercondition her to better responses.

  • She’s boisterous and impulsive? You can teach impulse control and show her that she can get what she wants when she does what you want. There’s no need for confrontation, ordering about, “commanding”, having a battle over anything.

  • She annoys you by barking noisily, chewing the furniture, messing up the house? Manage! Train! Once you realise that these things are just what the dog IS DOING, and not what the dog IS, you can change it all.

Reactive dog, aggressive dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | It’s not the dog that has to change! Change your own mindset and change your dog!  | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy
Not on fighting the old
But on building the new


“Socrates” by Dan Millman


I learn a lot from my students, as well as from my dogs!

I’m delighted to watch my online students develop. The penny drops! They see where they have gone wrong in the past, not helped their dog. Sometimes they have unwittingly followed bad advice from the multitude of awful “trainers” and tv personalities out there, and actually made things worse.

But today is a new day! 

Tear off a new sheet!

Start from where you are and head forward!

It’s a joy seeing things improve for them without their needing extra gadgets, lockdown, extreme control.

They see that opposition is just as unhelpful in their relationship with their dog as it is in their relationship with a friend or spouse. Embracing their friend’s likes and dislikes is part of the friendship. Empathy for their fears and foibles is essential to a strong bond.

And a new life opens up for them with their dog, whom they can now view with different eyes. 

 

Check out this email course that will get you started on the change!

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