When we first adopted Gretel she was very anxious. In fact, they had her on doggie Prozac. After watching her behavior for a week I determined that she didn’t need drugs. What she needed was unconditional love, consistence, some confidence building and some training.
Determined to start of on the right foot we immediately enrolled in a basic obedience class. She did really good in class. She seemed less anxious afterward and developed a pretty reliable recall (still not 100% but pretty darn good).
Over the last year or so since the class I have continued to work on her issues with my limited knowledge and, as you would guess, have had limited success.
Fast forward to today and she is at that stage that is in between a teenager and adult. During this stage a dog can start to be unsure of themselves again. I have noticed that she has been backsliding a bit in the anxiety department. I have also reached the limits of my skills to help her. She still needs my help but I feel like I am no longer able to help her. I have been resorting to scoring the internet and randomly trying everything I read….all the while still unsure if I was doing the right thing. I decided to take Gretel AND MYSELF back to school.
Gretel is what they call “reactive”. If she gets too close to strange people or dogs (Hello, that is everyone) when we are out walking she will start to growl and put her hackles up. If her anxiety continues to escalate she “shouts” and sometimes lunges. When people see her reactions (hence “reactive”) they often recoil in horror. It frustrates me too because I know there is a sweet dog in there and she always seems to do it right after I thought we were making progress.
The class we enrolled in is called Scary Dog Monsters. This 90-minute class is designed to help you and your dog have better experiences when encountering other dogs on leash when out walking. The description says we will “leave this class armed with ideas and exercises you can do with your dog to break through the cycle of reactivity and create positive change in your walks.” Perfect.
I eagerly awaited class and had high hopes. Even though this class was short, it was packed with exercises and skills that I could use immediately. I have to say that it is probably the best. most helpful training class we have ever taken. We will share a post or two with you about what we learned to be sure to come back.