Sometimes as a dog trainer you have days where it seems nothing goes right and then you have other days that are so memorable and satisfying that you can’t stop thinking about them.
Yesterday was one of those days that will stick with me for a very long time.
Barley came to us about a year ago with severe leash reactivity. His owner was at her wits end having worked with other trainers over the previous year and had spent a significant amount of money and had seen little to no change in Barley’s behaviour. His owner had been dragged across the street more than once towards other dogs and was actually considering returning Barley to the shelter where his chance of making it out was very slim considering his behaviour. Luckily for Barley his owner was very dedicated and decided to give training one more shot and signed him up for a 3-week board and train.
When he first arrived, he was wearing what was essentially a blindfold. The blindfold made his vision blurry so he could not see any other dogs in the street. The first thing we did was to remove the blindfold and started working with him indoors in a very controlled environment, slowly adding dogs of all sizes and breeds into his vicinity. This was quite a slow process, but we could see some progress every day. We trained with him in our parking lot and yard using longer leashes to give him more freedom while always rewarding his good behaviour. We worked on his basic obedience as well and eventually brought him into public once we knew we could control him properly.
Through a process of slowly desensitizing him to other dogs his reactivity began to diminish. It wasn’t perfect but it was tremendously better than when he first arrived. During this whole process we realized that he was accepting my dog Ocean being quite close to him. Ocean often helps me with training and knows exactly what to do to make a dog feel at ease. She knows how close she can get and how quickly she can push those limits.
After working at home with him for awhile Barley’s owner decided to take advantage of our weekday board and train program by dropping him off for 2 or 3 days at time with the goal of having him and Ocean become friends. This whole process probably took 5 or 6 days in total over the span of a month or so. When they gave me all the right signs I let Barley off leash and with Ocean’s amazing ability to know exactly what to do, they began to run together. They ran and they ran. They jumped and growled and for the first time I saw Barley do a play bow to Ocean. I had worked with him for at least a month in total and never did he ever even think about doing that, but today was clearly a new day!
Barley now has the time of his life playing with his new girlfriend. I have never seen a look of happiness on Barley’s face like I saw yesterday and the trainer may have gotten a little emotional too. These kind of massive turnarounds in a dog are what makes this job so worthwhile and satisfying.
Now that Barley has a new friend and can play and interact without becoming fearful and reactive the next step is to bring even more dogs in for him to meet. Dogs make great teachers for other dogs and now Barley trusts Ocean so when he sees Ocean playing and trusting another dog then he may begin to trust the other dog as well.
Dog Friends Dog Training
Yesterday was a great day for me and an even greater day for Barley! Congratulations Barley! And congratulations to your incredibly dedicated owner for allowing you to become the best dog you can be!