We all make mistakes right? Last weekend we took the pups to Bartlett Lake. Some friends of ours were camping out and since the weather was cool (before heating up to 100 this week) and to help Raylee adjust to being away from Louie, we decided to take the dogs. While we had a great time relaxing lake side, lets just say I was more then a little frustrated and embarrassed with the dogs behavior. To be honest, by the time we left on Sunday I was just about done, with Thor in particular. Recently the suggestion of putting him on psychiatric meds has been brought up by our trainer, and after we got home I was battling between feeling like giving up on his behavior and letting him be a ‘house dog’ and starting him on meds, enrolling him in behavior classes or even a camp and taking him out to do training whether its hot or not. These feelings lasted until Monday evening when suddenly it hit me that the problems that occurred were entirely my fault, not his.
Reflecting on it the last few days I realized that I set him up for failure, I failed in patience and training and I’m the one who needs a wake up call. What I should have done was to do some obedience before leaving the house. It helps to get him focused on me and settle him down before going out in public with all the triggers, distractions, and excitement that brings. It also helps me assess his mood, to see just how much of a challenge he will throw my way. I should have brought our equipment. I should have packed treats, training pouch, toys, ect. Once we got there I should have taken him from the car, started doing some tricks and obedience. I should have slowly approached the group, gauging his threshold and making sure to see all that was going on. Not walked right up to a large group of about 40 people, ignoring the dogs off leash, ignoring the kids playing, pulling him back and getting annoyed when he was pulling towards everything or staring down/ jumping at the other dogs. I should not have let other people come up giving him attention and even praising him while he was in a wound up state. What I should have done is set up his crate immediately, so that he had a place to relax away from the excitement and to use as Negative Reinforcement (removing him from the positive stimulus of being around us) should he react.
I should have taken a few minutes to work with hi with breaks in between rather then leave him on leash with us getting more and more frustrated when he had ‘moments’ effectively forcing other, well behaved, dogs to stay away from their families for fear of a attack. I should not have been drinking so that I was more aware of his behavior cues, and was thinking more clearly to properly handle him, not resorting to putting him in the car (windows down of course!) so that I wouldn’t “have to deal with him”. I completely missed so many critical training opportunities all in one weekend. I always blame the hot summers for making his issues worse since for many months of the year its hard to take him out to socialize or train around other dogs. I blame his puppy mill owning breeders for bad genetics- both health and behavior.
I am the one to blame for not utilizing the opportunities we do get. I am the one to blame for not focusing on the present, for not accepting Thor for who he is, for not making every experience a positive one. I’m the one to blame for making excuses, for being lazy in our training. I will do better, I will not give up, I will not fail you again Thor.