Embracing the Journey With an Imperfect Dog

ImperfectDog2Sometimes when you have a dog with behavioral issues, such as reactivity, you can’t always do what you want to do…sometimes you have a picture in your mind about how you think things will go with your dog and what your life together will look like. And then your dog develops behavioral issues and that changes things.

When I adopted Marvel at 5 months, I had this vision in mind that he would be a rock star agility competitor and that all I had to focus on were skills supportive to agility, other than general manners to be part of a family. He also was friendly and social with people and other dogs–really lovely. As he matured, all this began to change–especially so in the last 4-6 months. Marvel started to charge at dogs, barking and nipping to get them to go away. He also barked at people close to him when indoors. He no longer wanted people that he didn’t know extremely well petting or handling him.

I finally embraced who Marvel had become this past March. As a result of embracing the journey and not focusing on the end goal, Marvel is teaching me so much about living with and training a dog like him for agility. I learned a LOT about Marvel at an agility seminar in April in regards to his reactivity, and continue to do so every time we attend a seminar. He improved in his impulse control and demonstrated better understanding with the training. Most of the time, our focus was working on Marvel staying with me in that environment rather than working the agility sequences. We had to skip a few exercises because it would have been too much for him to handle at that time. The result of managing his threshold throughout the workshop: a couple of smokin’ fast runs, staying with the momma, at the end of the day!

This victory has grown into so many more positive experiences. Today, Marvel can successfully work an entire day in an seminar with people and dogs all around us. These victories spilled over into everyday life with Marvel as well. He started to become more relaxed around dogs and his reactivity significantly decreased.

The universe works in interesting ways–made me chuckle today. I received a call for a new client who has a dog with the same exact issues as Marvel. I’m clearly the right dog trainer for her.

Clarity & harmony…a better way of living with your dog.

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Positively Expert: Bobbie Bhambree

Bobbie Bhambree is a dog trainer, a dog behavior consultant, and an agility competitor with over fifteen years’ experience in dog training and behavior. Bobbie is the Founder & Director of DogCentric Training & Behavior, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants...


5 thoughts on “Embracing the Journey With an Imperfect Dog

  1. Kirsty Macfarlane

    Loved this article! I have 2 reactive gsds and I am embarking on a new career as a positive trainer. If I can help reactive dogs and prevent them being re homed or worse euthanized I'll be a happy lady indeed!

  2. Kristie Kennedy

    If only it were this easy. I've been using positive reinforcement for 6.5 years with my reactive GSD. He is a ticking time bomb. Some dogs he likes, others he takes an instant hate toward - such as my very innocent 11 week old puppy who's eye he promptly put out last week. She did nothing to provoke him. He can herd sheep, but cannot compete in Agility - he can do barn hunt - but not obedience. He can go on 10 mile hikes with 8 other dogs without incident, but will suddenly turn and attack my Standard Poodle. He lives in a muzzle. I hate that. I hate him being unpredictable because I love him so very much. Positive and clicker training does NOT mean you'll solve all problems. I love it - I ALwAYS use it. But not every dog will be non-reactive because of it. It wasn't from lack of training or attention. He is what he is. I cannot change the genetic code - I can only hope to control outcomes. He was in a muzzle at the time of the attack on the puppy and STILL managed to permanently blind her in one eye. That being said - I wish everyone more luck than I've had. Oh, and I've consulted the best -- Ian Dunbar and Patricia McConnell. I've spent countless hours with him dong nothing but positive training. NOT permissive, but positive. Don't think that picking up a clicker is gong to solve all problems.

  3. sharina

    Sometimes in spite of doing everything you can to manage undesirable behavior you simply can't resolve some problems. Many behavior problems take lifelong vigilance and management. You are correct that a clicker won't help here. The only other thing you haven't mentioned trying is consulting with a veterinary behaviorist. If you have done all the desensitization and counterconditioning that can be done and your dog's behavior is still not acceptable, pharmacological therapy MAY be useful along with continued desensitization and counterconditioning. This would have to be determined by a veterinarian, and a board certified behaviorist would be the best choice. Many people fear the use of drugs, but sometimes behavior problems can be treated with the help of drug therapy that the dog may eventually be weaned off of. Even if not, it may considerably lower the threshold, give your dog more peace, and increase the safety of your other pets.

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