I have a ton of things to update about (including some AWESOME news - my cat gained a pound!), but one topic has been weighing on my mind a lot lately.
I have moved up the ranks rather quickly at my dog club. I am back to assisting in the non-competitive agility class as well as occasionally helping out in puppy class. Because of this, I see people from all different types of dog ownership backgrounds - those that know what they're doing, those that don't know what they're doing but want help, those that don't know what they're doing and don't want help.
Of course, it's the dogs with behavioral issues like fear, aggression and reactivity that catch my interest the most. I admit to being a much better trainer of classical conditioning-based dog training techniques, probably because of the fact that I started out with a "damaged" adult dog who knew some basic behaviors but had emotional baggage rather than a puppy who needed to learn from scratch how to sit, down, and stay.
There are some students who I've given names of books or articles to so that they may continue to help their dog overcome their fears, anxieties or intolerances outside of the classroom. Some have absolutely gobbled this information up - buying books, asking questions, practicing often. One student yesterday was very excited to learn about dog body language and I was thrilled to give her the name of a book that I am familiar with. Others have wavered in their decision making, have not tried anything, and essentially allowed their dog to suffer, whether they believe they are doing so or not.
When dealing with a student having these kinds of issues, I always mention several different pathways for easing their dog's problems. Medical tests to rule out chemical imbalances or pain issues. Training techniques including the Relaxation Protocol, information about desensitization and counterconditioning. Details about supplements that I am familiar with and have used successfully. I never mention anything I am unsure about or unfamiliar with and I always stress to students that they should consult with their veterinarian before making any changes.
I am attempting to help one student right now who is totally opposed to any orally-ingested medication or supplementation and seems equally hesitant to try any sort of specific training protocol. However, the doggy half of this team is clearly suffering in the class environment, and, from the sounds of it, in other environments (like on walks), too.
Suffice to say, none of my advice has been taken. None of the aforementioned pathways have been explored appreciably. I was especially hoping that the dog would be brought in to the vet to rule medical causes for this sudden regression, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
Because I have a dog who has improved with the careful use of training, supplementation, and environmental management, I am, to say the least, frustrated by this lack of willingness to make changes and find the right "recipe."
The bottom line is that love is sometimes not enough. Some dogs need a little something extra to enjoy life to the fullest. It is unfortunate to me that not everyone realizes that.