Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When Love Is Not Enough

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.


Tucker The Crestie March 22, 2011 at 5:04 PM  

It is very unfortunate, I agree. And this same sort of apathy is not just limited to this particular arena, but to all areas of dog "ownership." Not that all information is good information, but the bottom line is that there is enough good information out there for people who want to find it and use it. It's a shame that some people would rather play ostrich than look for ways to solve whatever the problem is.

♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ March 22, 2011 at 5:08 PM  

Ditto to Tucker's comment. All you can do is hope that this person starts to listen to your very wise words.

Vicky March 22, 2011 at 5:49 PM  

I understand where you're coming from. One of my biggest frustrations is people who ask for advice, do what I advise two or three times, then decide, "It didn't work."

Of course it didn't --- it's a dog (or cat), not one of your employees.

Kirby, CGC March 22, 2011 at 6:00 PM  

That has to be so frustrating. I have sought out lots of help (thank you so much for all your suggestions!) to help Kirby. I think sometimes people think that something like aggression or reactivity can be or should be cured rather quickly, when in reality it takes so much time and patience. I would just keep encouraging them by talking to them and giving them suggestions. I don't know how you do your classes, but have you taken their dog as an example and tried some of the counterconditioning techniques, so they can see how it would help their dog. I know, that sometimes if you can see someone else do something with your dog it helps you to understand it.

Good luck, I'm glad that dogs like Kirby and Marge have you in their corner!

Kirby's Mom

Cyndi and Stumpy March 22, 2011 at 6:02 PM  

what's that old saying? "There's no such thing as a bad or stupid dog, but there's plenty of bad and stupid humans." And a lot of them own dogs.

Diana March 22, 2011 at 6:40 PM  

Well, some peoples dogs are just dogs. They go to class to have fun but dont really have goals or want to progress. They are not bad people,they just dont see the importance of it all. Sometimes they dont think what you are telling them could possibly help. Maybe they have already tried a ton of things, maybe not, but arent willing to try something else. And some poeple , who knows why they are in class. Its like college students who go to class but never
learn anything and dont care. You just have to help the people you can. And sometimes its something else. I think I realized last night that someone in our class is hard of hearing but doesnt want you to know it. But he is missing a lot of information. I thought he just did want the information. I think he just cant hear me. Im going to try harder to keep looking at him when talking and not talk and move at the same time when explaning things.
Dont feel bad. Its just life. Im sure lots of people are learning a ton and are greatful.

Stella March 22, 2011 at 6:56 PM  

Diana: I wish you and Sam were in my neighborhood to organize a class for deaf people. I am one and never go to classes because I would be most disruptive or just not understand what is said. A waste of time for me and the dog and the instructor. I'd love a small class of maybe 5 people and dogs who could ask questions, interrupt, just a real hands on kind of thing. So I read, and I read but its not as motivating as having a teacher would be.

Jo, Stella's Mom

ForPetsSake March 22, 2011 at 7:22 PM  

I definitely agree with Tucker and the OP Pack - if you ignore the signs, they'll go away, right? WRONG!! It's hard to deal with a fearful, reactive dog (as you know I know), but every day is a day for improvement. Laziness is not an option!

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! March 22, 2011 at 7:42 PM  

So many great comments here!

But as 'they' say, you are preaching to the choir here - we understand!

Here's to the ones you do make a difference with and to!

Amy / Layla the Malamute March 22, 2011 at 8:21 PM  

Oh that's so frustrating. What the hell does she even come to class for then, if she isn't willing to do anything at all?

I'm glad that a lot of students seem to really appreciate your knowledge. I'm kind of speechless about the other person, because ...ugh! It's one thing if the dog would need medication to do agility (I read one column in Clean Run by a veterinarian who would get harassed at trials by strangers, asking for pain killers for their dogs just so they can run agility), but if it would help the dog on a daily basis, why would they be against that? There's a bulldog that's a "patient" at my pharmacy who's on Viagra for a heart condition. It's like $250 for 10 days worth of pills, and the owners pay it without a thought.

I agree with you - love isn't always enough.

PS ~ Not to totally change the subject, but keep your fingers crossed for good weather next weekend. Someone said they heard rain in the forecast and I'm REALLY hoping they're wrong!

Lorenza March 23, 2011 at 12:02 AM  

I feel sorry for that doggie and for his human too!
Glad to know Layla gained a pound!
Take care
Kisses and hugs

Unknown March 23, 2011 at 8:06 AM  

It's frustrating when you're trying your best to help but others just ignore your kindness.
We can't change the world or the whole crowd but if we could change or teach one person among the crowd, we do make a progress. Let's continue the effort!
You're doing great and I'm sure there are many students who appreciate your advice and guidance. Keep the good work, a lot of people need you too.

Pedro March 23, 2011 at 8:33 AM  

It's so wonderful that you at least try to help...


Kari in Alaska March 23, 2011 at 12:21 PM  

We agree. In fact, love can sometimes make the situation worse. Feeling a love for the animal to the point of not wanting to "upset" the dog with corrections or by making them take meds can escalate a situation fast


Kathy Mocharnuk March 23, 2011 at 3:02 PM  

I think it is too bad some people are not ready for change yet, but you never know what is going on with them, and I dont think your advice or help is for naught....it is a good chance that this person is just not ready for what ever reason now, but one day....someone else will say the same thing or there will be something that sparks and what you have talked about or said will have laid the ground work and might make all the difference in the world in prepairing that person to listen the next time. I had a person who sounds just like that and I spend sOOOOOOO much time helping them and working with their dog and they just didnt seem to even try...but then I found out the lady had been dealing with HUGE, HUGE, HUGE issues and I am glad I helped I was able to manage the situation enough the dog could stay in class, a huge job for me,but the lady ended up needing a lung/heart transplant and was very sick, but I know she was able to have a good time in class and I know she was able to enjoy her dog so even though she did not take it as far as I wanted her too, that was not on her agenda at that point in time and for her just a few evenings of fun with her dog meant the world to them, that was the be all end all of her goal, but that was frustrating for me because I had to keep the dog from attacking other dogs in class ;-(. I think different people have different goals and different levels of rediness and different things they are dealing with that we might never know about. I always try to remember that in classes, it makes it less frustrating.

Never Say Never Greyhounds March 24, 2011 at 8:25 PM  

And if a person is stuck loving a dog the way he/she wants to and not loving the dog in a way that is best for the dog... is it still called love? Don't know...

Yay! Glad Layla is improving.

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