The role of cupcakes and friends in training…

Tonight, I was really struggling with a blog topic. There are days where I struggle with what to write for you all… I’m not going to lie, 4-5 posts per week anywhere from 500-1000 words each post is a lot and I’m certainly bound to run out of ideas occasionally. If there is a topic you’d like to see me write about, gotta let me know!

Anyhow, tonight, after an hour of contemplating and starting 2 different posts that I didn’t like and opted to abandon for the time being, I shared my dilema on facebook. Well, my friends didn’t fail me and they gave me an idea for a topic AND were a fantastic example of my post for today.

I am the owner of a formerly reactive dog who also had quite a few behavioral issues. There were quite a few years where my only source of support when working with her were friends and trainers on the internet who were there for the ups and downs of our journey. I didn’t have resources to hire a trainer and I wasn’t yet ‘in’ the canine community in my area.

It was a long and lonely road sometimes with Shayne… I didn’t have someone I could go talk to on the bad days or hang out with to celebrate the good days. No one locally really understood my frustration when we had set backs and there just was not a lot of support when I had days that left me feeling defeated. The only people who really were able to support me and guide me through the frustrations were a fantastic group of friends and trainers I knew through various online communities.

My point of all of this is that I cannot express how important it is for people who are working through behavior problems with their dogs to have a strong support system. It can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening and joyful and exciting to go on the journey that guardians go through when working through behavior problems. Going it alone can be really alienating because most ‘normal’ people cannot relate to the daily struggles and wins that these dog guardians will go through and that lonely feeling is not very comforting. Adding insult to injury, most people, not in the canine world, just snicker about the struggles that these handlers may have or roll their eyes at the successes–“Who cares that your dog said hi to a man in a hat” “Umm, why would you be glad your dog growled at someone on the street?” “So what’s such a big deal about just giving that dog away and getting a new one if the behaviors are so bad?”

Being able to communicate with people (preferably in real life but online can be a reasonably good substitute) who are going through similar experiences is so helpful. It makes people feel less alone in their work and they have a place where they can vent and brag and be a part of a community instead of feeling hated within the community (being the guardian of a “bad dog” doesn’t do well for their social status).

I don’t think this need for community and support is only for guardians of dogs with special behavioral needs at all. I think that puppy, senior, and typical dog guardians could all benefit from feeling like they have some place they could go to commiserate or share experiences. It’s one of the reasons I love puppy classes that include times for the puppy parents to talk and share or puppy socials where between play sessions the puppy parents can talke with each other and a trainer.

Besides making sure pet parents have support, it is critical, especially for those handlers of dogs with behavior problems, that they take care of themselves. They often need to take a moment and treat themselves to a relaxing beverage, a special cupcake, a quite afternoon reading a book, or some general down time. When owners are constantly stressed out and worn down, it does not bode well for their canine partners. The handler being stressed out and on edge certainly has an effect on the dog(s) in the home and it’s generally not a good thing.

I absolutely think that local ‘support groups’ for dog guardians dealing with behavior problems would be so beneficial. BUT since that’s not always possible or likely, online support from other pet parents is, I think, an important experience for people working through behavior problems with a dog.

A quick thanks to my awesome pals Casey, Dana, Autumn and Alison (even though she was NOT at all helpful) for supporting me and getting me through my writers block tonight!

  1. Excellent blog. I think one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts & blogs is because you have been so open about your trials, tribulations & triumphs with your dogs. Having a special needs dog myself now, it really does help to read & learn what other people have already gone thru. I was given a 6 wk old blue heeler pup by the breeder 2 yrs ago, the breeder was afraid for anyone else to have her, afraid they wouldn’t understand her or try to help her. She was different than the others, she was born fearful. It is a daily struggle to keep her feeling secure, but expand her world at the same time. I only have a few friends in my rural area knowledgeable enough to share info with. Most of my help comes from reading info shared by people like you. Thank you.

  2. I could not agree more. Before I even knew it had a name my dog’s reactivity made me feel so alone and like the worst dog owner in the world. I knew she had a problem but I felt like it was my fault because I couldn’t fix it right away. And everyone we met on the street looked at her like she was some kind of monster. I couldn’t bring her to fun local events, I had to walk her when it was dark out, and I couldn’t invite friends over because my dog would scare them away. Ordering pizza was even out of the question at that time.
    We did attend obedience classes but were isolated there too because of her behaviour. The trainer had us work in a separate room, only peeking in through a doorway. It sucked. If only I had know back then that reactivity is common and that there were things that would help, I wouldn’t have spent that first year doubting myself every step of the way.

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