Grizzle’s 7 Day Challenge started on Thursday 4th August. I picked this day as the first one where my partner was away … and you know what they say: there’s nothing like taking responsibility when there’s simply no one else around to blame. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, so much about our pets behaviour starts with us – their owners, carers and dog walkers. It’s easy to blame the dog for what they’re doing wrong, yet in their mind it isn’t wrong at all, just normal behaviour that they feel is appropriate in relation to the threat they are encountering at the time (by threat I also mean just the given situation, it may not seem “scary” or “threatening” to us as humans but in a dogs world it may well could be). Important to remember as well, when dealing with a reactive dog, is Trigger Stacking. Put one stressful situation on top of another, on top of another and then BAM you have a dog who suddenly explodes for no reason at all. Well there is a reason (in fact it’s many little reasons) but the final straw may have been nothing at all, and under different circumstances would have caused no reaction whatsoever, however in culmination with all the other events results in a dog who is taken way over his comfortable stress levels and reacts defensively (or aggressively).

For more info on Trigger Stacking check out this great article available here >  https://woofliketomeet.com/2016/03/trigger-stacking-how-we-set-our-dogs-up-to-fail/

trigger stacking

 

The schedule for day 1 was pretty quiet which was great. We had just two dogs in day care and one walk mid-day. One of the dogs in day care is Molly (a puppy who Grizzle has always been fond of), we also had Del (a young female dog who is reactive but very friendly with Grizzle), finally our walk was with little Boycie a teeny tiny Dachi who is scared of his own shadow. Walks with Boycie are no issue whatsoever, he wouldn’t hurt a fly! 🙂

I decided to pick Del up early so we could do a woodland walk before picking up Molly – as a puppy she can’t really walk far yet and play time sessions don’t give a dog who likes to walk everything he needs. So we were up at the crack of dawn and over to Woburn Sands for young Del. You’d thick there wouldn’t be many people in the woods at 7am but we did bump into one just as were entered the wood. I saw her and the dog in the distance before Del or Grizzle did so brought them to one side and tossed some cheese onto the ground and asked them to “Find It” (this is their queue to put noses to the ground and search out the morsels of cheese). What a result, they didn’t even spot the dog or owner and we were able to carry on our merry way. I felt on top of the moon with how I handled the situation and kept fussing over Grizzle as we walked back to the van and drove home.

The next step was getting out of the van and back into the house. Waiting for the bridge to be shut and crossing the canal with a few dogs is always a bit tricky, most of them love to react to all the people sauntering about and there are usually a few dogs on boats or waiting for their owners so it can be chaos. Had I taken Grizzle and Del out into the house together would have meant we failed the no outburst challenge on day one so I’m glad I made the decision to bring Del across first and then go back for Grizzle. Having just one dog means you can focus on distracting them (the Mark and Move training being used here!) and get them into the house without much fuss. It was worth the extra trip, Grizzle stayed focused on me and was able to settle down for a nice long nap.

Once they woke we did the same but in reverse to get them back into the van and over to Brogborough. Though Del is reactive I chose to bring her with us as the location we walk is so remote we never see a soul. We picked up Boycie and headed out for another hours walk; however, typically someone was coming up the lane as we were headed back and they had a dog with them. I used the same tactic of distracting them with cheese scattered on the ground but this time Del wasn’t buying it and lunged barking at the dog and person. Not necessarily aggressive but loud and a bit over the top nonetheless. I’m proud to say that Grizzle didn’t react at all, he was very keen on finding that cheese and didn’t seem to notice what was going on. We’re lucky I guess in how food motivated Grizzle is, he’s obsessed with treats – especially sausage and cheese – so will do pretty much anything for some.

That was our day over with, he settled down for a snooze while I brought the doggies home. I couldn’t believe how well he did and how focused I seemed to be too. Was it the fact I had called it our 7 Day Challenge or did I finally see just how important this all was to him? Either way … I was excited to see how we’d do on Day 2 .. !

 

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