I have a (semi-) dirty secret. That I dont really like to talk about, but it’s bugging me enough—and few enough people will actually read this—that I have to get it out. Phineas, the super-star all-around-awesome, “perfect” puppy, is reactive. Yep, there it is. I said it. It has been burbling to the surface for a while, but I’ve been in denial. I was hoping it was just him going through his fear period, or being a puppy, or whatever other excuse I could come up with at that moment, but it has now gotten to the point where I am realizing its not going away.

He is great with most other dogs, loves-loves-loves children, good with women, and hit or miss with men. I am still figuring out his exact hot button in the male department, but I do know he does NOT like older people, particularly men with grey hair. I also think he reads them and makes a snap judgement, depending on what else is going and and his general arousal level. He is okay in crowd situations—he can be anxious but he keeps it together. However when we are somewhere relatively isolated and a male or designated “scary figure” comes into our space, he may lose it. He growls, barks and lunges at designated scary person. And especially being that he has a “bully” look about him, it is not cute… At all.

(As I am writing this my boyfriend just let two guys into the house without giving me a heads up. All the dogs went apeshit and Phin growled at one of them. Awesome. Luckily they are young {in the “good” category for Phin}, relatively dog-savvy , and followed instructions, so it all settled very quickly, but I’d prefer them not to rehearse these scenarios… Ugh.)

I am really horrified about this. Horrified at myself. I was so convinced that I did the right things by having him at work everyday, taking him to agility trials and friends’ houses. I sit in puppy class weekly and lecture people on the importance of properly socializing their puppies early. Do as I say not as I do, I guess. Apparently what I did do wasnt enough.

His reactivity hardly is debilitating like it is for so many dogs. But I am technically these days a “dog trainer“. Note the italics. I was hoping/planning to have a bomb proof dog to teach with. That is not impossible at this point, but this situation is a very large, unanticipated speed bump.

Really, I should not be surprised as he is very high-energy and easily aroused. He does bark at the drop of a hat, and is super-aware of his environment at all times. If I had wanted a mellow dog in the first place, he wouldnt have been an option.

I guess when we choose puppies with specific purposes in mind, we may only focus on the traits that fit our purpose and be blind to those that may not be so practical. Or at least thats what I did.

So now, all I can do is work to solve the problem the best I can. I was really upset about the whole situation this morning, so as much as I was temped to dwell on it, I just dove in and we went to the fancy mall near us that allows dogs. It went really well, no issues at all, but I was on edge almost the whole time, stuffing him with cheese every few seconds. He was greeted by two different families—and very carefully managed by us. He was cautious about the first; mom, dad, and three boys, but luckily they were more interested in Forest than him so he had time to assess them before they wanted to interact. He was appropriate with them, even giving dad a very quick lick. Thankfully, he was joyous with the second family–grandma, mom and young daughter. He loves him some giggly little girls and we ended on a high note with that.

I am coming to grips with the whole scenario and I’ll just have to manage it as it happens. I also am thankful that BAT came into my consciousness right at the perfect time, so that has already proved a useful tool along with the usual Control Unleashed stuff. We’ll keep on keeping on, and who knows, maybe I can find some cooperative agility folk to work with us as well. Wish us luck.


4 thoughts on “Admission

  1. Even the most angsty, rude kid can be turned around with some time and good situations that teach them to trust. I think Phinn will realize with you as a very consistent parent, that he does not need to be afraid over time.

  2. Divot is crate reactive and I have not been able to fix it. I thought I was doing everything right with him, and I tried my best to believe it was something other than what it was, but I’ve finally forced myself to acknowledge what it really is.
    I’m very glad Phin is in your capable hands – I know you will do the best you can by him. Please let me know if I can do anything to help.

    • Thanks Jen. How old is Divot? I am praying that Phin is experimenting in his “teen” stage and that things smooth out as we go forward but I can’t assume anything and still am trying the best I can to take the bull by the horns. He unfortunately has also learned how to be crate reactive from my other two little dear dogs… Ergh. We can work on it together this weekend! 🙂

  3. I don’t have time to leave a full reply — but let me hit the high points. On one hand, you have taken a big dose of reality. Some reactive dogs are born that way. You have done above and beyond to give Phin the best possible foundation he could have. No one could have done anything better and have Phin turn into a cuddle-pup for every stranger. In the long run, the foundation you built will pay off. Now, you have more empathy for every dog owner that can’t train/handle his or her reactive dog.

    On the other hand, take another reality dose for the weave poles. Have you ever met any one who successfully completed 12 poles in 12 days? I haven’t! I used the technique for 3 dogs. The dogs took between 6 months and 1 year to get the weave poles. For 2 of the dogs, I had to use additional techniques for the weave poles to make sense. The DVD includes some great techniques to have in your training toolbox. But in the fumbling-trainer, goofy dog, real world, 12 days isn’t enough time, by a few months.

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