Friday, May 25, 2012

There's a reason I train my dog

People are often surprised to hear that we still work regularly on training with Abby.  While I typically refer to the weekly class we take Abby to as puppy school, we regularly work with her on a wide variety of concepts aimed to shape various behaviors with her.  Most people will typically joke that at this rate Abby should have a PhD. 
But there's a reason I train my dog:  I don't want to be that person

You know the person I'm talking about.  The person that in any situation shows complete disregard for either their dog, those around them, or both.  They are the person who often utters such phrases as "Don't worry, they're friendly," or "They're a good dog but they don't listen," or they simply don't say anything at all while their dog is the poster child for continued education.  I'll give you an example. 

Today I needed to bring Abby to the vet.  A few months ago she had a problem with an interdigital cyst between the toes on her back paw, and sure enough one flared up between the toes on her front paw.  I am trying to take a proactive approach to Abby's vet appointments because I know that she gets nervous about them.  Let's face it - Abby has had a series of not so fun appointments that have included UTI's, anal abscesses, and a tooth extraction.  If this were me I'd need copious amounts of alcohol to face the exam room.  On top of these appointments, our girlie has often had instances where over the top dogs have been right in her face.  If vet visits are not well thought out they can be a recipe for disaster. 

Since the TACT Seminar, I have decided that I need to take a proactive approach to the vet.  With the first vet Abby would visit, we lucked out in one regard.  Because Abby went there for routine checkups, daycare, grooming and training she truly never knew what was going to happen.  I realized that I needed to take a similar approach with this vet because her generalization wasn't transferring in light of the more scary visits.  First, I need to take her to the vet for all sorts of random things.  Perhaps one day we will go there and Abby will just walk through, get a treat, and leave.  Another day we will drive into the parking lot and Abby will be treated for walking around.  Another day we may go in, get on the scale, and leave with treats.  It's important that I mix these things up.  Additionally, in the event that Abby does need to be seen I need to work with our vet to make these appointments less scary.  Sometimes our vet runs late.  Rather than subject Abby to being in a waiting area building her anxiety, I will go and check us in and she can wait in the car.  When her exam room is ready they will wave to me and call us in. 

This is what I did with Abby today and it worked out really well.  Abby was very patient with the vet while he checked her toes and expressed her anal glands.  At the end of the appointment Abby sat by the door waiting for it to open.  I asked her to wait while I opened the door and I checked to be sure no dogs would bombard us as we left and Abby waited patiently until I gave the OK.  She then was praised by the staff at the reception desk.  However, there was a slight timing issue and her invoice was not ready when we approached the desk.  I laid Abby's mat down while she waited so she could relax.  It was at this point that I heard the lobby door open.  I figured the best course of action was to move Abby from where she was and walk to the opposite side of the waiting area because inevitably this person might seek to leave via the same area we were standing in. 

I gathered Abby's mat and focused her attention on me.  It was at this point that the little dog that had come in had rounded the corner and went right up to Abby in a very forward way.  I still had Abby's attention so she didn't notice at first that the other dog was coming.  It was at this point that I literally stuck my leg in front of the incoming dog to block her.  You could tell the other dog didn't expect it because she ran into my leg trying to get to Abby.  The owner said at this point, "Oh, sorry, she's friendly."  I replied, "She's not."  With that Abby and I turned and walked to the other side of the room.  Abby had her eyes on me the whole time and she sat proudly on the scale and worked on targeting my hand.  Another stressed dog entered the waiting area and huffed and puffed while trying to pull towards Abby.  My girl sat on the scale and looked from that dog to me as if to say, "Do you see that dog?" 

This is why I train my dog. 

Abby is sometimes friendly towards other dogs, but often hates when dogs are over the top in their greetings.  She doesn't like aggressive face to face contact at first and sometimes prefers manners in approaching her.  Now Abby did not show any signs of aggression or distress in the first dog ambushing her to say hi, but that doesn't matter.  You should have eyes on your dog.  You should know where they go and what they're doing.  And you should ask me if your dog can greet mine and not be surprised or hurt when I say no.  Because I have to be honest when I tell you that if your dog wants to greet mine in a vet's office it isn't going to happen.  I have no idea if you are picking up food, seeking treatment for conjunctivitis, or are there for any myriad of reasons in which I would not want your dog to greet mine.  It's a veterinarian's office, and in most instances you are not there just to say hi. 

This is why I train my dog.  So that she can go out into the world without being a menace,  and in the face of uncomfortable situations look to me to fix them.  So that she is not that dog who rounds the corner and ambushes other dogs or people who are reactive or fearful of her.  So that I am not that person who shows no respect for others and causes panic to owners of reactive dogs.  So that I am not that person who risks my dog's safety because she misreads a cue from another dog and is bitten. 

Today was a day where I took great pride in the work we have done with her. 

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