Tuesday, September 11, 2012

There may be no such thing as a stupid question...

... but there certainly is such a thing as a stupid idea, or at least one that is misinformed. 

We have been working recently on bringing our girl for random appointments where she comes in, gets treats and love from staff, and settles on her mat.  We always try to keep our visits short and light, and we always try to end on a positive note.  I cannot tell you the world of difference this has made to Abby.  She gets excited to enter the vet and see the friends she has made. 

On our last visit, we pulled in and shortly after two cars pulled in.  In one vehicle appeared an owner and her mixed breed dog.  In another vehicle was someone who advertised themselves as an animal behaviorist and described that they helped to modify and correct some canine behavior.  It was at this point that I noticed that the self-described "behaviorist" got out to greet the other woman and her dog.  I could not see what was going on from the other side of the caravan, but I did notice what sounded like multiple dogs barking from the business van the behaviorist drove.  As the women were talking, I heard the behaviorist tell her dogs to "settle" quite often, and I heard her dogs completely ignore her.  I allowed them a few minutes to get inside our veterinarian's office before I took Abby out of the car. 

We do a great deal of mat work with Abby, and this truly has been one of the keys to her success.  Abby has a safe place that she can go to and settle, and she knows that the only expectation for her when she is there is that she relax.  Certainly getting her to understand that was its own challenge, but now it is her default.  So when we came inside, I put her mat down near a half wall in the waiting area and gave her the cue to go to her mat.  Abby laid down very easily and put her chin down while we waited for them to finish at the scale.  When they were done, I brought Abby over to the scale so she could practice getting on it and then we returned to our mat.  This is when the dog who was on the other side of the wall put his paws on the half wall to peer over.  Abby took interest and popped up off her mat and tried to look around the wall.  I cued Abby back to her mat, and as she was returning the "behaviorist" said to me, "Do you think they can say hi so they both can settle?"

What?  "Do you think they can say hi so they both can settle?" 

Allow me to rephrase this in the way I heard it.  "Can my anxious dog get in the face of your reactive dog and hope that chaos doesn't ensue and they get it out of their system?" 

I do not believe in the idea that a reactive dog can go face-to-face with another dog and find anything calm in the interaction.  Many non-reactive dogs would likely feel some level of excitement after such an interaction.  For a reactive dog, they learn that they worked themselves up about this big scary thing, and thankfully this time nothing happened.  And while I am not a fan of clearly reactive dogs greeting other dogs, more importantly I am thoroughly against introducing dogs in stressful situations.  Abby is a smart girl.  As much as we have a new place, and a new MO, she knows what she's there for.  We're working on counter conditioning this experience for her.  And so while your dog is clearly amped up for this appointment, and my dog is clearly amped to be in the door, this is the time that you as a self-described professional think is a good opportunity to greet? 

My answer as as polite as I could make it.  "No, she will settle on her own because we have worked on that.  Face-to-face greetings will cause a reaction from her." 

While I can respect that she at least asked instead of allowing her dog to barrel around the wall, I was absolutely astounded by the "solution" this person came up with.  It was a day that made me truly grateful that everything aligned the way it needed to be so that Abby could find us, and we could find the trainer that we have.  She was meant to find us, and we were meant to be her voice. 

And at the end of all of this, Abby just continued to be a rock star.  She came to work, got good love from her favorite receptionist, and left on a high note.  I could not have asked for more. 

No comments:

Post a Comment