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From reactive to social - behaviour training

Socialisation Training – Part 1 – The Intro

Today was the fist day of what I’m hoping will be a life changing adventure for us and our dogs, Shiva and Shakti our two rescues.

As rescues go, both from harsh backgrounds which took a lot of patience to help them settle in a stable home environment.

After three years with us, they have settled so well that they formed a little pack and now, don’t let any other dogs close to them – which as any reactive dog-parent knows, is quite stressful. You can’t walk your dogs without being worried, you can’t take them to the beach, or on hikes. It was one of the reasons we started Holidawgs. To help other dog-parents find places where they, and their furkids could have a stress-free holiday. (Besides giving back to animal charities!)

Why do I think this time will be different?

We have seen two behaviour consultants previously and I have been very weary of trying this again. The last two times were not fruitful.

To be honest I actually put the idea of ever being able to have social /non-reactive dogs to bed. Until I happened to stumble on a review that could’ve been written by me. It was by a lady that thanked a behaviour consultant for the great work she did with her own two reactive rescues, who are now, wait for it, social!

I had to reach out to meet her.

The issues

Shiva & Shakti both have their own issues, but between them some are exacerbated by each other.

We have everything from “fence patrol” (and watching TV as we call it), to leash aggression and just not being able to put them in an environment where there are other dogs anywhere within visible range or all havoc breaks loose.

With us travelling so much, and being very outdoorsy, it would be great if we could be secure in the knowledge that if we’re out and about, should a dog happen to come up to us that is not on a leash, we and our dogs could be in a position where we are all confident and that we don’t have to be afraid of the outcome.

The consult

Lucy, from JustDogs Behavioural Services in Tableview, came through to my home to meet with Shiva, Shakti and myself. It was immediately clear she was different to those I have seen before. She was calm, patient and took the time to really listen and understand: the history, the present situation and what I’d like to achieve from the process.

She spent over an hour with us – and what I really liked (besides from her advice) was that she was not clock-watching. (Checking her watch to see when the consult was over.) She really seemed invested in genuinely being able to help.

She gave 4 tips that I could implement for some of the “around the house issues” and continue doing by myself at home. These tips built on some of the past training I’ve given the dogs – but with more purpose and also a logical explanation for why I should do it, and what the benefit would be for the dogs. There were also two new additions, which I think the dogs will really love!

The great consult didn’t stop there, (and here it also completely veers away from anything any of the previous consults gave), she suggested as a secondary part to the consult, we see their (Shiva & Shakti) behavioural challenges in person by putting them in a fully controlled, min stress environment to see their responses to other dogs. Sounds logical right? But neither of the previous two consults ever suggested this?

In addition to this, she also walked me through what would be the course of action post this assessment – of course being completely dependent on how the dogs react to the next part of the assessment. But what I like is that there is a plan! And it will be something that we would be able to maintain and definitely not a once-off fix.

I fully understand that behavioural changes take time, and am not expecting a quick fix – but I am so excited about the potential of what could come from this!

The Behaviour Consultation Series

I’m going to document our progress and training on our blog for anyone else that may be in a similar situation, or just curious to see how things turn out.

Read what happened in Part 2 of Socialisation Training – the Test!

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