Riggs came to live with us at six months old and hadn’t had brilliant beginnings. He’d learnt a few tricky behaviours including learning how to BARK (loudly) and was terrified to be left alone, even in another room. He was frightened in new places and suspicious of loud noises, new people and dogs. This translated to lunging and barking at other dogs and people, not just in public but at home when guests visited too. We understood he was feeling anxious but to others it just looked like we had an “out of control”, large, aggressive dog.
I felt a combination of worry for him, embarrassment and frustration for me and then subsequent guilt for feeling frustrated with him. It felt like an endless cycle and whatever we tried we remained stuck.
We tried training classes, an at home behaviourist, online courses and midnight googling but still nothing seemed to help him.
That was until…we stripped everything back and focused on his very fundamental needs. No more asking him to sit when he saw another dog (because we thought that would get him “under control”, no more “uh-uh” or “no” or “leave it” (all of which just mask the problem instead of addressing the emotions the dog is feeling).
Instead we focused on helping him to feel safe, supported and confident in all areas of life. We organised his week into activities that harnessed his natural abilities and we made every, single interaction with us about strengthening our connection together.
It’s now been many years since Riggs has shown any of the fear-based and aggressive behaviours he once did. He has zero separation anxiety and is confident enough to my demo dog in classes and workshops and a bomb-proof companion in any situaion. He’s also a massive cuddle monster, super eager to please and my very best friend.
This is possible for you and your dog too, whether you are rehabilitating your current dog, rehoming an adult dog, or bringing up a new little puppy.