I haven’t given a pup-date in a while, so I thought I would do so and give you a little insight into my life with our pup. Zeus, our German Shepherd, is now one year and a few months old. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned his reactivity – if I haven’t, it’s partly because of the shame/embarrassment (or whatever you want to call it) that I’ve felt around it. I’ve come to realize, through a lot of reading and studying on the issue, that owners of reactive dogs tend to feel this way. Let’s face it, it is embarrassing (to say the least) when your dog is lunging, barking and looking incredibly menacing as another dog walks by, or sometimes just a person.
You think about the judgements that people might be making about you and your dog, like “why would you have such a dog?” ” can’t you contol your own dog” “what a monster”. It can be very self-deflating and make me want to hide away. But that is no good for me, and especially bad for Zues. It’s made me a braver person because I have to go into situations that might be scary and cause Zeus to react. But, my goal is that Zues’s fun sweet nature is what people come to see in him, rather than his fire, so we’ve been working really hard and often.
We work at parks, in the neighborhood, outside of busy grocery stores, schools, downtown, etc. His explosions are getting less and less, though they do happen, and sometimes it still gets me down. But I keep up the work anyway. After all of my experience with his outbursts, I now find it easier to see them as behavior that needs some work, rather than the behavior defining who he is forever. I’ve also gotten better and just focusing on him rather than the people around me – it’s me and him in a sort of training bubble moving along with people passing by outside.
This morning was beautiful here so we went to Old Town Eureka to walk the boardwalk and sidewalks. Our town is very pretty and my appreciation grows the more time I spend downtown. There are beautiful old buildings and lots of activity as business owners and fishermen bustle to get things ready for the day. It was sunny and cool with no wind, so the glassy water was reflecting the boats docked at Woodly Island Marina, across from the boardwalk.
As we walked, I had Zeus working on his heeling, sitting, recalls, leave-it (when he wants to chase birds, sniff things, looks too long at something), look (where he turns to look into my eyes regardless of what’s around or walking by), place (where I point to someplace like a picnic table or ledge and he gets on it and stays until he’s released).
The photo above is him practicing “place” on the bow end of a boat sculpture on the boardwalk, and across the water is the Woodly Island Marina. Then he practiced “place” on the wall of a high cement planter on the boardwalk. I’m just so darn proud of him for how hard he tries and for his successes. It took him a couple days to get “place” down, but now he just gets on whatever I tell him to. That’s not to say he’d be calm and stay there if a dog walked by, but that a the goal we are working toward. Zeus deserves good belly rub and extra cookie for his solid work this morning 🙂
Have a great day,