Once upon a time i got a lovely dog called Marley. I had not a clue about dogs at the time. In fact i was incredibly misinformed about them and the way the behaved.
I mentioned in my first post about Marleys many issues. He is people and dog reactive. What seems like a lifetime ago i began my journey into positive training thanks to him.
When i first started training i couldn’t have predicted how much patience i would need for a dog with various issues. Reading online people made it sound so simple. He just needs to have positive associations with what scares him, just make sure he is always below threshold.
Keeping a dog under threshold essentially means keeping them at their “safe distance”. The distance from which they can cope with their trigger without them reacting.
So i started on building positive associations with whatever we saw. At this point it was everything in the outside world. I saw results very quickly but never big results, it was very slow progress and he regularly took steps back. 6 months on he was still the same dog, just a lot more focused on me. This was incredibly frustrating, i was spending a lot of time with him and i wasn’t getting anywhere.
Iv’e shed more than a few tears over Marley. His slow progress and general anxieties mean he takes a lot longer than the average dog to make new positive associations. Many times i have seen other dogs attending the same walks make so much progress in a shorter space of time and i’ve gone home tearful and upset.
So small mini victories like today make everything worth while.
Today when walking with a few friends Marley casually walked past 3 men! 18 months ago he would have lunged at them from across the road. His progress has been so gradual and subtle it only really dawned on me today how well my Marley has been doing. That maybe i need to start thinking back to when he used to lunge on his hind legs at anything that moved, even in the distance. He has come a long way and he is a very different dog now.
Marley has a lot of problems, i will continue to work hard with him but i’m very aware he likely won’t be a 100% normal dog. I have had it in my head one day he’ll be able to cope with everything life throws at him, enough training will change him into some sort of super dog!
He’ll never be “normal” he’ll likely always bark at carrier bags floating about in the wind if they catch his eyes! But he has changed my life, and 100% for the better!
He is hard work, he always will be. Me and Marley make mistakes, its inevitable. But after 18 months here we are, celebrating what to most would be the minor, or non existent achievement of walking past 3 men (separately on one walk.)
So when you look at your dog and worry they aren’t making enough progress, just think how well they are doing. Don’t focus on the negatives. All dogs progress at different rates.
Appreciate your mini victories of every day life with them