Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lord Malcolm's Progress

Everyone tells me it will be a slow process.
After all, I spent an ENTIRE YEAR
getting him into this mess.
But I have to say,
My new attitude and behavior
is giving him loads of confidence right away.

It's been only 3 short weeks since our friend Tiffany helped me out with Malcolm and gave me some great tips on how to handle his confidence (or lack there-of) and his lunging at other dogs.  {see my post of Oct. 9th}  As most of my readers know, I had been really making hard corrections on my wee bairn because he just didn't get it with anything less.  You know that I tried harness leashes that promised to correct him gently, I went to various trainers, and did many many things to try and correct his lunging problem.  {you can look up all the past blogs for a year and see how hard I had tried}.  Nothing worked, so I called in the big guns--ie, Tiffany Talley.  

Even as young as Malcolm was in this commercial, you can see his body language when the woman and child enter the picture.
He didn't know how to react to them (they'd never met) and he was scared.

It made a huge difference right away for me just to understand why Malcolm did what he was doing.  He is totally frightened of small dogs.  My corrections reinforced his fear and he then translated that to think that all the people with the small dogs were bad and scary too!  While he doesn't lunge at strangers, he certainly hides behind my legs!  Head down, tail down, nearly crawling to make himself smaller and therefore unnoticed.  Tiffany was able to read his body language way before  these  indicators were present.  She has the training to see even the slightest body language and understand it's meaning before it escalates to the point that even a block head like me can understand.

On top of understanding dog body language, she also understands how to help dogs through the situations that make them uncomfortable.  She is a really adept and excellent trainer.  She doesn't teach dog tricks like heel, sit, stay, leave it and all the usual stuff.  --Well, she does, but she gets it by the dog wanting to do it and being comfortable enough to be able to do it when you ask.  Poor Malcolm was such a mess that he was bolting toward my Jeep, if he could see it, just to get to a safe place and away from all the terrible people wherever we happened to be.  

We took it step by step and after a couple of meetings with her, I had a good understanding of when I should wait patiently until Malcolm calmed himself down, when I should set my shoulders and just get on with the task of walking through strangers, when I should give him more space and when I should wait til he could shake it off and get himself together while I demanded that this {whatever it is} is what we're going to do.   I also came away with a better way to get him into my Jeep while he is calm and not afraid.  If he is afraid and jumps in to get out of the world, he has to get back out again.  And we do it over and over until it's a game and he's having fun.  Then, we get to go home.

I told you all ready how my new attitude helped in agility class on that very first night.  Well, I have to say, it's still working.  When he's not scared of the dogs outside the ring, he flies over the jumps and obstacles while he's inside the ring.  If he's a little nervous, I can tell by the heavy drooling and the fact that he won't take the first jump.  He just shuts down.  If I can get him calm and not worried, he flies!  

I think we are well on our way to a full recovery thanks to the brilliant help of a dog behaviorist.  Understanding the cause of a behavior problem goes a long way in trying to figure out how to help the dog get over it.  If you have to correct really hard, there might be a deeper issue.  I used to think you had to knock Malcolm up the side of the head with a brick before he would settle down.  Little did I know, it was me who needed the brick.  I think I've got it now.  Poor wee Malcolm is much more sensitive than I ever gave him credit for.  Such a braw strong beast and scared of little dogs.  Well.  Dogs are dogs.  And each has it's own personality.  I'm thankful to Tiffany for her help and I know it will be a long road, but I now KNOW we will get there.  Her methods are working and they are working at a very fast rate.  Now it's my job to be consistent.

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