It seems a long time since I last wrote my blog and I am glad to be back.
Unfortunately Christmas didn’t go as planned, as my daughters were both really poorly with a horrible sickness bug and we didn’t have our Christmas dinner until New Years day. But I suppose this gave us the chance to rest and not rush around as we normally do over the Christmas period.
Unfortunately 2014 wasn’t kind to us and it certainly had some very low moments, especially when my father-in-law passed away in July. We also now have some family problems which I really cannot talk about on my blog at the moment, but we are a strong family and we are dealing with them.
The strain of the last two or three years has started to show on the ‘thrift’ household and myself and Mr Thrift have been forced into making some painful decisions, which I will talk about when the time is right. For now, I will only say that we are in the planning stage, but however painful the changes are going to be for me, they are necessary and I know that as one door closes another one opens. I also know that it is the way we react to circumstances that determines our feelings….so whatever we decide, I will embrace it.
(PLEASE NOTE THINGS HAVE CHANGED SINCE I WROTE THIS BLOG POST AND THE METHODS I WAS USING WITH THIS BEHAVIOURIST JUST DIDN’T WORK FOR JUDY).
Today I want to talk about one of the problems we have been having……Judy, our four year old rescue dog.
Some of you will remember I wrote about Judy in October when we first brought her home. The RSPCA said she was a ‘little bit’ nervous and worried and could live with a male dog.
I grew up with a dog and looked after my sister’s dog on various occaisions over the years and I considered myself experienced around dogs…….I now know I knew nothing about dog behaviour and I have had to learn the hard way.
Judy was very thin when she came to us and the RSPCA had said she had been quite sick when she first came to them. I know now that this was due to anxiety, as she is far more than just a ‘little bit’ nervous and worried. I also know that there is no way she could ever live with another dog, but the RSPCA had no way of knowing this.
Judy is a very, very loving dog and everyone that meets her at home adores her. However we noticed after the first week at home that she started to bark madly at the television if there was a dog on it and this got worse and worse until she would bark at dogs, cartoons, and even woman with ‘big’ hair. She also barked madly at the washing machine, the hoover (even biting the attachment agressively) and then she began barking uncontrollably at every little sound she heard at home.
Training at home was good though, as very soon I had managed to get Judy to ‘sit’, ‘wait’ and even ‘roll over’, so I knew she could be trained. From day one I discovered she didn’t know how to ‘play’ (which I found very sad) and I began trying to teach her.
But outside the home by week three or four she was barking at people with hats on and a poor man with a balaclava on got barked at everyday when he passed us. She had also started to react badly to any dogs on leads when I walked her and then lunging and barking at any dogs that came near her to play on the park, until on the 6th of December she actually bit a dog and hurt it…..I was mortified. The other dog owner was lovely about it, but I was so upset I raced upto the RSPCA to ask for advice. Unfortunately they sold me a muzzle which I put on her straight away (which she hated) when I went out and they advised me to feed her treats when she reacted to dogs -but she wouldn’t take them at all.
I read whatever I could to help with Judy, but nothing seemed to work with her outside the house.
The final straw was a lady (I use this term loosely) with a pram and the most perfect dog, shouting at me on two separate occaisions, saying that my dog was out of control (even though she was on a lead and muzzled both times). I felt really upset as I knew that I was struggling with Judy, but I just couldn’t bring myself to give up on her, though I knew others would have in my situation.
I contacted the RSPCA and the Dogs trust in desperation for help and the Dogs trust gave me a couple of associations that could point me in the right direction for a good dog behavourist.
The behaviourist spent two hours with me and explained to me that it was very likely that Judy had long standing issues with other dogs but her behaviour was inhibited at the beginning by her nervousness with the trauma of going into kennels and as she has become more settled she has become more confident in showing this behaviour.
She advised me to buy a plug in diffuser in the house (which gives out a mothers natural pheromone that helps to calm puppies and dogs) and she also advised me to buy a kalm aid to add to her food. She advised me to buy a front harness and to remove the muzzle I had been using and buy a basket muzzle and get her used to it before putting it on.
So the next day I started to drive Judy to the top field of our park where less dogs go and started to train her. I first had to learn how near to dogs she could get before she reacted and try to avoid this, as basically she wouldn’t take treats when she was scared. When Judy first looked at a dog, the behaviourist had taught me to call Judy and give her a treat which I did and over the last month I have been managing to get nearer and nearer to off-lead dogs without her reacting.
Unfortunately, last week I had a bump in our car and it’s been in the garage for repairs, so this has forced me into walking Judy to the park gates again and we sometimes see dogs on leads. Also when we get to the park we now have to walk in an area where there are more dogs running around off lead.
By watching Judy’s body language when we have been walking to the park gates this week (just five minutes from my house), I have realised that Judy is also scared of motorbikes and buses as she walks along the road, so I have been giving out lots of treats whilst walking to the park gates, so she associates the walk with good things as advised by the behaviourist.
She is still sometimes reacting to dogs on leads, but I am managing to keep this under control with treats.
My ultimate aim is for Judy to walk calmly past ‘pram lady and perfect dog’ with a smug smile on my face.
Being realistic though, I know that Judy’s training will be on going and I will always need to be careful of her stress levels when she is outside. I know that my dream of chatting to other dog walkers while walking Judy will probably never happen.
I also know it’s not a good idea to have Judy with me at the allotment either as birds and squirrels stress her out too. She also suffers from separation anxiety, so I don’t like to leave her on her own for too long (I am also working on this with the behaviourist at the moment).
So as I said at the beginning of my post, with everything else going on with our family at the moment, myself and Mr Thrift have some important decisions to be make.
The one thing we do know though, is Judy is now part of our family and we love her to bits. We certainly don’t want to give up on her.
Thank you for reading my blog today.
I will be back next Friday at my usual time.