by Anne-Marie Mayes
This is a follow up to the Reactive Dog Case Study from last month's newsletter. If you missed it, catch up here.
I wanted to explain why I made certain choices in Kooter’s training. I enlisted the help of Duke, Kooter’s owner as I wanted to also incorporate his point of view and thoughts on the training so that people realize when addressing a behavioural issue that it is not only about training the dog but also the owner. The owner and trainer work together to help the dog.
Here is Duke’s perspective on what lead him to call me for help:
“Our ‘Little Princess’, as Anne Marie calls him, Kooter, came to live with us during the start of the pandemic. So he never got to socialize with other dogs, except for the dogs in our family. This may have contributed to being anti-social and reactive towards other dogs, cats, squirrels and birds, but not with his immediate family.”
This scenario occurred a lot during COVID as it was a good time for most people to get a pet since they were home but the issues of socializing in different environments was limited.
Duke and I met every week and walked and trained with crows, my own dogs and then venturing to more populated areas (almost a year long journey). The process of moving forward is a combination of learning and practicing in baby steps.
Duke reflects “I, too was also getting trained on what to be on the lookout for; behaviour, how to handle, to turn Kooter, which side of me should he be on, what routes to take plan A, or if needed plan B, what would be a good distance to keep Kooter away from other dogs while out walking, and most important having lots of treats readily available.”
My respect for Duke grew as I knew that he was committed for the long haul. I have worked with thousands of dogs and the willingness to put in the time for training is the main factor in having success.
During our journey Duke and I tried some alternative therapies that I mentioned in the last article. He recounts the process:
“First she suggested trying a [pheromone] spray on a kerchief around his neck to help calm Kooter, then we tried a diffuser in the house that emits a [pheromone] vapour throughout the house that calm dogs down, it did help somewhat. She then suggested trying Calming Care, a powder that you sprinkle on top of your dog’s food. With Calming Care kicking in and with the continued training, we noticed a big difference in Kooter’s demeanour.”
Duke and I also discussed harnesses and leashes and we found the right fit for Kooter. We also used frosted window stickers so Kooter and his house mates wouldn’t bark and react to the birds moving all day. I am happy to report that this spring, Kooter has not been reactive to birds. The window film helped to relieve frustration as Kooter was not able to fixate on them all day.
Duke sums it up by saying:
“With training Kooter has learnt to look at a dog and turn away when called, glance at a dog while walking across from it, or following at a distance and able to ignore birds for the most part. Anne Marie has a special way with dogs/puppies, any animal really, that she is able to bring the best out of them. It has been a long road to get to this point, where Kooter can tolerate other dogs, but it has been well worth the time & effort. True to Anne Marie’s word we think Kooter is ready to go camping this summer, as the training continues.”