Over the past couple of months I’ve been coming to terms with being the owner of a reactive dog. Vulpe’s behaviour has, in this respect, worsened lately. She’s been through a tremendous amount of change, and has always been a rather sensitive soul, so now at 1 year, 8 months and 2 weeks (ish) old, she is very much a reactive rover…. (I saw this term on line somewhere and being a huge fan of alliteration, had to include it….)
Vulpe attended positive training classes as a pup; a puppy class and an adolescent class. I started up a puppy socialisation group in my local area so she could meet lots of new people and dogs. She goes out 3 days a week for a big ol’ romp with her lovely doggy walker and whichever other dogs are out that day.
Currently Vulpe’s trainer and I are working through her reactivity while out on walks to both people and dogs. Every. Single. Walk is a training session, and boy do we get though lots of smoked cheese…..
However, without giving up on trying as hard as I can to slowly change her behaviour over time (and reduce her anxiety on walks and meeting new people) I am finally beginning to accept her as she is.
When my ex-partner and I went to collect Vulpe from a cold and windy service station after she’d been transported over from Romania, a little shivering bundle of fox cub-like terror was handed over to me, and it felt like I was being handed my first born. I love Vulpe more than anything, more or less. I have almost endless patience for her (which is saying a lot for me) and I do my best to make her life as happy as possible, but my constant worrying about what a bad job I’m doing of being her caregiver can’t be good for either of us…..not to mention the shock and horror of strangers when Vulpe barks and lunges and them and/or their dog(s)…..
What helped to crystallise all this for me recently was this lovely post on My Imperfect Dog, which seemed to put a lot of my recent thoughts into the right words.
So I think I might need to take a new direction….. Vulpe’s young, and I hope more than anything that her reactivity will lessen over time, but I must accept that it might not. She and I will be together for at least another 10-15 years I hope, and so now I need to start working with her as she is, slap on a Yellow Dog vest and work around her significant emotional baggage!
This new direction has led me to seeking out some sympathetic fellow reactive dog owners….. I was directed towards this group on Facebook, and I hope to find many more resources. When the only people you encounter are those who’ve only experienced sociable and friendly dogs, you can feel very inadequate and judged.
I’m hoping that coming to terms with the dog that I have rather than the dog I feel I should have will help me to relax and concentrate on making life as stress-free as possible for both Vulpe and me.
Do any of you have reactive dogs? Do you have any hints or tips on keeping sane, or any virtual support groups you would recommend?