London Borough of Waltham Forest Dog Trainer
In this picture I am working with my own dog Kaiser (the big dog) and two stooge dogs. Since between the ages of 3 and 11months old Kaiser was sadly attacked by other dogs in numerous incidents. He suffered severe physical and emotional trauma every time but with training was back to himself within days. Unfortunately when he was 11months old he suffered the biggest attack of his life which made him very nervous of other dogs, especially when he was on lead and felt 'trapped'. He would not simply take a few days to get over this traumatic attack, but years of constant behavioural support. Worse still, I had suffered a huge mental setback - I was shaken by the attack. I had witnessed and broken up many in my career but this one was by far the most scary and dangerous of them all. I too needed to build my confidence.
As a dog walker, Kaiser had come to work with me daily since the day he came to me and was very well socialised and 'balanced'. After his traumatic walking experiences he became increasingly nervous of other dogs which was simply heart breaking to watch. He used to play with the dogs at work but he had lost his 'sparkle' and no longer wanted to interact with them. His best buddies would play 'bow' and run around him but Kaiser was afraid of their sudden movements and would snarl at them - before he would have been the one initiating play first. He was so afraid he would freak out at the sight of another dog - barking and lunging in a frantic stressed state and 'attacking' any dog that came into his space, even the dogs he lived with since a puppy.
While Kaiser's injuries healed he was kept in a room on his own, away from the other dogs but with human company. Training had to start from scratch. Kaiser would stress as soon as the lead came out - crying and frantically pacing. Slowly over many months I worked with Kaiser to get him walking with me with no dogs around. He was unable to come to work with me during this time and instead would rest at home with a relative visiting him throughout the day. Slowly I started walking him with one of his old buddies - a calm large dog Monty who was easy for me to walk while concentrating on Kaiser. Kaiser started to trust and enjoy the company of this dog. We worked on Kaisers reaction to other dogs while at a distance until I could walk him past a dog on the other side of the road without him freaking out.
Eventually Kaiser came back to work. I planned his first walk back with all the dogs he knew - friendly and well behaved balanced dogs. He was tense at first but at the end of the walk jumped into the car and had a 'happy roll' in his towels! Over the next few weeks I kept him on one group walk a day and got him onto a long lead then an extending lead... then off lead. With our newly built confidence we enjoyed our walks.
Sometimes, to this day Kaiser will get upset by strange dogs - the in-your-face bossy types. He knows to come to me and walk away from the dog rather than loose control. he knows I will stop the scary dog approaching him and he would much rather do this than face them. While walking along one day we had a large golden retriever who flew up to us in the park, Kaiser wasn't comfortable with this dog. It was clear this dog didn't have a mean bone in his body but he was so excited to see Kaiser, he ran over as fast as he could barking, bowing and spinning in circles. Kaiser froze to the spot. This new dog was overwhelming and had no intention of saying hello gently. Kaiser looked at the dog then at me. Before I could say our 'emergency retreat command' Kaiser had turned around and proceeded to 'march' to a different part of the park. Kaiser wanted to avoid this barmy beast and I didn't blame him. I chucked Kaisers favourite ball on a rope to the golden retriever to distract him and the dog proceeded to chuck it in the air for himself and do laps of honour around the park and jump all over 3 other dogs for over half an hour before the exhausted owner managed to rugby tackle his dog back into his arms!
Now I always select what dogs I expose Kaiser to. Dogs that I do not know - I avoid if they look like they will upset him. He has many healthy relationships with over 30 other dogs on a regular basis and he makes new friends regularly. My motto 'if in doubt, leave them out'. Expecting all dogs to get along is as unrealistic as expecting all humans to get along. I can protect him from future bad experiences and he can have doggy friends at the same time. I'm happy with that!