Monday, 2 July 2012

The Marine

So here we were, our little Portuguese Water Dog had been a member of our family for just over a year.  Cute as a button, loyal as heck to the 2 men in my family.  A real "family" pet.  He followed everyone around, he played with us in the back yard, he had his favourite toys, his favourite resting spots, his favourite games, heck, even his favourite friends.  His best friend was a Golden Doodle just 2 months older than him.  He just couldn't get enough of his favourite little missy,  and could play with her for hours on end.

Now my relationship with my little 14 month old dog was a completely different ball-game.  Although he'd let me pet him, he'd try to sit on me all the time.  Believe me, at 60 lbs, this got to be a little ugly.  When I'd gently pull him off me, he'd get agitated and try to sit on me no matter what I did.  My husband and son told me that it was a form of domination over me.  The only thing that would work was if I got up from my spot.

Back when my doggy was a 3 month old puppy, we had taken him to puppy training.  Our trainer at the time had told us that the way dogs assert their dominance over others was to take up their space.  In the canine world, if they are the "boss", they push each other out of the way.  That's why, in the wild, the pack leader usually eats 1st, followed by the other members of the pack.  The lowliest member gets to eat last.  Well, such was the case in my house.  Hubby and son would sit comfortably, but every time I'd try to occupy a space, doggy would be all over me....and that was domination just in the house.

Our walks were always horrible.  It had been over a year and I'd still come home from a walk in tears.  I had tried everything...long leash, short leash, tying him around my waist, giving him a chew toy on the walks, bringing treats along, wearing gloves (so my skin wouldn't tear from the constant chafing caused by the leash biting/pulling), I'd walk fast/slow, I'd ignore/pet the dog...never made a difference.  My dog would continue (after more than a year) to bite and pull the leash.  I think it's fitting that I mention we are on leash #11.

And so it went....I'd try to walk him much more often than the other members of the family..but to no avail.  Doggy was brutal with me.  The growling had gotten really bad too.  Lately, it was not only the biting and pulling of the leash, but it was the biting and growling at me that made it worse.  Of course they are very smart animals..for sure he would sense my apprehension as soon as the garage door would open.  But, in my very small world of master and servant, I did tense up as soon as we would leave the house.

I knew this wasn't normal.  People couldn't believe that this was happening a year later.  People couldn't believe that it was getting worse instead of better.  I finally knew what I had to do.  I had to call the Marine!!

The Marine is a local trainer here in my city.  I had heard both great and horrible things about him.  It seemed that the people who loved him, LOVED him.  Those that hated him....well you know.  There was no in-between with this guy.  I did lots of research on line about him.  I started noticing that all the bad reviews seemed to sound alike..almost if they were all written by the same person using a different alias..  Of course, I can't prove it, so I went to the people that loved him.  I thoroughly interrogated them...wanting to know what the Marine was really like.  In case after case, each person said that the Marine never trains the dog..he trains you, the owner.  Once again, dogs are really smart, so they can always pick up on your mood, etc...The Marine had helped these dog owners find themselves, had helped them open the lines of communication between dog and owner, and had helped the owner "talk" to the dog in canine terms.

I decided to give it a shot.

The Marine 1st came to my home to assess the situation.  He saw me interact with the dog.  He immediately began to correct the way I held the leash, the tone of my voice, and my stance.  He was really good with my doggy.  The Marine was not the "Marine" I had expected at all.  He spent over an hour with me.  After he left, I tried the walk on my own.  It went well for about 3 blocks (longer than ever before), and then the biting/pulling started.  I knew I wasn't going to see the Marine again for another week and a half...but...the difference between this training and the training I had had a year ago was huge.  A year ago, I had no idea what I was doing, and, no idea how the dog would react to me.  This time, I had a full year under my belt, and I knew how important it was to be "consistent", "persistent", and "insistent" when you're training a puppy/dog.

That week and a half was touch and go.  We had OK walks, and some that were nightmarish.  I went to the 2nd class (group classes from now on), then the 3rd, and the 4th.  I have to say that for about 1 week now, I've been holding the leash loosely in my left doggie walks right beside me..and he sits at every street corner.  Occasionally he'll get that crazy urge to bite the leash but it usually only lasts 2 minutes.  I still have a couple of lessons left.  I hope that my doggie will stop chasing squirrels (he tries to run out into the street), or will wait until we walk up to another doggy on our walks instead of running to the end of his leash trying to get to the other dog...all the while jumping on and off the sidewalk.

My goal is to keep doggie safe for ever..I want to keep him alive.  The dog is still the same dog he always's me that's been trained now..

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