I should start this post by saying I am not a dog trainer. I’m a dog owner who feels that good manners are important in the dog world. I don’t have everything figured out, but I’ve learned what works for MY dog. Everyone has different opinions on dog training, this is just a story about MY experiences.
I have a fearful, leash reactive, little dog. I’m ashamed by the behaviours that I have fostered in him. He’s not a rescue, he’s been my bundle of joy from the beginning of his life, but I made some serious errors in his training from a young age. The biggest mistakes I made were coddling him when he was scared and reinforcing “tough guy” behaviour.
I’m so thankful that I learned early in his life that it’s never too late to correct negative actions, but now we have to work twice as hard. I’m happy to say that he’s come a long way. Lately, while at the park I get comments like “he’s the most well behaved little dog I’ve ever met” or ” he’s so nice for a little dog”. We’re not quite up to “big dog standards” yet, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll get there.
Today, Bane had an “aha moment”, I saw a lightbulb turn on in his sweet little face.
At our local off-leash park Bane and I do some practice during quiet times (morning-early afternoon). Bane does this thing when he meets other dogs where he’ll lay on his stomach and wait until the dog gets closer, then at the last second he’ll bolt towards them. This is very poor manners in the dog world and, rightfully so, scares other dogs. We’ve been working on correcting this, but today I didn’t catch him in time. I wasn’t being observant enough and didn’t see the other dog coming. Bane started to run up to the dog and I was so disappointed in myself. All of a sudden Bane stops dead, turns around, and sits to face me waiting for his treats. Needless to say I was a very proud dog-mom and Bane got a handful of treats.
I was proud of him today, but also in myself. I could easily toss my hands in the air, say “little dogs will be little dogs” and give up. I won’t because I made a commitment when I was handed that snuggly, little puppy to give him the best life possible, which includes repairing the damage I’ve done. As a little dog owner I try to remind myself that at the end of the day, regardless his size, he’s still a dog and it’s so important for his well-being to have good manners. I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to sit politely when meeting another dog without a handful of treats waiting in the wings, but we’re working on it.