IS YOUR REACTIVE DOG STRESSING YOU OUT?

IS YOUR REACTIVE DOG STRESSING YOU OUT?

Is your reactive dog stressing you out?


Is your reactive dog stressing you out? Do they feel like they’re too much to handle? Is your own mental health taking a hit as you try to hold everything together and keep everyone safe?

You may even be considering rehoming your dog but feel bad about it.

If your dog’s behaviour feels like an insurmountable problem, this story is for you.

Gabby’s faced it all and then some with her two dogs, and in a two-part podcast with me, she shared her journey. If you’re in the thick of struggles right now and worry that things will never get any better – hearing Gabby’s story is going to help you, I’m certain of it.

Listen to the podcast HERE

 

This is a story about an incredibly dedicated dog mum, who shares her life with two dogs.

One dog, Jasper, an incredibly laid back, relaxed and a happy go lucky Labradoodle. The second dog, Rogue, a Romanian rescue dog who joined the family and needed a lot of support to feel safe.

Gabby reveals how incredibly difficult life with her fearful dog in a multi-dog household got… 

When Rogue bit Jasper, Gabby was in an almighty panic. She hit google looking for help, terrified that she was going to have to rehome her dog….

Spoiler alert: She didn’t.

Gabby, and her partner Dean, have gone from being on the very edge of despair and panic that they’d failed their dogs… to coming out the other side as a united (and peaceful) family unit.

They had an enormous list of struggles to overcome.  But with time, understanding, and a supportive network, Gabby, Dean and their dogs have stacked up lots of little wins and now live an increasingly happy life together.

 

The difficult dog problems

Rogue landed in her family as a rescue puppy from overseas. Despite a long and difficult journey to her new home, she settled in fairly quickly.

Gabby followed the 3-3-3 rescue dog rule to give her time to decompress and settle, she did everything right. But when Rogue hit adolescence (and her first season), everything changed.

By the time Gabby found me, her list of behaviour problems and struggles was enormous. All the typical training strategies felt too big to implement. Rogue’s conflicting list of struggles needed a holistic approach to overcome.

Rogue was:

  • Dog reactive
  • Startled by sudden movement, noises, or appearance of dogs or people
  • Lead reactive
  • Unable to poop on walks
  • Barking frantically in the car
  • Struggling in any confined spaces
  • Scared of the vets
  • Guarding resources and unpredictable
  • Struggling with visitors
  • Unhappy away from their other dog but unpredictable when left alone with him.

Understanding adolescence and dog behaviour

As you listen to Gabby tell her story, you’ll see that she developed an innate and deep understanding of Rogue. She started to be able to spot what was causing the behaviour so she could intuitively help Rogue to recover and feel safe.

Early on, Gabby realised that Rogue entering adolescence was making it hard to get on top of her struggles. Rogue had experienced a traumatic journey into her new life and little incidents were stacking up.

She was attacked by another dog. She was terrified of the outside world. And her hormones were playing a big part in her fear and ability to learn and change her emotional responses.

“Looking back now I don’t know how I managed it as well as I did, apart from I had no choice but to. I loved Rogue so much that there was no other option.”

Gabby undertook a lot of research and she came to the realisation that a dog of Rogue’s size wouldn’t come out the other side of adolescence until 2-3 years old. She knew that management and realistic expectations had to be a part of her plan if they were going to make it through the journey ahead of them.

 

The 3 biggest struggles Gabby and Rogue faced

  1. Toileting

From the start, Rogue was a very sensitive dog and would struggle to go to the toilet if she didn’t feel safe. Any movement – even a leaf blowing in the wind would put her on edge, leading to her holding her poop for up to 2-3 days at times.

She would only toilet in her own garden – she was too alert, too scared, and too hypervigilant to relax enough to poop anywhere else.

Then one day, a neighbour was in the garden next door. He leaned against the fence and Rogue panicked and barked. The neighbour’s reaction was to shout and scream – Rogue was terrified.

From this point on, she didn’t even feel safe enough to poop in her own garden. The only safe place she had – no longer felt safe.

Walking Rogue was so hard because of her fears. So Gabby started driving to quiet places so Rogue could go to the toilet. She’d be up at 4am in the morning, driving to a secluded grassy area where Rogue could relax enough to toilet.

Gabby describes the heart wrenching situation as incredibly stressful. She recalls begging Rogue to toilet – desperate that Rogue would feel safe enough to empty her bowels.

  1. Barking in the car

Rogue would absolutely lose her mind in the car, she found car travel a nightmare. She had to be restrained for safety – but being restrained was also a big trigger for Rogue. When she felt confined, she felt unsafe.

Gabby used a harness and seatbelt anchor to keep Rogue safe during car travel – she couldn’t use a crate because of Rogue’s past experience in one travelling to the UK. Rogue was transported with another dog in the same crate – and she was bitten multiple times on that journey.

Aside from being restrained in the car, Rogue really struggled with seeing dogs and people outside the window. On roads where nobody was around, she could lie down and relax, but the second you turned the corner onto a busy road – a barking nightmare would ensue.

Typically to overcome car struggles like these, we’d use a covered crate for a dog – but that wouldn’t work for Rogue. We might stop car travel whilst we worked on increasing Rogue’s confidence and reducing her stress levels around triggers – but she needed the car to get to a safe place to toilet.

Both Rogue and Gabby were stuck in a catch 22. 

Gabby introduced metallic window covers which blocked visibility out of the back windows and travelled with someone else whenever possible – so she could work on using the DMT technique she learned in my membership to change how Rogue felt about car travel…..

But the progress was slow because Rogue was really struggling to feel safe anywhere.

  1. Helping Rogue feel safe 

With Rogue’s sensitive nature, there was a huge amount of work to be done to help her feel safe and increase her confidence. When your dog is worried and triggered by so much, it can feel impossible to get on top of things.

Necessary vet visits became a huge struggle, but through Gabby’s work on observing and learning about Rogue, she discovered something ground breaking……

She discovered she was the expert when it came to Rogue! 

And so, Gabby began advocating confidently for Rogue’s needs. She gave the vets very clear and certain instructions to ensure Rogue could get the healthcare she needed in a way that felt safe for her.

She persuaded family members to come on board with her strategies, management techniques, and her training – and slowly she started noticing lots of little wins stacking up.

Gabby credits being part of the Pup Talk The Pack membership as being a huge contributing factor to giving her the confidence to speak up for Rogue.

Being surrounded by others who supported, understood and didn’t judge her was massive.

Being part of a community who were rooting for her, celebrating her wins and who believed in her went a really long way for Gabby and Rogue. 

And as Gabby started seeing the positive shifts…  she drew her family’s attention to the small but positive changes and they too started believing that change was possible for Rogue.

And those changes began to snowball…..

 

Stopping dog walks changed everything

One day, Rogue was attacked by another dog. She had puncture wounds so Gabby took her straight to the vets… and the vet said she mustn’t walk Rogue for two weeks.

Toileting was still a problem for Rogue at this stage, so Gabby decided they’d do only their very quick car trips and grassy verge toilet walks.

But the next day, an off-lead dog rushed up to Rogue again. 

After a couple of days of everyone being hyper alert, stressed and on edge, Gabby decided to take Rogue to her mum’s house so she could have a break.

From that point on, neither Rogue nor Jasper were walked for nine months. They drove to secure fields for safe, off-lead exercise but outside of that they weren’t walked at all.

Ditching the dog walk made everyone feel better

Gabby credits ditching the dog walks with helping Rogue to finally reset completely and to transform her sense of security and safety.

Rogue’s ability to recover and bounce back from stressful events has increased monumentally.

But it did more than that.

Gabby was beyond terrified of walking her dogs. She was stuck in a vicious cycle of feeling like she had to walk them, but being unable to control her own emotions and anxiety which was, understandably, spiralling.

Gabby recalls feeling as though she was teaching Rogue the world was scary. Rogue is a very sensitive and emotionally in-tune dog, and their relationship meant that Gabby was immensely worried not only about what might happen on a walk, but that she was making things worse.

 

What they did instead

Rogue, Jasper and Gabby now go out on walks together again. But for nine months, they had plenty to keep them busy – away from external stressors that were making things so much harder for them all.

As a member of Pup Talk The Pack, Gabby has a wealth of confidence building games, calming techniques and exercises to tap into on demand. Plus, a supportive community network on hand 24/7 and weekly Q&As to get targeted help whenever she needs it.

Gabby and Rogue’s favourite go to games:

  • Front paws
  • Noise box
  • Middle
  • Spin (Rogue)
  • Leg weaves (Jasper)
  • Bottle knock down
  • FUNder
  • Aeroplane feeding
  • Mouse
  • Touch
  • High five
  • Find it

Membership is open now: If you’d like to get instant access to hoards of confidence boosting games, activities and a safe community who get you – sign up now for just £30 a month. 

 

How are things now for Gabby and Rogue?

Rogue is 3 now. She can now confidently toilet in the garden. She travels well in the car.

She can drive past most people without overreacting. She’ll bark if she sees a dog but it’s over in seconds and she recovers quickly. She plays in the garden. She can ignore other dogs in the garden now with encouragement and support.

She is much, much calmer and happier.

Once or twice a week she goes for an off lead adventure in a secure dog field. Once a week she has a sniffy walk on a quiet local golf course.

And she and Jasper happily spend time away from each other, so they both get what they need.

Gabby says “She is a beautifully sensitive, loving dog. She is so emotionally in-tune, she is so caring and loving. I don’t expect perfection from her. She is who she is. We continue to work on things together, but most things she now gets pretty quickly.”

For such a long time, Gabby says she felt like she was treading water, her own anxiety felt astronomical at times and it felt like they were just existing.

Then suddenly, things started to come together.

The wins started to stack up out of nowhere. And they just kept stacking.

Yes, Rogue and her mum said goodbye to constant trigger stacking and now spend their time stacking up their wins together.

Start stacking up your own wins

If you’d like support to help you make progress with your dog and overcome the struggles standing in your way, I’d love to welcome you into the Pup Talk The Pack. It’s a monthly membership packed with awesome people like Gabby and their fabulous dogs like Rogue.

My promise is that you’ll feel completely supported, accepted as you are, and able to start making positive strides towards the life you and your dog deserve together.

Learn more about Pup Talk The Pack here.

 

Other Resources

STOP! Walking Your Dog – the bestselling book

How to help your dog bounce back from being scared – the free ebook

My YouTube channel @stopwalkingyourdog

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