Our days start at 4:30am. From the time he wakes up until the time he is kenneled for the night – between 8:30pm and 9pm – Ben gets countless opportunities to learn how to be part of a pack. Throughout the day, he makes and often repeats mistakes (targeting and trying to attack), but each time he’s corrected and he shows that he’s trying to change his behavior, he comes a micro-step closer towards being accepted by the pack. Violet has been trying to help by making an appearance in the same large room he’s in, and Glimmer has been helping by showing him what “calm” looks like. He does not watch her very much yet – his ability to focus is only good when he’s targeting Violet or food – but he’s slowly starting to learn that when she behaves a certain way, she gets affection. Ben is a very loving dog who wants the same thing and he’s trying very hard to relax enough to watch what she does to earn that reward.
In between those learning times, Ben is taken for walks so that he can learn how to walk nicely, how to relax, and how to trust the human walking him to have his back and keep him safe. He still pulls on the leash, and he has a tendency to weave from side to side, but he is slowly getting better … provided the leash is kept short and relaxed. He does not do well with and is not ready for a longer lead outside of the yard.
Ben’s two biggest core issues are an inability to relax, and an inability to trust. These two problems are the source of all his other issues. Because of how his life has conditioned him, trust and relaxation are extremely difficult for him to give.
But, Ben is learning. To many, it may not seem like he’s making headway, but that’s because the ways he’s showing me that are so subtle that even I sometimes miss them. So, we keep plugging away, micro-step by micro-step. This boy needs a lot of work, and a lot of his victories are going to be microscopically small until he reaches a point where he feels safe and secure enough to give more.
Today, Ben is going to the spa for the special bath that helps his skin and foot, and getting his very long toenails trimmed back. Then, it’s off to the pet store for a muzzle (that’s another story), a warm sweater for cold days, a new leash, more bison hocks for Glimmer and Ben, and more food for Glimmer. Tomorrow, I’m meeting with another trainer who has offered to help me work on Ben’s reactivity to men and to specific color. That’s going to be a rather interesting exercise…
Have a great day and a great weekend, and remember to stay calm and lead on….