Realistic Expectations

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Tomorrow (Wednesday) marks Ben’s third week with us.  On the whole, he’s been making good progress in most areas – even his eating has finally started to slow down. But he is still on a leash at all times because, after three weeks of consistent use of standard techniques (e.g. redirection, etc.), he is still trying to attack Violet. Last night, my daughter called, and during our conversation, she suggested that we bring Violet to her until I find Ben his true forever home.

This is a very difficult position for us to be in. But, just now, in a matter of only 15 minutes, Ben tried twice to attack her. This, after three weeks of hard work to help him adjust to her, to realize and accept that she is a member of our pack, and to be respectful of her. We are going to do what’s best for Violet, and right now, being with my daughter is what’s best for her. She knows and loves my daughter and granddaughters, and she will have companionship from their two cats, which she needs. Most importantly, she will be safe.

Getting Ben off the leash when he’s inside will make a big difference for him, too. Training sessions will be much easier, and Ben will start to make better progress with his basics because he’ll be able to focus. He’s made a lot of progress already where food rewards are involved – he’s actually quite patient and respectful when treats are being given. With Violet safe at my daughter’s home, he’ll be able to go forward quite rapidly. He’s a very smart dog and he does want to please his people.

At this point, it must be stated that we knew Ben had issues with cats when we agreed to foster him. However, we had hoped that over time, and with patient, consistent teaching and re-programming, Ben would learn to relax and become calm around Violet. Clearly, this particular aspect is not changing. So, we take the next step, which is to get Violet to a safe place, and we continue working with Ben to get him as close to ready for a forever home as I can get him.

Rehabilitating an animal sometimes requires making tough choices to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone in the family, including other animals. It doesn’t mean we’ve given up on that animal; not at all. Rather, it means we are being realistic in our expectations about what that animal can and can’t give. In Ben’s case, removing Violet to a safe place means we’re accepting that, although he has really tried to change his behavior, he just cannot live with cats or any other small animals. Even if we could get him to a point where he would no longer attack Violet in our presence, he could never be trusted to be left unattended for even a minute. Sometimes, that’s just how it is for a dog. It doesn’t mean he’s failed, it doesn’t mean we’ve failed. It just is what it is, and that’s all.

Ben has come a very long way in the three weeks he’s been with us. In virtually every other area, he has made great progress. Three weeks ago, he couldn’t be around people he didn’t know without trying to lunge at them. Today, not only does he do really well with people, but he actually offers affection to them. He only gets reactive, now, if they move too quickly and startle him. That is a huge step forward for him.

Once Violet is safe at my daughter’s home, Ben will start moving forward fairly quickly. By the time I find him his true forever home, he’ll be much closer to being a calm, relaxed companion.

Have a great day, everyone, and remember to stay calm and lead on…

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