Stress, Surprise, and Gratitude

It’s been a challenging week. Not just for Ben, but for our entire household. Violet’s unexpected return home has put us into a state of constant alertness. Ben is starting to revert to earlier unwanted behaviors because of the enforced isolation. We are doing our best to alleviate his pent-up energy at every opportunity, but the poor dog is so stressed that when he’s brought out of the room he’s been in and he sees Violet, he immediately goes into a red-zone state. His prey drive is immediately triggered and he is deaf, dumb, and blind to everything except killing her. If I don’t handle the situation correctly, I risk being bitten.

So yes, things are very stressful – for all of us.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been working to help Ben learn to become calmer around Violet. I put the kennel in the dining room, and then I put Violet in the kennel for her protection and safety.  Then, using food treats as an incentive to stay focused on me, I work Ben around the kennel, teaching him that only calm, relaxed behavior will be rewarded. The goal of this exercise is to build peace between him and Violet so they can be in the same room together. Of course, one or the other of them will still have to be kenneled for protection and safety, but if I can get Ben to a point where he stops trying to kill Violet, I won’t have to keep isolating him.  Isolating a dog from its pack is not healthy.

My home is quite small – not quite 1000 square feet. We don’t have a lot of space in which to work the animals properly, especially when it’s too cold or wet to work outside.  Yesterday, the owner of Dogcity DayCare and Dogwash Inc. contacted me; they’ve been following Ben’s story from the start, and they want to help me… by donating the use of their facility to me so that I can work Ben properly in a more spacious environment, regardless of the weather, arrange meetings with potential adopters, and more. To say I am profoundly grateful to them is an understatement.

Ben’s journey has been quite the adventure – not just for him, but for us, as well. He has taught us so much, and in spite of his issues, he is constantly trying to make the right choices and earn our affection and praise. He loves to work; he loves to learn; he really loves games that challenge his brain and work his inherent tenacity. He still has a problem understanding that when humans invite him to play – with or without toys – aggression is not the correct response. He associates play with being tormented, and helping him overcome that has been a real challenge. But, he’s starting to learn. We can play for several minutes at a time, now, without triggering a negative reaction. The second he starts to become aggressive, the play is stopped and he is given time to calm down. Once he’s calm again, play resumes.  Slowly but surely, he is starting to learn what play really is.

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

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