Wow. 19 weeks – almost 5 months. It’s hard to believe Ben has been with us that long already…
With the warmer weather we’ve been enjoying lately, Ben has been able to get more walks, more often. Some have been training walks, others have been pleasure walks, and some have been a combination. Regardless of the reason for them, Ben has enjoyed himself immensely, and he’s been much happier as a result.
This past weekend, Ben spent a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday with his potential adopters. It’s important for the three of them to bond with each other, and in my experience, the best way to facilitate that is to go on a walk. Walking a dog involves more than just holding a leash; you also need to be aware of your own energy, how you’re holding the leash, the dog’s body language, and so much more. With a dog like Ben – curious, excited, hyper-aware in new environments – learning the walk is doubly important, especially when there are lots of other people out with their dogs.
Stacy and Joel did a pretty great job overall of keeping Ben under control. While Stacy had the leash, there were a couple of incidents where Ben saw other dogs and he started to get reactive. To her credit, Stacy remained calm and took control of the situation, and in both incidents, Ben’s behavior was curbed before it could escalate. There were no incidents of reactivity when Joel had the leash. And, I am very happy to report that Ben had no issues at all with people passing by on their bicycles and skateboards – both of which are common reactivity triggers for many dogs.
When we returned to the daycare facility, we worked on everything from teaching Ben how to follow on a loose leash, to practicing the mat exercise. Food rewards were used for the mat and recall exercises, because Ben would not come to Joel when he was called – and when he did, he would not allow Joel to touch him. This wasn’t surprising to me; Ben is still very wary of men and gaining his trust doesn’t happen easily or quickly. Using food rewards to motivate Ben to come when he was called was the right action to take, because, by the end of the session on Sunday, Ben surprised all three of us by going to Joel of his own free will and offering him affection. It was such a beautiful moment that I had trouble holding back tears.
Ben and his potential adopters are making great progress together. Although he’s small for his breed, physically, Ben is a very powerful dog. He is also very stubborn and very strong-willed. Stacy and Joel aren’t used to handling a dog like Ben, and it’s important to their success as pack leaders that they learn how to be strong and consistent with him so that Ben will trust and willingly follow them. So, until they are ready to take him home, I am working with them on the weekends to help them become the strong, calm, assertive leaders Ben needs. In the meantime, I will be continuing to take advantage of the nice weather we’ve been enjoying so far, and getting Ben outside for training as much as I can.
Have a great day, everyone, and remember to stay calm and lead on…