Adventures with Dog Training

For the past five days, most of my time and all of my mental energy has been taken over by DOG TRAINING. And let me just say, for the record, there are a lot of other things I would rather be doing. Here’s the story:

Coco

We have two dogs, Coco who is a four year old  chocolate lab that we got when she was eight weeks old as a wedding present, and Bella who is a three year yellow lab mix that we adopted from the pound two years ago. Coco was a wild puppy – she ate everything, got overly excited and was extremely hyper all the time – think along the lines of Marley from Marley and Me. We took her through training where she learned to walk on a leash and most commands (although, making her do them with other people around was a challenge). Once she hit two years old, she settled down dramatically, however, she was still, and still is a ball of energy.

Bella

Coco’s constant energy prompted us to adopt Bella. We thought if she just had a playmate it would be so much better for her. And it is! The two instantly took to each other and are pretty much inseparable. They adore each other. And the hours they spend playing together is truly a blessing. Bella turned out to be the sweetest, most calm dog – in fact she was the complete opposite of Coco. She doesn’t get hyper and crazy like Coco and she loves to sit calmly while you pet her. But she also loved to romp with Coco – so we thought it was the best of both worlds.

About a year after we got Bella we started noticing some things were off. Having never liked strange males, she started growling, cowering and peeing when my husband’s male friends would come over. She also started charging other dogs when we were out walking. It got progressively worse to the point that she was snarling, snapping and then turning around and snapping at us for holding her back. We started trying to work with her in the house and yard. She had never been trained, so we thought we would try with the knowledge that we had learned from Coco’s training. As we started training her she started becoming aggressive with us. If we put her in a command she didn’t want to do, she would growl and snap at us. To make matters worse, she started acting out when we took her with us to visit my in-laws. She began growling, barking and snapping at my husband’s uncles when they were around. She also started reacting badly to children – which is a huge no, no for us since we would eventually like children of our own. Unsure of what to do, we sought professional help.

Recently Bella spent two weeks in an
intense overnight behavior training program. We had hoped that she would come out completely trained, but we knew that we would have to work with her when she came home. As it turns out Bella now has the foundations of training. She now knows commands and what is expected of her, but she thinks that she can get away with her old behaviors at home with us. For the last five days we have had to work with her almost constantly to try to teach her that we are in charge, not her. This has been completely draining as we have now seen the worst in our sweet little dog. And it continues to be a challenge everyday. We are told that once we push through this and she knows she has to listen to us as her leaders it will be much easier, but until then this power struggle must continue. To be blunt, it sucks, but we will keep pushing through it. We have follow ups scheduled with the trainer and have already invested time and money into it, so there is no turning back. I see a lot more work ahead of us, but hopefully it will pay off.

Oddly, through all of this with Bella, Coco has grown into the best dog one could ever hope for. She follows our commands, she is incredibly calm – and trust me I never thought I would say the words Coco and calm in the same sentence – and she is gentle with kids, other people, other dogs and even our cat.

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