I saw Eric the trainer today with Rufus. It occurred in the afternoon of an already stressful dog day.
The day began when Rufus began his wake up ritual, and when I didn’t get up immediately he peed on the bedroom carpet. I let him out, cleaned up, fed him and Sophie, and put him in his crate for an hour. I may or may not have issued a “Goddamnit” somewhere in there.
Then later I took both dogs out for a walk with our double walk gizmo. Good start, but then we saw another dog and mine literally pulled me over. The other guy walking his dog was very kind and said he’d just go another way. Goddamnit. The kindness of strangers is always welcome but I can’t rely on that or I become the biggest jerk in the neighborhood.
So by the time I got to Eric at the Lone Tree Vet clinic, I was exhausted and on the verge of tears. And of course Rufus was in fine form, barking at everything. I told Eric the Rufus story: he’s a year now, I found him abandoned in a nearby alley, and that this new nonstop barking behavior is a recent development. What happened to my dog?
Eric said that this was not the first time he has heard this. He could tell that Rufus was terrified. He said that Rufus was in the “terrible teen” phase, and that he may have some latent fears he’s been suppressing. And he assured me that while he needs training, Rufus will calm down in about six months.
He did a “bite test” with a fake hand (after re-entering the training room wearing a different hoody pulled up). Rufus mostly barked but did go after the fake hand a little – Eric said they were pretty small bites but of course, they were still bites. Not as bad as they could be is something, though.
Overall I have a few new strategies as to how to make Rufus, others, and myself more comfortable. One is Eric’s “Lose the ones you love” program. If someone walked by us, then I would feed Rufus treats. If he only barked once that was OK. More than that then I’d leave the room. Rufus was tied to a door handle so he couldn’t follow me. He did not like it when I left. He ended up doing pretty well, overall. And Eric pointed out that a dog that was truly scared would not be food motivated.
There is also a “Friends” program that I’m going to try starting this weekend with my friend Morriah. I need to call Eric for clarification, but ultimately it’s about Rufus being comfortable with one other person, then we add people in a few weeks. Basically I am going to be very happy seeing somebody and will give Rufus treats, and my friend will give him treats.
I also have a “flirt pole” to use with Rufus to get him worn out. I tie a toy to the end and Rufus just chases it.
I had been afraid my dog might be considered too dangerous. It sounds silly but while he’s adorable around me, he’s been acting more and more like a jerk and I don’t know why. Eric told me without any prompting that this dog is not any sort of candidate for euthanasia. This made me cry later on in the day, only because I’d realized that I’d feared this.
After about 30 biscuits or so, we were done. Rufus still barked but clearly liked Eric. He played fetch with him and started pawing at him in a playful manner. (Our other school definitely did NOT get this from him).
I wanted to hug Eric. We’re seeing him again next week. I had a completely pooped out dog when we were done. I was afraid he’d get car sick but there was none of that. The day was definitely getting better.