My Dog Molly: The Paradox

A girl's discovery about her dog and herself.

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friends and favours

I haven’t written much at all in the last few months; nothing in fact. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been working on Molly’s behaviour, it just means it’s been slow and, thankfully, uneventful.

Back in November we met with a new trainer who got to observe Molly’s actions. It wasn’t an easy afternoon and I’ll be honest and say there were a few tears on my part. But there was hope and guidance. Unfortunately, I live an hour and a half from this trainer and with winter it meant regular training sessions with her would be limited. She is available via email though and that, in itself, is helpful.

For many reasons some of the trainer’s recommendations weren’t working for us…it’s tough to schedule friends to come over to expose Molly safely to new people around Christmas time, and I’m afraid to admit I was nervous inviting just anyone over. It was a combination of fear of what she’d do and my issue of being judged as a ‘bad owner’. I’ve read too many newspaper articles about dogs attacking people and the comments about how it’s the ‘bad owners’. I know I shouldn’t let others opinions impact me but sometimes they do and that’s an unfortunate reality. But, in order for Molly to learn proper manners, and me to learn to be more assertive, I had to get over that fear.

So for the last few months we’ve focused on the leash. I stopped running so we could do the proper training; ensuring Molly stays by my side and not ahead of me. She hasn’t pulled for well over a year now but she is challenged by the idea of walking beside or behind me. Our walks take longer and can get frustrating (every time she gets ahead of me I quietly change directions…this can lead to a lot of back and forth given her stubbornness) but she’s gotten so much better.

Then, this weekend, was the big test. Two of my very dear friends were coming out for a visit. Part of me was tempted to put Molly in the kennel as I knew she’d be a challenge but I couldn’t do that, I knew I shouldn’t do that. So I emailed our trainer and asked her advice–she gave me lots of tips on how to handle the whole situation, and how to help my friends handle Molly…and that’s the thing, Molly has to learn to work for others, not just me.

It began as I expected, Molly barking, growling, and lunging at both of them. They were careful not to make eye contact with her or try to pet her. They listened to all my instructions and ignored her completely. It was awkward at first but Molly quickly calmed down. When she would quietly approach them and sniff then walk away they would respond with “good girl.” Soon, she was comfortable with them both. In fact, she would approach one of them often and lay her head on her lap for a pet–my friend would then ask for Molly’s paw, or ask her to sit before petting

Molly had a more challenging time with my other friend but that will come. I had this friend make Molly work a bit more for any rewards. I cut up some carrots and she would ask Molly to sit and then throw them away so she’d have to come back and ask for more. This seemed to go well and Molly calmed towards her but still wouldn’t let any petting happen. That’s okay though. It will come. We just need to keep working.

OES, dog behavior, aggressive, fear aggression

Molly getting a scratch from my friend, J. We were all pretty happy.



hope and expectations

Today was a reminder that sometimes things don’t go as well as you’d hoped. Sadly, things went as I expected. Perhaps I set myself (and Molly) up for failure just by ‘expecting’ but that doesn’t mean I stopped hoping.

I asked a couple of friends if they would mind swinging by the house one night next week to take Molly for a little walk as I have to zip out of town for a few hours after work. They immediately agreed as they had puppy-sat for me last year and love her. Now, because I’d made some changes to the tools with which I walk Molly (using a Halti now instead of the chain collar) and there have been a few shifts in her behaviour, I asked them to drop by so I could run through a few things. They did and she didn’t like it.

At first she was wiggles and happiness but then her demeanor shifted and she growled and snapped. I asked them to give her a command (make her work for everything) and she listened but when they would try to pet her again…growl and snap. This happened a couple of times. My friends were very understanding but did appear saddened by her behavior…and I couldn’t help but feel responsible.

What am I doing? What have I done wrong? She listens to me. She follows me beautifully. I just can’t get her to feel the same with people she knows…let alone people she’s never met. Am I missing something? I wish I knew what was going on in her pretty little head. I feel like I’m letting her down but I don’t know what to do.

My friends are still going to come by next week to take her for a walk. There’s a part of me that wonders if I’m a contributing factor and she might be fine when I’m not here. But I’m nervous and I feel horrible.

To calm us both down we went for a walk and she was lovely but..and here we go again…am I the right person for Miss Molly?


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all wiggles and happiness

Autumn is here and that makes me happy. It is, perhaps, my favourite time of year. I get to pull out sweaters, and scarves, and mitts, and hats. There’s a wonderful crispness to the air which always makes my step a little lighter and faster. And I think my happiness with the change of seasons is reflecting on Molly. She’s been doing well, really well.

When I first got Molly she was all wiggles and happiness when she met my friend Warren. He’s the type of guy who will get down on the ground and wrestle with a dog…all obedience training goes out the window with him and she loved it. Then about three months ago she and I were out for a walk when we came upon Warren but instead of her normal joy she growled and snapped. He and I were both confused and taken-a-back. It made me sad to be honest. So when Warren was coming around to the house today to help me with some yard work I was a little nervous–how would she react? Would she snap? Would she growl?

To be safe, I had a plan. When W arrived I would ask Molly to go to her room (kennel) and lock her in. He knew I was working on her behaviour and would understand. In the end, the plan worked. She was a little pouty when he left I let her out of her room but she got over it. What I didn’t realize was that W forgot something and came back to the house . And when he came to the door, M bounded right over and cuddled into him. Even when W bent down to wrestle a little with her she just wiggled and smiled…tail wagging like mad. He then grabbed the Chuck-It and they played fetch in the backyard for 15 minutes. No growls. No snapping. I couldn’t have been happier and neither could she.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still some struggles and bumps. But I’m seeing progress. Inch-by-inch there’s progress.

Yes, I really do love autumn and I think someone else does too.


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the girl is alright

Eek. It’s been a few weeks. If it helps matters I thought about what my blog entry would be every day for the last week. 🙂

Anyway, as you can tell by the title of this entry “the girl is alright.” Molly is doing pretty well. I’m actually a little in awe about the change in her in just a few months versus what we’ve been challenged with the last two years. More progress has been made since July than I could have ever imagined. While I’m sure some of it is age and maturity for my Molly-girl but there are some behavioural shifts.

There’s a path I always liked to take Molly on out in the badlands where I could let her romp through the tall grass and over the hills. But there was always a part of me that was afraid to take her out there. Other people take their dogs there occasionally and it is a known hangout for coyotes and deer–but only at certain times of day. And given that Molly would often ignore my calls for her return I was hesitant to take her there too often. This afternoon, however, I thought I’d give it a try.

For the first half of the trail I kept her on leash and things were pretty good. We did come across a puppy and Molly only did a little prance until the puppy started barking at her…then she barked back. But that’s a step forward. Once we reached a more isolated part of the trail (and when I knew for certain no one was around) I let her off leash and held my breath.

What was fabulous about the next 40 minutes was that Molly stayed within 20 feet of me at all times; she came the moment I called, and even sat on command when ahead of me on the trail. She was almost like a different dog. The last time I took her on this trail she was running so far ahead she would ignore my calls, lop over hills and disappear out of site. It made me nervous. Tonight, however, was a break through. Of course there were no other four legged distractions to tempt fate but that’s okay…it was nice to have some success.

So here’s my girl after her romp through the badlands…a little muddy but so happy…


This evening we sit back and watch some tele by the fire.

Happy day indeed.


10 things I love about you

Having a reactive dog can be a lot of work. It can be exhausting, frustrating, and heart breaking.

Knowing that exercise is critical for these dogs I walk Molly at least an hour and a half a day (often more) along with lots of play and training time. But while most people find walking their dogs relaxing I always have to remain aware of everything around me…aware but not ‘on guard’ as I don’t want her to feel that energy. And while most times she’s okay there is the occasional moment where all the training flies out the window and she’s regresses completely. It’s at those times I feel overwhelmed, scared, and…I hate this one…like I can’t do it anymore.

There have been a few moments where I’ve considered re-homing Molly, thinking there must be someone else better for her. But then she does something; something small and simple but it makes me love her even more. And while she’s been great lately I figured I need to keep those little things she does top of mind so I don’t feel like giving up again.

So here are 10 things I love about my girl Molly:

10. When she wants me to do something she will stand in front of me and stare with furrowed brow and ‘humph’…not bark, not whine, but ‘humph’.
9. How she nearly bounces out of her fur the moment I pick up the “chuck-it” and head toward the backyard.

8. Every time I give her a piece of cheese she performs every trick I taught her in such quick succession that she exhausts herself…and I haven’t even asked her to do anything yet.

7. Whenever we play soccer she always has to have a deflated ball in her mouth.

6. The way she latches on to my arm like a sloth holding a branch when I’m scratching her belly.

5. The sheer exuberance she shows when rolling around on a freshly mowed lawn.

4. When I come home and she’s laying on the floor with her bum and tail wiggling like mad.

3. The fact that she tolerates me ‘decorating’ her for special holidays.

2. How she loves to cuddle first thing in the morning or when she’s sleepy.

1. Her shiny black noes and loving eyes.