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.