Cheryl and Summer, long distance students:
Success is defined in different ways. This team exceeded their own expectations! Note: Cheryl and Summer worked with me for about 9 months, all through email and video due to this team living on the other side of the world. Having a reactive (barking) dog is hard – but especially living dozens of stories up an apartment in a busy city. Add in health problems like food restrictions and hip dysplasia and solutions are even harder. Summer is now a therapy dog, working with various age groups, most often children. Summer is very happy, relaxed, confident, and great at her work. Some times we end up with compromises, but here is a really great example of successes.
A few months ago I was devastated to find myself dealing with a dog who was fearful of everything. She was constantly looking stressed and blowing up at the most ordinary events – dropping a spoon, opening a door, family walking through the house. She would jump up barking in the middle of the night at things I couldn’t hear, shy away from strangers on walks, and bark if anyone even looked at her.
Then I found trainer Kristen VanNess: we talked about why dogs act the way they do, how we can influence their behaviour and finally we set to work coming up with a constantly evolving “training plan” to help my unhappy dog (and preserve my sanity).
I won’t lie, there is no quick fix. I worked daily with Summer on her fears, as well as on tricks and manners to mould her into the dog I imagined having. Kristen was there to listen to my gripes, help me refocus and most importantly was always ready to come up with new ideas and exercises to help us.
Today, Summer is a happy dog who enjoys walks, greets strangers and sometimes even solicits attention. She walks great on leash, has enviable kitchen and table manners and knows more than 20 adorable tricks [Cheryl and Summer took online classes including this one from Silvia Trkman].
Tonight we dined at an outdoor place with Summer laying under the table. Everyone who passed by wanted to pet her and, my girl, she just sat nicely and wagged her tail. People were telling me how well-behaved and friendly she is. I cannot imagine just months ago she would have been a growling impossibly scared mess. Look how far we’ve come…