This is Pet Appreciation Week, but today is also Jasper’s Gotcha Day. Three years ago today, we took home in a taxi this scared, scruffy, little black dog, not knowing if our Sophie would like him, not intending to adopt him at all!
You know the story. We got lucky, both in that Sophie loved Jasper at first sight and that, after much, much work, frustration, hope and heartbreak, the amazing dog that was inside of Jasper is now the dog we have most of the time.
To say Jasper was reactive was an understatement. And, before we knew what we were doing, we did everything wrong. Here was a typical walk with Jasper on the streets of NYC, probably one of the hardest places for a reactive dog:
Pretty scary, right? We were beside ourselves, most days. Then, we’d have a good day and feel hope. Or, I would talk my husband off the ledge or he, me.
Some great trainers like Maggie Wood and Justin Silver, the right equipment, like our PetSafe Gentle Leader, the right energy like Keep It Fluffy, as Silver likes to say and lots of patience, practice, time and love and, for all of you grappling with your own reactive dogs, we turned a corner, several corners, and you can, too.
There is a wealth of advice, info, training tips out there for parents of reactive dogs; many of it conflicting. It got very confusing and frustrating for us.
I think what we learned was this: know our dog and what motivates him. Use that to get him to do what we wanted. Every time he did, we’d praise him to the skies. When he misbehaved, we made that correcting them noise, kind of like an AH AH!, and redirected him. We learned to only treat behavior we wanted him to repeat, and never to use treats to get his attention or to redirect him, as what we were doing in the beginning was, essentially, treating him for going nuts shriek barking and lunging and generally being pretty threatening to everyone. The Doggie Don’t training device has been really helpful, which we’re still using when large, dark-colored dogs come down the road.
And, we learned to be conscious of our energy, which needed to be light, positive and confident, a really tough act to keep up when everything was going wrong. But, that leash is like a lightening rod and the dog knows if you’re nervous or tense or even in a bad mood. Did you ever notice if your dog looks at you a little funny, maybe a bit tentatively when you’re in a bad mood? Jas definitely does.
Here we are today, three years later, with an amazing dog. We know in our heart of hearts that 90% of people would’ve returned this guy to the shelter pretty quickly and, if he was returned a couple of times, he might have been euthanized. Those people never would’ve gotten to see what a fantastic dog Jasper is; how full of heart (he has an upside down white one on his chest), how brave, how loving, how earnest. We consider ourselves very blessed, even for all of the struggle. It made the success that much sweeter.
Is Jasper the perfect gentleman all the time? Heck, no! He’s still a terrier terror and it’s in his DNA to be a lunatic sometimes. But…his outbursts are much fewer and farther between. They are over much faster. Jasper now looks to me, automatically, when his least favorite dogs are coming down the street, as if to say, “I’m listening, mom. Tell me what to do.” And the cutest thing ever is this. We try to avoid those dogs, so Jasper can be successful. So, sometimes, we will go up a driveway to put more distance between them. Jasper marches himself up the nearest driveway when he sees a potential problem situation arising, like he’s protecting himself from having an outburst. He wants to do good.
Like I said; earnest. Gotta love the guy for that.
Jasper’s goofy, too, and this was definitely funny to watch. ♥
What do you most appreciate about your dog during Pet Appreciation Week?