Tuesday, April 9, 2013


When you have a reactive dog, life is full of difficult emotions.

There is sorrow over mistakes that we think we made. There is embarrassment stemming from yet another barking outburst. There is jealousy that our dogs cannot do the things our friends’ dogs can. There is anger that this is happening to us. There is fear that we are not doing enough.

In this way, we are wasting what little precious time we have with our dogs.

Life is not about doing. It’s about being.

Whether that is hanging out at home, hiking in the woods, or competing in a trial is immaterial. The place does not matter. The activity does not matter.

Being together is what counts.

It’s not worrying about the past. It’s not about figuring out what went wrong. It’s not about assigning blame. It’s not about “should have” or “could have” or “if only I had.”

We cannot change what has come before.

It’s not about planning for a different future. It’s not about wishing for something we do not have. It’s not about “someday” or “when this is over.”

Tomorrow may not come.

Life is about now. When we decide that the present is unacceptable, that it should be avoided, we lose the only thing we ever truly have- this one moment.

Be present.

Take in the sight of your dog’s sweet face. Feel his fur beneath your hand. Experience the joy that comes from chasing a ball. Listen to the symphony of your footsteps mingling with the jingling of your dog’s tags. Lose yourself in the smell of rain… or dirt… or fresh-mown grass.

Bask in the small moments.

Life is not perfect. Dissatisfaction is always possible. You will never have everything you want… but you have so much. See that. Feel that. Live that.



Jen said...

Beautiful....thank you for the reminder!

Rebecca Cosloy said...

Thank you for this eloquent reminder of what really matters!

24 Paws of Love said...

Very well said and so very true. I'm finding more and more it isn't what we do or where we are, but that my dog is with me and this is our time together.

Anonymous said...

Ahh. After three bad incidents in as many days, this post was a God-send.

And I feel you - I do. But I have to ask your advice. We have taken multiple dog classes. Reactive dog classes. Counter conditioned. Clicker trained. And nothing has helped.

I'm thinking of taking private lessons with another trainer just out of town. Do I pour more money in this and try to keep trying? Or do I just except what is and assume nothing is going to change?

I will love him regardless. He is my best friend and the light of my life - regardless. But I need some direction. I don't know if putting him through more training is a good, or a bad.


Anonymous said...

*accept, not except. Jane

Crystal Thompson said...

Hi Jane,

Without knowing you and your dog, it is very difficult to provide you with direction. There are many reasons that sound techniques (such as counter-conditioning) do not yield the progress you want. This can range from anything from an error in how you're doing it to the dog having an underlying clinical/medical problem.

The way I see it, you have a number of options:

1. You can accept that this is who your dog is. You find ways to make him happy within that. Certainly, not everyone is social and outgoing. While I love my friends, I would not want to go out to a nightclub with them. This is just part of who I am. If his life is happy at home and you can provide for his needs (exercise, mental stimulation, etc.) safely, this is a perfectly acceptable course of action. If he's incredibly stressed even at home, you may wish to continue pursuing change.

2. You can see another trainer, as you suggested. From there, you can either keep trying to help your dog improve/grow, or you can ask that trainer for advice on how to give your dog the best life possible (as suggested in 1.). Sometimes we just need permission to let our dogs be homebodies. Totally get that. :)

3. You can see a vet behaviorist or other professional and consult about the possibility of medication. Medication is not right for every dog, but I will say it's the best thing I ever did for Maisy.

As for the money... yup. This can be expensive. I know that there is a limit for everyone. Only you can decide if you have the money to keep hiring professionals.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Crystal, you will never know how much it means to me that you took the time to respond. Thank you. This journey can be fraught with worry and it was so nice to get some support. I'm so grateful!

I loved the analogy with your friends, and I see what you mean. I do think I will accept what is, but perhaps also pursue training one more time, due to the fact that I would love for him to have some stress-relief tactics/skills to employ when an off-leash dog does run up and get in his face - this is our biggest issue in our area. And people don't heed or respect my warnings to keep their dogs away, but that is another story all together.

I'm lucky that he is calm at home and when dogs aren't around, though to be honest I have considered medication. The thing is, the vet behaviourist we were referred to is $700 for a 2 hour meeting. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY. But I'm also a grad student, so financially I have my limits.

Thank you again :) Jane

SissySees said...

I just found your blog today; it might be earth-shattering for me and our beloved JRT. Thank you!!