At first glance, our new dog Bixie is outgoing, has good nerves, is self-confident, excited by new things rather than frightened, great with dogs, and loves, loves, loves to play. But there is another side to this coin because this endearing suite of traits didn’t land her in the doggie clink.
Here’s the other side, one that counterbalances what is immediately lovable about Bixie. The main problem is that she will bite (hard) if you approach her food bowl, scraps, bones, when putting her in a crate, vetting, any kind of grooming, trying to pick her up, trying to put on a collar. And she’s lightening quick about it. There is very little warning, she goes from slightly tense to an all out explosion in a nanosecond.
We don’t know how Bixie was raised and trained, but we have a pretty good idea. Mostly all the dogs who come here have varying degrees of the same problem. And I I know from experience that these dogs were not raised the Natural Dog Training way.
People give their pup too much freedom right from the start and then they are always managing, tending, scolding, and sometimes hitting, or disciplining as some like to call it. This is the number one mistake dog owners make when raising a puppy or adopting a dog.
Right at the outset they open their house and hearth as wide as they can, and along with the dog that happily bounds inside to join them come age old primal instincts.
The results are that the dog learns he cannot trust their human. Going over to the juicy garbage, or the cookie on the coffee table becomes a lesson in terror for the pup. The well meaning owner thinks he is teaching the pup some important rules, and he is: whenever the pup gets excited about something, avoid human.
And now the bond has been damaged, and it becomes evident as the pup no longer comes when called, runs away, or in the 1 out of 10 cases, turn into what Bixie has become.
So we are now going to reprogram the hard drive. And the first thing we do is to give the dog a safe place- the crate. She’s safe in there. She’s not learning anything bad in there. She’s waiting to connect with me and I control how, so she will always have a good experience.
One cannot overdo the crate. Of course if you have a pup he’ll need to go out more often than an adult dog, and If you’re rescuing a dog he is already the luckiest dog in the world. Your dog is alive because of you. Guilt and the pernicious statement that follows “Then why even have a dog?” is the number one reason the owners of rescue dogs fail, and puppies as well. But guilt will always lead to a bad handling or training decision. So try not to feel guilty when you put your dog in his crate.
We need to shape the pup or dog to be able to live in our world, a world that is very stressful for our canine friends. There are so many things our dogs can’t do, things like don’t pull on the leash, don’t jump on the counters, don’t chase the cat….don’t…don’t…don’t…Yet most people and professional dog trainers for that matter don’t tell the dog what to do with their energy. And this is one very important part of the NDT method, teaching dogs what to with their energy and instincts. Mostly, especially when they’re pups, we let the dog learn in a way that doesn’t damage him.
So for the beginning of Bixie’s rehab is a long day of crate duty interspersed with a few brief walks because this winter it’s bitter cold and our Dixie girl isn’t ready for a winter in Vermont. In five minutes her paws are in the air and she wants to come in. In addition to these walks I conduct some short training sessions on the core exercises. She feeds from my hand doing these exercises, I don’t give her any food in a bowl. Outside she’s always on a long lead so I don’t have to coerce her into doing what I need her to do. I just walk along and manage the lead. I don’t say a word. I just move. I give her lots of rub-a-dubs and she melts to the touch.
I want to be crystal clear on an important point. The therapeutic value of exercise is vastly overrated. I’m not against exercise, exercise is good, especially nice quiet walks in the woods. But dogs don’t need exercise as the current marketplace demands. It’s not up there on the first tier of needs along with food, water, air, and the ultimate primacy, RAPPORT, aka connection. In fact if one is exercising their dog and running into charged situations, there is further damage being done and the dog isn’t being helped in connecting with the most important stabilizing influence in its life, its owner. The dog is being frustrated, irritated, overly stimulated, possibly even frightened. Therefore if you are in the first phases of rehabilitating a problem dog and don’t have time to exercise your dog outdoors, or if the weather is too severe, then all you have to do is remind yourself that you don’t have time and the weather is too severe. That’s it. Don’t try to compensate by giving the dog freedom indoors or worse, playing indoors thinking the pooch needs exercise and mental stimulation.
So we’ve had Bixie for a week now and are basically in the getting acquainted phase, keeping her out of trouble and building rapport. The video below, sent to us before we got her, shows the mountain we’re getting ready to climb. Sorry for the blurry beginning.