Tuesday, February 4, 2014

One Rescuer Teaches Us All A Lesson In Dealing With "Problem Dogs" - A Must Read!

Ever since I can remember, Murphy has suffered from anxiety. Unfortunately, over the last little while it has escalated into major fear aggression...not good. His NOT a bad dog but a very scared dog! 
Without a doubt, working with a scared dog can be overwhelming. Murphy had an accident on December 10th which required surgery on his back leg and 28 stitches. 25 days of NO exercise - he was bored and extremely frustrated. We were slowly getting back into a routine and Murphy had 2 major meltdowns. My heart was broken...I felt all the work I had put into him over 6 years was gone and he no longer trusted me (horrible feeling).

I started contacting very well known trainers and rescues that deal with dogs like this on a daily basis. Somebody has to be able to help me with him. Right?! A few trainers I spoke with wanted to use an aggressive approach with him. How the hell is being aggressive towards him going to fix the problem?! Wrong. I also had reached out to one of the rescue's that dealt with Murphy in the past and their response, upset me to the point I lost sleep over it. They basically told me that Murphy was a liability at 6.5 yrs old and managing him would not be easy, or even possible., that I should consider euthanasia and find him peace. But, they were very sorry to hear that he struggles with life.

Are you freaking kidding me???? Put my dog down because he suffers from anxiety and has fear issues. He's not Cujo!! If that's the case many people should be put down daily (me included)! I was livid and gave up on trying to find some help. I put on my boots, grabbed the leash and Murphy and I went on a long walk.

Expecting a one year old to walk and speak in complete sentences isn't realistic. Expecting a scared dog to behave like a stable dog isn't realistic or fair. I made a promise to my boy on that walk, that I would NOT give up on him! I have never gave up on anything on my life, I am a fighter and this was just another fight to battle through.

I figured who was the best to help MY dog, ME! I know what he likes and dislikes and most of all I know what he fears. It's back to the basic's with him, day 1 all over again. It is a lot of work to help Murphy cope in the world, starting with the tedious but necessary relaxation that teaches dogs how good calm can feel. Living with a fearful dog is often a heartbreaking, frustrating, and a slow exercise of daily life with progress measured in the smallest possible increments.

I sometimes wonder if I'd ever deliberately adopt a truly fearful dog again. Truth? I didn't know what I was getting myself into with Murphy.

Murphy has taught me so much and for this I am thankful...

Fearful dogs teach you compassion - a chance to recognize suffering and to do something to help.
Fearful dogs draw your attention to detail - it takes focus to find and understand what exactly your dog fears.
Fearful dogs demonstrate the real meaning of trust - they don't just give it away for free. You must earn it every day through your actions, your words and yes, sometimes, your cheese. Not just some days. Every day.
Fearful dogs teach perspective on ugly behaviors between people - This gives you the chance to practice the dog training cue 'Leave it' in your own life.

I had a long talk with our new vet, we did tests and ruled out anything medical. We both decided that Murphy should go on a low dose of Clomicalm. I never wanted him to be on meds BUT there's nothing wrong with it, especially if it will help him.

Murphy has come SO far over the last few years and I sure as hell wasn't throwing all that hard work down the drain. I am happy to report... it's been 34 'calm' days so far. I love that Murphy is FINALLY having faith in himself and his abilities to communicate. I love this dog...so deeply and so absolutely.
Avril Kelly

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