So for those of you that don't know, I have embarked on a new hard core training program with my dog Rudy. He is a nervous dog, who has continual issues with anxiety, fear driven responses, and dog reactivity. Rudy is an absolutely sweet cuddly pit bull of 3 years, who I rescued when he was 2. After a short stint at doggie daycare, Rudy starting having some dog reactivity issues, as well as acting out other behaviors. He got territorial about our home, and started charging the door when people would knock.
After several attempts at retraining him, I met with Rhonda Bilodeau at Vermont Dog Pack Camp, and she is working with us on a new training program, that I am calling "Operation Tuff Love" because it took me several days of crying to decide whether to try this program. Operation Tuff Love consists of a 30-60 day program (I hope that Rudy gets it that quickly!!), where you basically strip the dog of all of his privileges. This means that Rudy has to stay in his crate for the entire day, with the exception of three (3) 15-25 minute training sessions per day, plus two additional bathroom breaks. This idea was the most bothersome for me since my Rudy has slept in my bed, most nights right between me and Mark for the past year. In addition, I had spent the past few months weaning him from the crate, and he now had free roam of the house. The thought of confining him to a kennel for this long made me sick to my stomach. But we had to try something.
The fact of the matter is not that Rudy really isn't a happy go lucky dog. He is fearful, anxious, and scared of his own shadow. On Friday, when it was warm and breezy out, I left the patio door open. The blowing curtain scared Rudy, and he went upstairs and hid all afternoon in the bathroom. Rudy doesn't deserve to live life so nervous, and so it was time for me to stop being selfish, and do what I can to give him a new start, regardless of how much it was going to suck for me!! I want Rudy to be a strong, confident dog, who looks to me as his strong confident leader. Right now, what we have is a dysfunctional co-dependent, and bit obsessive relationship! So, we started the program yesterday.
After another sleepless night because Rudy cried all night in his kennel (I made him start sleeping there Saturday night in advance of the training actually starting), I got up at 5:30, and took him out to pee. He was so overexcited that he tried a "zoomie" - crazy running around with his head cut off. He nearly choked himself out since he was on a slip lead. He then did his business, and dragged me to the house - thinking he was going to get fed (which he usually would). But no, under Operation Tuff Love, he doesn't eat until after he has a training session. So, I put him in the kennel and fed Tigger - which made Rudy very unhappy! I showered, and then drank coffee while Rudy whined along to the morning news. I tried to block him out, but his sad face brought tears to my eyes. After coffee, I took him out to train with our new "halti" - a head halter which he absolutely hates. He spent the first 5 minutes rolling on the ground trying get it off his face. When I finally got him moving - it was more of a waiting game then a training session. Every time Rudy tries to go in another direction, or runs out in front of me, or tries to get the halti off - I have to stop and pull up on the halti until he sits down. Rudy is really stubborn, so many times I found myself just kind of standing there, waiting him out, listening to the birds, and trying to be patient (not my strong suit!!). After 15 grueling minutes, it was back to the house.
I fed him his breakfast, and ushered him right back to his crate. He was not happy, but seemed to settle in well. I went about getting ready for work, and for the most part, he was quiet.
Session 2: I went home for lunch at 12:30, and took him out to do 20 minutes of training. He started off better, but there were way more distractions than we had at 6:00 in the morning! First, there is the bark brigade - the three dogs who run along the fence that borders our condo property. They bark incessantly at anyone or any dog that is outside - and there they were, barking and running along the fence. Rudy went crazy, and tried to zoomie out of his halti - it took me several corrections to get him to settle down, but he finally did and we were able to move past the bark brigade. Then, the neighbor's kids, who love Rudy, came by to say hello. I thought, well, I will make him sit. So, I pulled up on the halti and made the kids wait until Rudy sat, and then I let them approach one at time to pet him quickly on the head. He was great for the first two kids, but by kid number three, he jumped like a maniac, and started trying to work his way out of the halti again!! I got him settled back down, and we proceeded along the path. But it was a long 20 minutes. I then took the halti off - which is my favorite part! I forgot to mention that above. I get to cuddle his big black block head and massage his face when I take the halti off as long as he stays calm and relaxed. I love every minute of it, as he snuzzles his big head into my arms. But again, the tears start flowing down my face, and I have to go back to work looking like someone punched me in the eye because I cry the whole way back to my office!!
I got home after work, and quickly took him out for a pee break since I realized he will not pee with the halti on - so he hadn't gone since 5:30 am!! He peed, and I brought him back in, and put him back in the crate while I made dinner. Then, the whining began. He whined, and whined, and whined, and whined, and cried, and whined some!! That's when the husband started getting grouchy. Let's just say the husband isn't on board with this whole training concept anyway - and he wasn't happy to listen to incessant whining through four hours of television last night!!
I made dinner, and then took Rudy out. I though let's do 25 minutes of training - maybe that will wear him out, and he will calm down in the crate.
Session 3: He was fighting me the second we got out the door!! He didn't want the halti on at all - we couldn't take 2 steps without him dashing out in front of me. Danielle came out and showed me how to correct him, and so we went on with correcting/slow walking for a few minutes. Finally, we moved off the grass and out onto the road - just because there are way too many distractions for him on the grass - i.e. sticks, leaves, rocks, rabbit turd, and oh yeah - grass itself!! We worked for 25 minutes, and then I got to take the halti off again. I tried to do it in the house, but he got crazy excited, so I had to put him in the kennel without our snuggle/massage time, which made me tear up again!! I fed him and put him back in his crate.
Rudy cried all night, and the more he whined, the more annoyed the husband got. Of course, I tried to keep myself busy so I wouldn't cry and feel bad all over again. But it was a long night, and I was really hoping that Rudy would get the hint, and stop whining, but he didn't. So, I had to cover the crate, which of course, made me feel terrible, but he is supposed to be de-stressing and calm in the crate, and he can't be calm if he is whining all night! At one point, he started attacking his blanket in the crate - which any other time would result in me opening the crate, and taking the blanket out, and Rudy knows that. But, I just lifted up the blanket, peeked in to make sure he wasn't actually chewing it up, and he wasn't so, I left him covered, and sure enough - he stopped when he realized I wasn't letting him out.
I took him out one last time to pee at 9:30, and I won't lie, I gave him a quick squeeze before I put him back in his kennel - but this time I choked back the tears! I took Nyquil and went to bed! I think I actually slept for 6 hours, and didn't hear too much whining.
I hope there is less crying and whining by both me and Rudy on Day 2!