Inhale Courage, Exhale Fear

I don’t know about you but when I go to a new location with my dogs, I’m always a little bit (or a lot) more on edge. I noticed how I’d be too careful over the last few months of where it was I walked or went, and as useful as this is for the beginning of barking dog training, these areas become reinforcing for us as handlers, because we feel more secure knowing we can escape or avoid potential problems.

I speak a lot about prevention in barking dog training, and it’s the most missed step in the training, but exposure is a key part in the process too and just as important. Before we know it, we’ve been avoiding the next stage of training our dogs amongst distractions for way too long.

I’m holding my hands up here, I’ve been 110% guilty of this and even more so since I’ve moved house and have the security of the grounds to work and train in. But I’m changing this.

I often hear how people struggle to find somewhere to walk with their barking dogs. They’re worried about being bombarded by off lead dogs, or get in a pickle when they have no other place to turn and HAVE to pass the distraction in close proximity to get to where they’re going

And these issues often prevent them from trying new locations, getting out there more and progressing their dogs behaviour.

We’re that worried about ruining all of the previous work we’ve been doing, that we don’t want to mess up the training and take steps back to where our dogs were kicking off barking again. We don’t want to be back in a situation to where we once were.

But here’s the thing…

We can’t stay stuck in the prevention and avoidance stage forever and at some point we’re going to encounter these distractions.

Last weekend I was training a group of four in my Elite service on the field in Buxton. Here we get other dogs, experience kids playing, screaming and running around, perhaps playing basketball in the courts or kicking footballs around near to us. We’re at the mercy of off lead dogs with no quick escape and yep you guessed it, we encounter all the same disturbances and intrusions like everyone else does.

There is no fool proof way to avoid every situation or intrusion, and when poor Ole got bombarded by not one but two off lead dogs, Lisa his owner, was left going round in circles trying to get away from it.

As the owner got hold of their dogs and went on their way (with no apology tut) I looked down at Ole to check how he was. He was understandably confused at the encounter and I feared it may have been too much for him, but it wasn’t and he very quickly recovered almost immediately checking back in with Lisa and was happy to play his games.

A few months ago Ole wouldn’t have recovered. He would have been a stressed out, reactive mess, continuing to lunge and bark at whatever else he encountered. But because of the bank Lisa has been building of what to do when he sees distractions, meant this kicked back in and he finished the session back in his happy, safe place and they even walked all the way back home with no further issues!

These incidents will happen, and you may even get a barking episode when you start exposing your dog to more distractions, and providing these aren’t happening on a daily basis or you encounter something that really rocks the boat, such as a fight or injury, there should be no to little repercussions on their calm behaviour. And if there is, you’ll have missed a few crucial steps in the process.

When it comes to getting out there more, there’s only one thing that holds back the progress of the barking dog around distractions

And it’s all upstairs in your mind.

Before I leave this blog, I too have been leading the way for my team and making sure I am practicing more of what I preach and teach by battling my own anxieties and concerns on exposure progress.

Every Friday my friend and I are heading out on brand new locations and adventures.

This week I took Lilly to Mam Tor and we spent four hours walking (ahem struggling) on the hills. Sure it’s only the first one, but we’re back out again this Friday and I’m taking Hunter.

I’ll share more about what went on next week for you but for now if you’re stuck in the ‘I’ll stick to where I know’ mode then you need to exhale that fear and inhale more courage and get yourself out there.

If you need help with that, then this is what me and my Elite team do every, single week and I’ll soon be opening up the doors to my 12 week (socially distanced) training program, so you can work with the action takers, and exposure your dog to sessions in the safety of our group.

To find out more about this, then simply email: claire@highpeakdogservices.co.uk for your application form.

I will stress that I don’t take on new people at any time, and this program is only open four times a year.

It’s 12 weeks with me and my team, where I teach you what you need to do to firstly manage your dogs barking, then I walk you through the steps, before bringing you in to the safety and security of the group training sessions, and then expose you and your dog to more distractions, so you are equipped and fully prepared to deal with whatever that outside world throws at you.

Are you ready to start your new adventure with us?
Chat soon,

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