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And then, all of a sudden, she was One! The 5 things I wish I’d known a year ago!

Discussion in 'Labrador Puppies' started by LoopyLuna, Apr 14, 2019.

  1. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

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    I thought I’d write this post because I’ve found the last year to be completely life changing, all because a tiny little black bundle of gorgeous, boundless energy joined our family, and it was nothing at all like we expected. Sorry it’s very long…please don’t feel obliged to read it, but I’ve found writing this quite cathartic, if a little self indulgent and I thought I’d post it incase it helps any other novice puppy parent that’s struggling through their first year and waiting for the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

    Luna was a whirlwind of catastrophe right from the start. Broken paw at 9 weeks, hospitalised with Giardiasis at 12 weeks, ear infection at 14 weeks, campylobacter at 20 weeks, another parasite that I can’t pronounce at 6 months. Never have an animal’s bowel movements been observed with such anticipation and trepidation as Luna’s were. No one has known the definition of “this sucks” until they’ve been outside at 2am, with a head torch, using up 8 poo bags while trying to scrape up 4 deposits of liquid excrement from the long grass.

    …and so began our first ever experience of owning a puppy…..and I’ll freely admit that I did NOT cope admirably. Before this year I would have considered myself to be a very patient and resilient individual, able to be in control of most situations. Alas, the combination of a really busy job, a family, a bitey, broken puppy and her invisible parasite friends, meant that everything started to crumble. For the first 6 months I felt trapped by her and resented her presence in my life, but at the same time I just couldn’t stop worrying about her day and night. I lost my appetite completely, stopped sleeping and lost 2 stone in weight. It sounds ridiculous now, but it was very real at the time. For all my attempts to nurture a well trained, well balanced, healthy and happy family pet, things just refused to work out and I hated that I couldn’t control it.

    And then, all of a sudden, she’s turned 1 and it’s dawned on me that I’ve spent more of the last 10 months focusing on what she couldn’t do rather than on what she could do, and frustrated by her rather than laughing at her enthusiastic character, thinking about what I’d lost rather than what I’d gained. I’m not going to beat myself up about that - it’s felt tough and we’ve persevered in the best way we could, but if the last year has been about just “getting through it”, then this next year needs to be about “enjoying it”. So, I’ve written down 5 things to keep reminding myself, and I thought they might be helpful for anyone who’s currently feeling as overwhelmed as I did (and still do, albeit less often).

    Your dog is unique. We’ve all been there - you’re next to someone in class who owns “wonder dog” who happens to be the same breed and age as yours. Their pup is behaving impeccably while yours is writhing around on their back in the grass, chewing the lead like a thing possessed and smearing bird poo across their face in the process. You’ve not failed, you’re not unlucky, they’re just different dogs with different personalities and different approaches. “Work with the dog you’ve got in front of you” is the best advice I’ve heard. Enjoy what you have, don’t long for what you’d planned. Learn how to communicate with YOUR dog, in a way that works for them.

    Remember that their agenda is not your agenda. You want to get from A to B on a walk, or get her in from the garden because you’re late to do the school run, or maybe you want her to sleep because you’re exhausted, or lie down because you want to watch TV after a rubbish day. She wants to sniff the cat poo right outside your house because it’s honestly the BEST thing she’s smelled all day, she doesn’t want to come in because she’s just found the best stick EVER and it’s very important that she chews it, she’s ready to play and be with her people at 2.30am so where is everyone? Luna and I are just muddling through - both with totally different agendas, and I guess these first few years are about us getting to a point of understanding, and learning to talk each other’s language.

    Out of a million opinions, have your own. I’ve been given this advice recently. There is so much information out there, and even if you sift out the really terrible advice there’s still so much conflict of good opinions. You can get caught up worrying about what you should do, but ultimately you can’t follow every single piece of advice or you’ll go round in circles. Read some good books (In Defence of Dogs, Control Unleashed, Total Recall), follow some good trainers on YouTube (Kikopup, Chirag Patel, Zak George), go to classes, learn about canine body language and observe your own dog. Watch what makes them tick and become your own trainer. If someone disagrees with you, hear their opinion but ultimate do what you KNOW to be right for your dog. I’m not confident enough to do this consistently, but I’ll get there.

    It’s okay if you’re not enjoying every minute, but just do it anyway. For us, having a puppy was not the blissful, relaxing dream that’s portrayed on TV. In my case it’s been about relinquishing control, accepting failure and stepping outside of my comfort zone every day. Especially when they fall ill and you have to just let things take their course. For you it might be challenging in a totally different way. Or maybe you’re loving it and you’re reading this post wondering what all the fuss is about. Either way, just accept the journey that you’re on for what it is and don’t beat yourself up if you’re finding it hard. You’ve got enough to get on with…

    ….but don’t miss the chance for some fun. I’ve spent the last 10 months wanting to get everything “right” and trying to avoid her learning “bad habits”. And while there’s definitely a place for that, I neglected to let her just live and explore so we’re working on changing all of that now. Treat all training like it’s a game, make it fun, and if it’s not fun for her then stop and just chuck a frisbee about if that’s what she wants, or let her eat grass. Relax the rules a bit - it might just turn out okay.

    So after that very long essay, which I hope some of you (a) finished and (b) found helpful…….it just leaves me to say Happy Birthday gorgeous girl. Thank you for the chaos that you’ve created, and thank you for the lessons you’ve taught me in your own inimitable, ridiculous, hilarious, hairy and smelly way. I promise to be more fun from now on….
     
    HennaMayo, jbg, Diablo and 15 others like this.
  2. Ruth Buckley

    Ruth Buckley Registered Users

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    Great list!
    I found things got loads better when I stopped worrying about what other people were thinking and what I was doing wrong all the time. We relaxed, found our happy place (by the river where he could just potter and do no harm) and just hung out. I relaxed a lot at home, stopped closing the door on his crate and found he learnt to settle himself if I left the room.
    I could have saved myself a lot of money if I'd discovered vet bed sooner. Also most toys are a waste of money - his favourite thing is the leg of a pair of jeans knotted in the middle. A couple of kongs and a Starmark bento ball are the only toys that have lasted any length of time.
    He's nearly two now and I've had him for 18 months. He's still far from perfect and still pretty hyper. Who knows if we could have made more progress if I'd handled things differently, maybe paid for a £500 behaviourist, but he seems happy and the biting's stopped and that's good enough for me.
     
    Saffy/isla, LoopyLuna and Plum's mum like this.
  3. Chewies_mum

    Chewies_mum Registered Users

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    I see so much of me and Chewie in your experiences with Luna. I often get caught up in trying to be perfect and to have the perfect dog and forget to enjoy the moment. It's a work in progress.

    I read something somewhere about the "good enough dog" and the "good enough dog parent" and that really struck a chord. We don't have to be perfect, just good enough.

    Thankfully our problem poops only lasted month or so and are now sorted, after 2 courses of antibiotics.

    Happy birthday Luna!
     
    LoopyLuna likes this.
  4. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    @Chewies_mum and @LoopyLuna

    Aspirations are a good thing to have in dog training. Many things take a fair bit of training, and without an objective it just won't happen.

    Perfection? You're are right. Enjoy your dog. I have witnessed many handlers fail in the ring. Some can't accept it.

    I spoke to an owner at the last trial. And she good naturedly accepted that more work needed to be done. She laughed about it and looked forward to the challenge. Seemed to me that that was the right attitude. In retrospect, the journey is often more fun than the destination.
     
    Anthony Abrao likes this.
  5. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

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    Yes, you're absolutely right @Michael A Brooks - that was the 6th thing for my list. Have a long term goal, but when it comes to the progress you make in getting there - be fluid with your expectations. I totally agree with @Chewies_mum that perfectionism is where you start to beat yourself up and that's no fun.
     
  6. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    @LoopyLuna It turns out that we are enrolled in the same class. I am a bronze member. And have no rights to post. I have looked at some of your videos--I looked initially for Labs and recognised you from Jo's clicker retrieve.

    I am really impressed. Your dog is doing really well. And I appreciate your journal entries. Lots of deep thinking, self-awareness and humour.

    I think you don't realise how well you are doing. Maybe another item for her birthday party.
     
  7. LAS

    LAS Registered Users

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    This was so good to read.... and I did finish reading it and I did find it helpful. Thanks!
     
    LoopyLuna likes this.
  8. Saffy/isla

    Saffy/isla Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Hi and happy birthday Luna!

    Thank you so much for your post, I had just arrived home from a disastrous training class, very rejected and felt I'd failed at owning and training Isla. It was so bad I can't tell you!

    I read your post about Luna and I could have written it for us. But it also made me look at myself and revaluate what's important for Isla and us, so thanks for sharing, I needed that!
     
    LoopyLuna and Chewies_mum like this.
  9. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

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    Oh no - what happened? Hope it's not made you too sad. Luna's being a right pickle at the moment - it's like she read my post and thought - "it sounds like you need some new challenges to work through Mum!" I'm sure it's because we've taken her for loads of off lead runs with a chuckitt for the past few days and have also started letting her on the sofa in the evenings so she's over tired and also thinks Christmas has come early because she's allowed in with us. Cue hyperactive, humpy, jumpy labrador.

    Oh great, I'm so pleased it was helpful :)

    It's a small labrador world! I tend to ask a million questions on Jo's courses, so my kitchen and I are probably quite recognisable if you've been doing her clicker retrieve course :) How are you enjoying the Fenzi course? It's definitely given me lots to reflect on, but I'm struggling a bit to take some of the exercises on the road - I only really get her full attention in the kitchen - everywhere else is just too exciting :) Thanks for your kind words though - we're very proud of her (most of the time :))
     
  10. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    No, questions are good, as I will explain below. I had read Fenzi and Jones's Focus and Engage! before enrolling in the course. I was interested to see how the principles would be applied in practice. So for me the time spent reading the Gold students' questions and the instructors' answers has been the most informative aspect of the course so far. It's also interesting to observe that the emphasis in the class differs slightly from what I have managed to pick up from reading the book. For example, acclimation as an exercise has greater salience in the course.
    From what I could observe in your video taken in the garden Luna and you are doing really well--I could not see her losing engagement until the end of the video. Onwards and upwards to proofing!
     
    LoopyLuna and BacktoBlack like this.
  11. sarah@forumHQ

    sarah@forumHQ Moderator

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    Quite honestly, I could do with sticking your five things on the fridge door and remembering them about my daughter! Lovely post :)
     
  12. BacktoBlack

    BacktoBlack Registered Users

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    Its so easy to lose patience at this point (5 months) so this was helpful to read. Thank you
     
  13. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

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    Haha - very good point....but maybe cross out the bits about cat poo and twig chewing :)

    NEVER have I needed as much patience as I have in the past year. Keep at it - 5 months is a tough age.
     
  14. Saffy/isla

    Saffy/isla Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Hi loopy luna,not sure I'm doing this right not being very tech savvy! Isla has turned into a naughty puppy once again. All her early unwanted behaviours have returned and it's exhausting. She's digging,scraping at all the rugs,barking at everything. I can't let her off the lead as she won't come back and she is a nuisance to all the other poor dogs at training and at the park.

    I know she is adolescent but I'm really struggling with her at the moment and finding I'm feeling despondent. Hope next week's class is better.
     
  15. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

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    Hi @Saffy/isla - if you just want to reference a little bit of the post, then highlight it and you'll notice a little "reply" icon appears just beneath it. If you click on that then it copies just that little bit into your post. But either way, I still got your message :)

    Poor you - it's rubbish when a training class goes badly, especially when they're barking and making a scene. It feels like you've taken huge steps back, when that's absolutely not the case. What do you think it is that she's responding to? Is it really noisy and intense in there or is she wanting to play and not being allowed to?

    Remember the terrible class that I posted about last month? I'm guessing it was like that? Driving home in tears kind of territory? If it helps, I've tried changing something each time we've been to that class to suit Luna better and I do think it's gradually working. The second time we went we put her behind a screen so she wasn't so distracted by the other dogs, the third time I took her home 40 minutes early :), the fourth time I switched to a 121 format, and this time I spent at least 10 minutes with her on lead at the 121, just sniffing around the environment first, and we just did 5 minute bursts rather than trying to keep her engaged for 45 minutes. The last lesson was much better - I think she's just the kind of dog that wants to know exactly where she is before she relaxes, and she can't do that just yet when there's loads of other people and dogs around. Is there anything you think you could change that might suit lovely Isla?
     
  16. Saffy/isla

    Saffy/isla Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Thank you so much for your understanding and support.

    I'm not sure what's happening, Isla just barks continually throughout class. When we did it indoors, they removed Isla for a few minutes every time and she soon learnt it was unacceptable. But now, as it's warmer, they take the class outside and don't have the option to remove her.

    Also my husband and I aren't allowed together whilst training, so one of us watches which upsets Isla as she likes us all to be together. I was going to stay at home, which would be a shame but our trainer says she needs to get used to this and not to pander to her. This coupled with frustration and excitement of the other dogs, plus adolescence seems to be a recipe for disaster!

    We're not sure what to do about training and also Isla's behaviour has taken 10 steps back, we're back to chewing, barking, stealing, digging and non existent recall!

    So as you can see things seem very tough at the moment and we are struggling. Good job we love her so much
     

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