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Sabre’s story parts five, six, seven and eight – Debbie’s long term dedication rehabilitating and training her reactive dog

Published on 24th April 2016

This is Sabre’s story, three blog posts looking at the commitment and dedication of owning a reactive dog. I thank Debbie for sharing her story which will hopefully give you, as an owner of a reactive dog the inspiration to continue the good work. Please read the full story starting at blog post one, parts one and two and blog post two, parts three and four.

Part five – the Soul Stealer

11749761_10153204867653999_567976489_nHalloween been and gone, bought a couple of pumpkins: your face!! Christmas is arriving, now I’d arranged months before you arrived to go to my sisters in Australia. I didn’t want you to go to kennels for obvious reasons so what to do? You weren’t an easy dog so mum-in-law staying was out of the question. I got in touch with a host family company who said they only had 1 home available and that was them, with a 7 mth boxer bitch! We did everything correctly, we went over a few times and met outside and walked together then back to your house where you did actually play with her! Sorted or so I thought! Christmas eve I got a text saying you had become very territorial of their kitchen and had gone for their dog so they had to sent you somewhere else! I was very worried especially as I hadn’t met this person. When I came back and picked you up the first words out of the man’s mouth was that you were a f$&*ing pain in the a***. I got you home and noticed you flinched when I moved my hand quickly and I couldn’t get your harness over your head, mmmmmmm a strong email and phone calls were made to no answer. I was not happy!

11749374_10153204868173999_2005599847_nI’m now beginning not to feel so alone as through facebook groups that have been my lifeline I was beginning to see tiny improvements, your tail was beginning to wag a little rather than twitch, you were still a steam train on the lead though, still reactive but with management and lots of liver cake we were making headway.

I had signed up for a spinning dog study as I noticed when you were stressed/ excited ie being groomed you would start to spin, dig, pounce on the floor or try to hump me. I had also signed up for a reactive dog course and was reading all the stuff I could on modern techniques and why the methods that were predominant in my younger days were out-dated. Whew, having you is a very steep learning curve, who’s the teacher here?

I had hitched you up to my pushbike to pull along the footpath that runs along the railway line, what an amazing experience; you took to it like a Malamute to pulling ha ha. Some minor spills and lying on the ground waving my legs about but what a bonding experience for us.

11749405_10153204868608999_1528596398_nI had also found a local positive trainer who introduced us to the clicker, wow! You lapped it up, 10 minutes and you were zonked. Im looking for the positives in your story so far as they can be easily overlooked but I started writing a diary which has helped immensely. Fellow dog walkers now were encouraging rather than horrified when they saw me, the beauty of a small community. We discovered your joy of the beach and the picture I have of you running through the surf with a huge grin on your face is imprinted on my heart.

Part six

Spring is drifting into Summer and things are looking up! You did amazingly well at the Reactive Dog course and I’ve been taking you to a positive training class of only 4 dogs. Trouble is you get very hot with your double fur coat and also you do find it stressful even though you behave very well. Do I need you to do obedience in close quarters or just continue with my training in your normal environment? Decisions abound. You have been to a couple of 1-1 agility classes but to be honest you got bored and couldn’t see the need to keep going through the tunnel when you’ve done it once, even though you did close your eyes!

soul stealer 5 I splashed out and bought a second hand Paw trekker scooter, a lot safer than my pushbike. We have been working on your sled commands with the lead clipped to my waist and you in front. What fun this is, you love it and focus is tight. Don’t let anybody get in your way….beep beep coming through!

You still don’t like men very much but I manage this but not letting anybody touch you, if they come to the house you get ignored which works very well because after awhile you accept them. Who needs to be friends with everyone?

Your dog reactivity is improving still, you have Sky your first friend and have walked with a few more bitches and dogs, no sniffing allowed though. Funny how you seem to accept some and not others. The little squealer, ex puppy mill Schnauzer ,that churned out litter after litter goes potty whenever she sees you or any other dog for that matter, but you just plod past showing her youre not bothered and gradually shes learning that not all dogs want to mate with her. Charlie the Cocker Spaniel that was attacked by a Greyhound like you, loves you and will happily walk with you but refuse to walk with any other dog. Jess the Patterdale bitch who is very choosy with her friends enjoys her walks with you because you act as though she isn’t there. Im trying to read other dogs so I can gain a better understanding of why you react to some but not others. A massive improvement from when you wanted to eat every dog you saw!

Your character is shining through and you are a happy boy, nothing you enjoy more than a run on the scooter, the wind in your face, playing on the beach or off lead in a secure field we found. You are beginning to trust a few select people, funnily enough the owners of the dogs you don’t react too! Its all bound together!

soul stealer modern dog groupOne thing you cant get over is your aversion to mother in law (oops) she worries you. I know why, its because she gets in your face and talks to you as though you are a silly baby! She thinks that my training is over the top and that you are only a dog! Well, that says it all really! Luckily we don’t have her over very often!

Sabre, they say we don’t get the dog we want but the dog we need! Without you I wouldn’t of delved into modern training or written a canine first aid course, the only downside is that everywhere I go I see stressed, unhappy dogs! Silver lining though ,we saw a guy in our village with his reactive dog stop and feed treats when he saw us and he shouted across, Thank, you! He had been watching us and we have had a few raised voice chats about changing dogs emotional response to a scary thing! Yay!

Part seven

What a great summer we have had! Long walks on the beach where you are friendly to every dog that comes over, usually little feisty terrier types! One little female gave you a second look as she passed then calmly strutted over and gave you a good lungful of her scent! Very amusing as she wasn’t much bigger than your head!

I try and take you by car to different areas to walk, you love the car, tried cleaning it one day and you just wouldn’t get out of the back, just went to sleep, silly boy!

I’ve learnt to relax and manage situations. You trust me not to put you into scary situations though you refused to go through nettles to get space once, I don’t really blame you.

We walked alongside a large male dog the other day and I plucked up courage and let you off the lead when we got to a secure field. You stayed by my side because that’s where the treats were! You did play bow and have a little zoomie around Harvey.

Sabre's Rescue by Debbie Betts prt 7

Im learning more and more each day about body language and not just the dogs! You don’t really like men but the other day you leant against a strange mans legs and gave him your happy face and couldn’t take your eyes off him for a few minutes! Not everyone has sausage in their pocket Sabre!

Last week we celebrated you being in your forever home for 1 year and what a difference from that snarling, spinning, lunging beast you were. The cold dark lonely winter seems a distant memory and I look forward to our walks as do you. I could waste many hours just watching you and how you react to me. You are still my shadow apart from when hubby is eating or putting his shoes on to go to work ha ha. You worked your magic on him and while he doesn’t understand you like I do, he accepts you, not perfect but itll do.

Sabre's Rescue by Debbie Betts prt 7

Sabre, you have stolen my soul and we are intertwined now. Im so happy I saw your photo and sorry I couldn’t rescue you before! You are now the dog you were always meant to be. Still some way to go but your reactions are normally because I haven’t been able to get the space you need and they are massively reduced. Who knows what will happen in the next year? Group walks? Dog shows? Off lead with other dogs about? The world is your oyster and together we are going to catch it!
Love you boy x




Part eight

Sabre's Rescue by Debbie Betts prt 7

Pottering along on our track down towards the river, I spy a mans head coming up the slope and yes his body was following! I thought great I can cc Sabre to men, so I off stepped the track onto the corner of the field waiting for Sabre to notice man so I could feed him! Rustle rustle and 2 off lead dogs come bombing over barking, one a lurcher and the other a BC. Sabre stands upright, ears forward. No time to move away, dogs stop about a foot infront of him still barking but strangely NO reaction from the once fearsome werewolf! The man finally appears and gets hold of the BC explaining that he is very protective of the lurcher. I said I thought there was going to be a fight and explained fluff butts issues, who by the way was ignoring both dogs and sitting in front of me eating treats! The lurcher came a bit closer so Sabre turned and proceeded to butt sniff then have a crafty lick where he shouldnt really! He then moved a little closer to the BC who barked at him so Sabre turned back to me, I could almost see the mental shrug!

He has seemed to taken a massive leap forward in his confidence and I feel almost like a normal dog owner, able to walk along behind other dogs and towards others depending on whether its at the start of the walk when he is most hyped. I still micro manage and I will make space, go through hedges or down a ditch but in a fun way!

I had one snotty man disagree that Sabre is a Malamute, his wife said to me as she passed that he doesnt know what a malamute is lol

Meeting his new dog walker again tonight and she is going to come for a walk with us and again on Friday before she does it on her own next week. It takes him a long time to warm up to people and I want her to see him out walking before she takes him out. Anyone else this careful?

Soon be fireworks again and I have my tshirt ready for him and an Adaptil collar and plug in. Telly will be on loud and curtains drawn and with a bone I’m hoping he will be ok!