Monday, 6 June 2011

Becoming Pack Leader

After the trip to Yorkshire I came home and looked up the dog trainer, who I encountered one day in the park. It was a particularly bad day, the dog was annoying me, and I randomly picked on this man to tell him I didn't know what to do with my dog. He had given me a card and I had left it lying around the house somewhere.

However I was aware that I needed to do something with the dog. It turns out that they pick up on your stress and take over as "pack leader" if they feel you are not up to the job. All of the hound's bad behaviour was related to my stress levels, and the more nervous I became with him the more badly behaved he was going to be. (In fairness to him, he was trying to be helpful, only in a human world, a dog's idea of helpful isn't that helpful)

Steve Lawrence (the dog trainer) came to the house and did an assessment. Annoyingly, all the things that the dog does with me, he did not even attempt in front of him. Steve put socks out (the dog nicks them off the washing line), the dog left them, he played fetch with Steve quite happily, with me he runs off with the ball! When Steve went to leave, the dog didn't attempt to bolt from the house like he normally does! It appears that in the dog's eyes, I do not have leadership qualities. (His name is Steve Lawrence, you can e mail him at, if you have a dog behavioural issue, I would highly recommend him!)

So I have been asserting myself as pack leader again! It is not as easy as when Steve did it, I am breaking three years of bad habits.(It has also occured to me that really I am being trained, not the dog!) The dog trainer has now been round three times and there is a definite improvement, but I fear that there is a long way to go! I now have to structure his walks and bond with him, just leaving him to his own devices and walking is not enough, but it will be worth it in the long run.

It did occur to me that I also needed to reign in The Menace, he was starting to feel that he was in charge! A house run by a six year old is havoc, so I have also been using the "calm assertive" technique on him. I managed to get him back in his own bed, not calling out all the time and generally sleeping better, helped by the fact that I used just after his bedtime to do "playing with the dog in the garden/ bonding".

They say you can learn leadership behaviours! I am doing my best! I was starting to feel in control of my life again, it was all going swimmingly, then we hit the end of May/ June! The busiest time for me (workwise), and also the time The Menace started to show his distress. Half term seems to have brought on a level of distress that wasn't obvious before. I think that this is partly to do with time (apparently it is not unusual for it to take a few months for children to show any signs of upset) and partly to do with it being the "second" holiday without him. In a way the "seconds" are worse than the "firsts". One expects the "firsts" to be hard, but the "seconds" give things a sense of permanancy that wasn't so real before.

I have contacted Grove House (the cancer hospice) to get some help for him, but I am still being "calm assertive". The dog training has been good for me in many ways, I am finding my walks with the dog more relaxing, and it has made me think about how I behave, and how I appear to be in control. Certainly The Menace doesn't like it when I am upset, it appears neither does the dog! Hopefully time and lots of "calm assertive" behaviour from me will lead to a better household!

1 comment:

  1. Good for you, yes, the calm assertive technique not only works on dogs, but kids too (and sometimes cats !) You are doing so well, things were bound to slip for a while, you can only juggle so many balls all at once. and Yes, it IS you that is being trained :-) XX