Sunday, November 21, 2010

Multiple dog household - Multiple challenges

Facebook friend and colleague Leslie Fisher, PMCT, CPDT lives in Maryland with her three active Labrador Retrievers Talley, Bridget and Doobie and a wonderful man named Argil.

In a multiple dog household there are always multiple challenges. Dog trainers are great at handling these challenges and we always seem to find ourselves drawn to dogs who have more than their share of challenging behaviors. Online Leslie impressed me greatly with her dedication to her positive reward-based training and I was drawn in to her life with the 'labbies' from walks, to day-to-day training and Leslie's many training tips. I couldn't help but share their story with you.

Last year (2009) was filled with new additions for Leslie. She said, "In May of 2009 Doobie came to join her as an adult (he'll be six in January 2011). He was a foster for Lab Rescue of the Potomac Valley, a failed foster that is, as one of 54 labs rescued from a West Virginia puppymill. Argil came into my life in December of 2009." Doobie was the third addition to an already established family of two other Labrador Retrievers, Talley and Bridget.

Third to arrive and brother to the girls Talley (who'll turn six in June) and Bridget (who'll turn five in February), black lab Doobie has come to adore Argil with the unreserved love only a Labrador Retriever can exhibit. Still, because of Doobie's puppymill days his trust has been eroded and there are times such as when Argil tries to walk him into the house, while Leslie remains outside. that still does not go over well, according to Leslie.

Trust builds daily, however, between Argil and puppymill lab Doobie.

Leslie says, "Doobie is just now accepting the touch of a complete stranger without shying away and accompanies me into the bank on regular visits for ongoing socialization, and to chomp on the enormous biscuits given hiim by the tellers."

"Doobie without a doubt is turning into a wonderful classroom dog", says Leslie, "not as well schooled as Bridget (her yellow lab) but becoming very reliable and a wonderfully kind "Uncle Doobie" to puppies and small dogs."

Of Doobie today, Leslie says he's a free spirit and to see him flying unfettered over the open fields is one of her greatest pleasures. Ah the joys of Labrador Retriever ownership.

The two female Labrador Retrievers, Talley and Bridget both raised for Canine Partners for Life graced Leslie's life pre-Doobie. Leslie said they did not make the cut and so she took over raising them, Talley beginning in August 2004, one year before deciding to become a dog trainer, and Bridget in May of 2005 . The rest is history.

Bridget is the yellow lab. She had an early seizure disorder and developed pancreatitis, according to Leslie. Today she is on multiple medications administered twice a day and recently suffered a bizarre flesh wound requiring stitches, which had to be redone twice. "

With good humor Leslie says, "Try managing an active lab on rest only for a week while meeting the needs of the other two, and going to see clients and teaching classes. then a week of leash only activity."

Bridget had other past challenges too. Escapist, stealth counter surfer and too smart for her own good, as Leslie puts it.

She said, "This is a dog who throws herself with abandon off docks into the water. Yes, it was one of many challenges." In addition, Leslie said Bridget is the type of dog not content with a tiny stick, but must have the largest log she can carry. This makes life interesting.

I immediately thought to myself Bridget must be from Texas because more and bigger is always better.

Well, truthfully she IS a Labrador Retriever after all?

In the classroom as a demo dog, Bridget is solid like a rock, but she does not love to have dogs in her face, Leslie points out, and will snap and drive them away if too close. She really only enjoys play with her own kind, those that are sensible and direct their attentions to a ball to be fetched.

Today Bridget is finally running free again and enjoying a big fenced in yard, which also went into place in the summer of 2010. A zest for life is a great Bridget descriptor.

Talley's story is quite different. Talley is a black Labrador just like her "brother" Doobie. They make quite a pair when seen side by side.

Leslie tells Talley's story. "Talley, along with her stranger danger, also has suffered chronic colitis and frequently impacted anal glands. Her favorite places to repose are right on top of air ducts in corners, where Argil has plastic covers arranged over the vents. He has accepted the constant rearranging with his usual good grace, and says he would miss the rumbling snoring that goes along with her sleep. She is the lab least able to participate in my classes as demo dog, and has frequently embarrassed and humbled me by spotting "danger" before I could occupy her attentions. Although based in fear, she could and I imagine does look very threatening to the 'uninitiated'."

Additionally, Leslie says, "Talley never did get over sudden environmental contrasts (SEC) and to this day startles easily all with vociferous barking and lunging."

All in all, Talley has a wonderfully affectionate personality, but her training is far from finished. This is shown in her love for Argil. "It is a known fact that Argil loves how Talley picks up his wrist and gums it all the while whining and groaning an excited greeting when she sees him."

Just like in any household dealing with behavior modification and skill training can still present new challenges that crop up out of nowhere. It is a part of the behavior modification process. Never a dull moment in Leslie's household.

Leslie says, "One must always be on guard for the monsters out to get Talley."

"Recently we figured out Talley was afraid of the monster dishwasher. There had not been one in my old home. Picture me tossing out kibbles across the room as the dishwasher runs. This process is also ongoing and the situation is much improved; there is no instant fix. At least Talley is no longer remaining in an upstairs "cave" for hours on end, afraid to come back downstairs to where the monster resides."

In addition to a new relationship coming into her life, Leslie also moved into a new home this year. Talk about juggling ten balls in the air at once!

This is all in a day in the life of a behavior trainer. Our own dogs teach us as much as any class, seminar, workshop certification or client dog. Injuries, health issues, behavior problems are all part and parcel of daily life.

Each of Leslie's labs are so different, "so much their own unique character," she says, "and we are blessed to have such a loving trio in our lives. I am blessed that myself and my trio found such a wonderful man, Argil, to accept us unreservedly into his life, and to love my dogs as I do.

This is part of the adoring crowd Argil comes home to everyday with Doobie and Talley usually in the forefront of greeters. And I would suspect Leslie too.

From a dog trainer's point of view, we go through the same everyday challenges with our own dogs just as our clients do. Often we wonder, could dog training get any harder? It's all in a day's work. Honestly, we love every minute of it.

There is no doubt with the challenges Doobie, Talley and Bridget pose for Leslie and Argil that they are much loved family members regardless.

"As you might imagine, finding time to work with all the various issues, while providing ongoing excellent dog training to clients can be a challenge. These are highly active dogs as well, dogs that need a job to do, dogs that need structure and input from me every day," says Leslie.

What could be more reason to be thankful this holiday season then the presence of this one big happy family, even with all their challenges? Leslie says, "If I could put the best of each of my labs into one lab, I really would have the perfect dog!" Such is a look into the day wrapped up in the pleasures of a multi-dog household.

Leslie Fisher's dog training business is Look What I Can Do Dog Training . She is also a blog writer for Dr. Ian Dunbar's infamous Dog Star Daily. She is a graduate of Pat Miller's Dog Trainer's Academy and has her PMCT (Pat Miller Certified Trainer certification), as well as her Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT) certification and is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).

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