Today is Inca's 5th Birthday (or 35th... in doggy years) and it has made me a bit reflective.
Inca is the whole reason that PetMind is in business today and the reason for this is that she was/is HARD WORK (yes - I am serious!). So if you have a dog who is challenging you, don't worry - I know where you are coming from.
When Inca entered the world as a little fluff ball I knew that if you want your dog to be a well behaved dog, you make sure that they know you are BOSS.
Therefore, with this firmly in my mind, I set out to train little fluff bag. Training started on day 1 and we had solid rules in place. No sitting on the sofa, no coming upstairs, no tidbits at meal times and know your cues (sit, down, stand, stay, leave, come, heel etc.).
Fast forward ~7 months - little fluff bag is not so little, she is reactive to other dogs, jumps up at everyone, has dreadful recall and pulls on leash like a stream train. What went wrong? I was definitely boss - I was very firm, how could this have happened?!
So, I started reading (and here I have to say thank you to two friends - one of whom gave me Victoria Stillwell's book 'Positively' and the other, who pointed out that perhaps my puppy didn't realise what was wanted from her when, following a leash correction, she just ran forward again). Let me tell you - reading up on a subject you THINK you know about is life changing. Also, EVIDENCE TRUMPS OPINION - EVERY TIME.
What I found out is that there is a wealth of information on dogs in the scientific literature and guess what - it turns out that by trying to be boss, I was actually causing the issues that Inca was having. She didn't want to be near me. We had a poor relationship. Thinking about this now breaks my heart.
Following this, I completely disregarded what I thought I knew and started learning. Billie Machell at Positive Paws was kind enough to let me start assisting in her excellent puppy classes and I started online learning with the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE). Next, I enrolled on a full time Masters degree in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Lincoln. The next few years spent learning about dog development, behaviour and training techniques completely changed my life.
Not only has Inca improved massively in the areas that we were struggling in, we also have a much better relationship. We still struggle with some things, she is a high-energy dog and struggles with self-control. But now, I know that we can work on things and I am much more forgiving.
Inca has taught me that kindness goes a long way and that conflict only breeds conflict. So Happy 5th Birthday Inc - thank you for teaching me to be a better person and to always ask questions before accepting the status-quo. I like to think that we are now both happier :)