The Tale of the Giant Dog
By Jessica Colson | dogcilla, leeds, giant, training
Here at Dog School Leeds we see up to 90 dogs attend our classes each week. Some are very young puppies, many are juveniles and more besides that are older – the oldest dog in our classes was 12 years old with their 84 year old owner.
For many dogs it will have been the first time they have been to training classes but not the first time they have encountered something new and novel.
Not all dogs are super confident and for many being brave is a skill they can learn given time, patience and lots of support from their owners.
Puppies attending our classes held at the rehoming centre are in for a big surprise – as soon as they walk through the doors of reception they are confronted by our giant dog! Some puppies take one look and stop dead in their tracks “What on earth is THAT!??” We may then get one of two approaches, the first – the owner rapidly approaches the giant dog dragging the puppy to come and see, they may also give the giant dog a wobble so the pup can see it isn’t real – the giant dog then appearing to move and makes a horrible rocking noise. The poor puppy is terrified and it can be pretty much guaranteed will not even want to come into the building the next week; as not only was the giant dog very scary but the owner forcing them to confront their fear totally compounded the fear.
Thankfully this never happens as all our owners attend an induction session before classes and we warn them their puppies and dogs may have a reaction to the giant dog and what they should do to support them for this potentially scary experience and any others they may encounter. So the second and best approach goes something like this … the puppy or dog comes through the doors and spots the giant dog, they may freeze or even back away their owner allows them to do this, the puppy may then try to get a good sniff from a distance it feels comfortable with neck stretched like a giraffe and may take a hesitant step forwards – the owner rewards the puppy with a tasty treat for being brave. The puppy takes a few steps towards the giant dog on a loose lead and is again rewarded for being brave by their owner. The treats are not held on the puppys nose to distract them but are a reward for after the brave approach. Eventually the puppy gets close enough for a good sniff and investigate, assures themselves actually it isn’t a real dog, is rewarded for being brave again and then has a little shake to get rid of the tense situation and merrily trots into classes. It can be pretty much guaranteed that the following week that puppy or dog will trot straight into the building not even giving the giant dog a second glance. As the scary situation had no added pressure and was coupled with some nice treats.
So if your dog finds something scary – allow them to move away if they need to, allow them to approach gradually in their own time and reward them for being brave and you will help your dog or puppy learn to be brave and confident when they are faced with something new, unusual or possibly scary.