Here’s Little Monkey going to dog class.
I know, I know! We are so lucky to live here and enjoy the amazing mountain views as we socialise our dogs on the open field.
Quick recap: I adopted LM as an 18 month old from a rescue organisation. She had previously been adopted, and then returned, by some students. While they had cared for her, they had not thought to socialse her, or take her for walks. As LM is an anxious, unbalanced dog it has been a very long road trying to undo this omission in her puppyhood. That is why I keep taking her to dog class, so she can mix off lead with so many other dogs; sometimes over 30!
In the early years we stood about 5 metres away from the class just observing. All the other dogs would pick on her, chase her, go for her, because they sensed she was unbalanced. In the dog pack it could put the pack in danger, so they wanted to sort her out. I stood between her and the new dog, shooing it away and protecting LM. I still do this with dominant untrained dogs, the new dogs who have no manners, and puppies who know no better. I have no problem with a dog coming to say hello, if it does so in a calm quiet manner, and accepts if LM does not wish to be said hello to!
The photo shows the class in the background, and we are quite a way off still. We saunter along, sniffing trees (well, I don’t sniff trees!) gradually approaching the group of dogs and owners. When I have walked far enough away from the road I make LM sit and stay, then remove her lead. She must not move (if she does, repeat.) Then I walk away a good 20 metres. LM stays. I raise one hand, LM trots straight to me and sits. (I do this every time I let her off the lead when out on a walk.) Now I have her attention I give her two quick pats on the side and off she goes.
We carry on walking towards the class, but obliquely. I never go straight in to class. We then walk all the way round the class, at a distance of maybe 5 to 10 metres. All the while I am summing up all the dogs there. Some I know well, some will be new. LM has taught me well how to read dog body language, and I am on the look out for trouble!
Sure enough one or two high energy youngsters may come running out of the pack and straight up to us. I field them all. Not one is going to make contact with LM without going through me first!
Sometimes LM is off sniffing stuff and these young whippersnappers try their luck throwing their weight around. LM sorts them out! She will bark at them and chase them off. (New owners get quite worried, as they have no idea their dog is doing anything wrong, and they don’t know that LM will not bite.) Other dogs are better behaved, and balanced. These few LM will tolerate.
Most days class is very stressful for poor old unsocialised LM and she drools from anxiety.
Here, at the start of one class, she makes herself very small and inconspicuous. But despite all her anxiety, she does love going!
It is a perfect opportunity for LM to meet other dogs and I know nothing bad will happen because the trainer is our own Dog Whisperer. So we keep on going, week after week, often twice in a week, year after year.
How long have I been taking LM to class? The whole time that I have had her.
Eight and a half years!
How long will I keep taking her? Till she is 99!