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The fearful dog diary - Part 1: Lola in the beginning...

When we first met Lola I remember thinking that’s a slightly intense pup but they are all like that aren’t they? I mean she had been living at the vets for a couple of weeks so of course she was going to be a little ‘stir crazy’. Her constant attention seeking, high pitched bark and inability to relax unless utterly exhausted seemed like normal puppy behaviour…

My boyfriend Tim (now husband) and I went into this new chapter in our lives thinking how hard could it really be. Everyone knows the basics to follow - let the puppy know who’s boss, don’t comfort them if they are upset or you will encourage the ‘bad’ behaviour and make sure they know when they have done something wrong. How misguided we were and how we wish with hindsight that we had done more research into dog behaviour, the way they think and learn in order to make informed decisions about how we should raise and train Lola. As we now know following the above ‘training’ methods can actually increase the level or fear and anxiety in a dog that is already predisposed those types of behaviours.

I had grown up always having a dog in the family as well as working as a qualified vet nurse for a number of years. Tim on the other hand had many pets growing up but limited interactions with dogs. Regardless of a persons level of experience with dogs people get puppies everyday, some become perfectly well behaved dogs and others become dogs with issues. We figured that everything would work out fine because we meant well. I have since discovered that dogs become who they are based on genetics, previous experiences as well as what occurs in their day to day environment. It is a cumulative result and having good intentions only accounts for a small percentage of the desired outcome.

It is clear to us now that Lola’s bumpy first few months in life (especially as we don’t even know what happened to her, how she was brought up before she was left at the vet or the history of her parents) have had a major impact on the dog she has become. Of course what she has experienced since she has come to live with us have added to her pre-existing issues.

What we do know for sure is that for everything we have experienced with her has made us better people. She has taught us so much and all we want in life is for her to be happy and we will do anything it takes for that to happen. She is the reason I became a dog trainer in the first place.