So on this journey of becoming a CPDT, I am taking on more responsibility and new and exciting (sometimes scary) tasks. I've gone on many private lessons with Misti and Carrie, helped teach shelter volunteers how to train dogs and recently started being the lead trainer in a puppy class! I though I was on a pretty good roll..HA, enter this cute little elderly lady and her cute little shih-tzu!
I was charged with the task of crate training her dog because she was moving and he barked too much and was having housebreaking issues. Seemed pretty straight forward. I picked up this little boy Ringo and all his belongings to come stay at my house as a board and train client. He was to be with me for 5 days and then we'd assess the situation and see if more time was needed. So because this dog was not completely housebroken, I kept him attached to me by leash anytime he was out of the crate, basically treating him like a puppy. Pretty quickly I noticed his urination just did not seem right, so a sample was brought into the vet and sure enough he had an infection as well as crystals! Once we got him on meds and better food he started perking up and was given more freedom in the house. As far as the crate training, it was a horrible disaster! Turns out he has terrible separation or confinement or isolation anxiety, pick one, either way what it meant was that anytime he was crated he would be traumatized; barking and shaking and drooling, scratching at the door and whining/crying. The first night he did this for 2 straight hours! Then he must have slept from exhaustion only to wake up a couple hours later and start all over again! It was nearly that bad every night after that. Even when I crated him and he could see me he'd go into a panic. It was torture on us both and all the while I knew this was something that could be worked on in a slow and lengthy process, which required time we didn't have as he was moving in only a few weeks! Also to contend with was the near impossibility for his mom to comply with a complicated set of instructions.
So began the first crisis of new trainer conscience. I questioned my abilities, my knowledge and even after much sleep deprivation wondered if my "guru" was setting me up, testing me somehow (she was not by the way!) Finally, I think we all took a deep breath and took a step back (at least us trainers did) and assessed the situation with clearer eyes and saw the reality of the situation. We got to the heart of what REALLY needed work on, the barking and housebreaking, and set up a plan for that! Ringo was much improved with his housebreaking now that the medical stuff had been taken care of (on a side note, he never once had an accident in my house) and as for the barking, I videoed him left alone in my house when I left. He slept nearly the whole time and only barked when he heard the garage door open, a sign to me that his barking was due to hearing voices in the hall outside his door. We recommended she turn the TV on for him when she left and that he get really special bones to chew on only when she left the apartment. I wrote down simple, very specific instructions for her on his feeding and pottying schedule and then handed him back to her with all my fingers and toes crossed! That was a week ago and so far he's had no potty accidents and there has been no reports of barking. She was so happy to have her companion back and he was just as happy to be home.
It's been a good lesson for me to listen to my gut and see the reality of the situation and try to work within the confines of that as a trainer. Trainers are faced with those confines all the time, from the family with 6 kids that are constantly running around with food the dog wants or the couple that works insane hours and have a reactive dog. Being a trainer means helping people teach their dogs how to be good family members, being a good trainer means helping the owners be good pet parents, a great trainer is resourceful enough to do both and make everyone happy! That is my goal.