The Road to Rehabilitation
A good behaviourist will not only work on training the dog and guiding the owners, they should also be there to provide support and focus along the way. It can be a roller coaster of emotions on the road to rehabilitation. Speaking from personal experience, I understand fully how difficult it can be to rehabilitate a dog with extreme behaviour issues. There are odd good days in amongst more common bad days before new behaviours are learned. This is emotionally tiring and draining. It is easy to give up, throw the towel in and say “I’ve had enough, this isn’t working” when one bad experience clouds the good progress that has been made. One of my beliefs is, it is my role to provide the support and be the shoulder to cry on when things get tough, and it is tough. It is ok and normal to think “I buy you expensive food, you get all my time and attention, I buy you the comfiest bed, I revolve my life around you, why do you behave like this?”
Often in dealing with aggression or separation anxiety, or inter-pack aggression, there is something going on in the personal life of the owner. Dogs are so sensitive to our emotions. Divorce, grief, illness, stress; these are things that can affect how our dogs behave, so a good behaviourist will be able to cope with the problem as a whole and without judging.
It is common that rehabilitation can take months, even a year. Rescue dogs have often suffered so much trauma that the road to rehabilitation is painstakingly slow. It takes as long as it takes, we must follow the dog in this respect, but the rewards are so incredible.
I have had the pleasure of working with some inspirational owners who show commitment and dedication, no matter how long it takes and no matter how tough the journey is at times. For these sorts of people they put their own needs aside and focus on the needs of the dog, have faith in the advice given to them and live the experience one day at a time, often mixed with tears, frustration and joy along the way.
There is something wonderful about rehabilitating a dog and the relationship that blossoms out of it is deeper and more intense than would have existed otherwise. Our dogs look to us for guidance and leadership, and part of being a strong leader is never to waiver, never to give in when the going gets tough and to learn the valuable lessons from mistakes made along the way.
For those owners who have been on this journey or are in the process of rehabilitation it is important to acknowledge the wonderful gift you are giving your dog. The lessons to be learned will stay with you for life and benefit every other dog you own in future or come into contact with.
For dogs, leadership, strength and trust is king and what they give us in return is pure, unconditional love.