When Cara first came into Rescue as a young dog, she was very nervous, anxious and chewing a lot. She seemed unsure about what was expected of her and completely lacking in confidence. During a short spell in kennels the prospective new owner visited and spent time time trying to gain Cara’s trust. The kennel staff also spent a lot of time with Cara as during lockdown they had very few other residents.
On arriving at at her new home her new owners gave her time to relax and ensured that Cara had safe chew toys. After a while they introduced Cara to some Free Work and Parkour to which she responded well. Cara also met friends dogs and coped well despite apparently having some problems with the older dog in her former home.
Cara’s confidence has gone from strength to strength in ways that her new owners now explain.
I’m just back from our third camping trip, where Cara spent lots of time exploring off lead, playing with other dogs, relaxing on her mat in cafes and ignoring passers-by on the campsite! It’s hard to believe that this is the same dog I met for the first time eight months ago – who had her ears back, tail firmly tucked between her legs and was anxious and reactive about many things she encountered.
However, from the day when I met her I could see Cara had a curious and inquisitive spirit desperate to break free, so this gave me hope for the future. Doggie Parkour was a great first step and helped build a trusting bond with Cara. It was new to me too, so I think we both learnt together as we went along, with varying degrees of success!! I liked that you could do it inside or outside, and didn’t need special equipment or classes to get started. Carol from TLRT also offered invaluable guidance and support from Day 1, suggesting a range of training techniques and ideas to help Cara. This included games-based training, which you play at home and in the garden to build your dog’s confidence and calmness, without putting them in stressful situations. This really helped Cara, and as she began to make progress, we started to go out and about and play games in more challenging environments. We also found massage, Free Work and trick training gave Cara the opportunities to relax, make positive choices and feel good about herself, which have really helped her in day-to-day life. In fact, she already has her Novice Trick Training Title through Do More With Your Dog. I’m sure it won’t be long until she has a wall full of certificates for tricks and Parkour!!
Five months later, as lockdown lifted, we were excited to prepare for our first camping holiday together. We felt Cara had enough confidence to deal with all the different aspects of a holiday, but we still set off with a bit of trepidation. How would she deal with sleeping in a glamping pod? How would she react to other people on the campsite? Would she be OK off lead in new and exciting environments?
On arrival Cara sat on her mat carefully watching what was going on, and seemed relatively calm. However, after we had finished unpacking, she seemed to go into ‘high alert’ and started barking at the warden! Oh no, that was not the start we’d hoped for! We had already agreed that if it was too much for Cara we would pack up and go home, and try again the following month. However, we decided to all go into the glamping pod, pull the blind down and have a bit of a snooze, and see if this helped Cara settle down. Thankfully a couple of hours later we re-emerged, and from then onwards Cara embraced camping and took everything in her stride.
So what has our journey with Cara taught us to date? I think the main thing that’s helped Cara is playing games at home – training for the situation rather than in the situation. Also being able to read when she’s had enough stimulation and needs a little time out to calm down and ‘reset’. Recently we started agility classes, which she picked up incredibly quickly, once she plucked up the courage to go through the tunnel (with a little encouragement from her friend Harvey the Springer Spaniel)! This has also helped us strengthen our bond, and have something new to celebrate (she does like a round of applause)! Sure we still have some challenges to work on, but it’s wonderful to see how Cara is making progress everyday and living life to the full with her new-found confidence.