Training a New Dog is a Huge Challenge – Even for the Experienced

we saw with dismay that about 10 feet of concrete pathway that leads to our home was absolutely buried in soil – really expensive soil that had been

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The thing that always crosses my mind at some point during a fostering experience: “If I am having a difficult time coping with this behavior, how do people with little or no experience handle it?” And I conclude, “Well, I guess a lot of people don’t handle it; that’s why there are so many dogs in the shelter!”

Seriously, there is always a point at which I am exhausted with the project and wishing I hadn’t taken it on. With my first foster puppy, it was when his kennel cough turned into pneumonia and I found myself spending hundreds of dollars at a local emergency vet clinic on a Sunday morning to pull him through. With the next dog, it was when I realized that she actually had fairly significant separation anxiety – enough to keep her barking and freaking out in a crate every time I left the room. Oh, and then, she also appeared to have some resource-guarding issues. Yikes!

The dog I am currently fostering set off a flash-fire of marital discord this morning when I spaced out and left her unsupervised in the backyard for a half hour or so. (In retrospect, I should have been thinking, “It’s quiet . . . too quiet!”) When my husband and I stepped outside my office, we saw with dismay that about 10 feet of concrete pathway that leads to our home was absolutely buried in soil – really expensive soil that had been, just a few minutes before, a raised garden bed full of winter onions. “That’s it! This dog is out of here!” my husband roared (before he calmed down).

Every young dog or puppy has to be civilized and trained, and the process takes a long time! Behaviors and health problems emerge that are incredibly trying, no matter how much experience a person has, or how well-equipped they are. I have a friend whose foster Aussie, after a week of subdued behavior, revealed serious obsessive/compulsive behaviors (kind of made me wonder whether he had been on unreported medication previously). I have another friend whose previously healthy and attractive foster dog developed demodectic mange. It’s really difficult to find homes for dogs with either condition – and equally difficult to give up on them after investing a lot of time in them.

It’s incredibly rewarding to raise a dog well, to see him become well socialized and well behaved. But there are lots of low spots, too, when you despair of the destruction and the bad behavior and are tempted to think you got a dud who is never going to improve.

How do you encourage your friends with the new dog to keep going, to persevere in the face of the hard times?

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