Feeling Awful

I just wanted to have a bit of a vent and try to let out some of my emotions instead of keeping them bottled up. I just feel like the biggest failure with Bonnie at the minute.

Just a few moments ago we went on our usual walk with a treat bag full of treats and my clicker ready to go so we could do some training on our walk. Our walk went totally normal at the beginning, I was clicking and treating for Bonnie giving me eye contact and walking nicely. We made it to the barrier that we cross over to get to the glen that we always walk up and it all went horribly wrong somehow.

I asked her to sit so we could change over her lead to her flexi lead as we like to give her more freedom to sniff about in the woods. I clicked just as I did the whole walk up til that point and she immediately cowered like I was going to hit her or something. I put the clicker away and tried to give her some food to calm her down but she just kept cowering away from me and wouldn’t take the food from my hand. I tried to keep positive and threw the food away from me so that she wouldn’t have to take it from my hand but she still took it really gingerly.

I didn’t want to stop the walk and wanted to keep positive so we just went up the glen and did our usual walk. She was even able to recall to me and reward her using wet food in a tube which she didn’t seem to have any issues with. She seemed super restless and panting which could’ve been from the heat or stress I don’t know.

When we got home I thought I would try clicking in the hallway while she was in the living room to see if it was some kind of trigger stacking effect from being outside or it was too loud being clicked near her but she immediately cowered again. Again she wouldn’t come near my hand for treats and even when I threw them on the floor she took a lot of convincing to take them like she wasn’t allowed to or something.

I am now upstairs while my partner is downstairs with her as I am too upset to be near her and see her cowering away from me. I know it is probably temporary and she will be back to normal in no time but I am just devestated that after a year and a half of building reinforcement for the clicker that she would turn so suddenly nervous of it and nervous of me holding the treats. I’ve tried really hard to build up her confidence and our bond together and I just feel horrible. How am I supposed to train her if she doesn’t want to take treats from me or be near me and she isn’t toy or praise motivated?

I just sometimes worry that her general anxiety isn’t something that can’t be fixed with training alone, like she might require medication, that her genetics or under socialisation or bad experiences during her fear periods have made it too difficult to reverse. People we know like our dog walker, trainers and family etc all think she is a great dog and so well behaved, she is a great dog but they don’t see her hyper vigilance on walks or how we had to add privacy stickers on our windows to stop her fixating on outside or else keep the curtains shut all the time, or how she can’t relax outside, not even in our garden.

We had already hired a 1-2-1 behaviour consultation with a positive reinforcement trainer for Friday 10th June before this happened and I was keen on finding out what I could be doing better to help Bonnie so I can only pray he can show us the way forward with our training.

Sorry this is a bit of a rambling post but if you’ve stuck through it this long thank you for caring enough to read. Hopefully I will have something a bit more uplifting to share soon.

Bonnie all happy with me this morning before the incident 

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15 thoughts on “Feeling Awful

  1. From my experiences with Ray (lots of experiences with Ray!!!), the most important, and sometimes most difficult, part is to identify what the trigger was. A single trigger or, as you suggested, a trigger stack reaction. Something you did? Something about the barrier? Something else that you would not be aware of? Unusual scent? Other noises? Changing leashes? etc. etc.
    Don’t take it personally but be very patient. Once you can identify the issue, you can work on resolving it………. but not until!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the constructive comment, it’s very easy to take it personally and let emotions take over so that’s why I’m trying to distance myself until I’m settled down a bit. I can’t quite figure out what the trigger was, potentially frustration at not getting to go into the glen trigger stacking with the arousal of the clicker sound? Usually I don’t click for sitting at the barrier and she was sniffing before I asked her to come away and sit so maybe something with that? When she went into that cowering state she also cowered a bit at cars passing by. I think she might have noise aversion in general as she hates the sound of hair dryers, vacuums etc and used to be nervous about cars passing in the rain but she hasn’t displayed that in ages. My partner was with me so I could talk with him and see if we can figure it out between us as I’m a bit lost at the moment and we didn’t get a proper chance to discuss it at the time as we were so focused on keeping things positive and getting out of that situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Colin’s comment above is very good.
    I agree that there might have been something on the walk that you were unaware of – a scent or sound that made her fearful etc
    Just remember Dogs live in the Now. – So while You are still stressing about the walk and the clicker, Bonnie has moved on.
    I’d put the clicker away for a while, and just spend fun, relaxed time with Bonnie.
    I have an anxious dog myself, and tho she’s not as bad as Bonnie, there are days you go backwards. The good news is, you pick up again a lot quicker than the first time around.
    It’s great you’ll be spending some time with a trainer soon. He might have some ideas for moving forward.
    And don’t give up! I’ve had my dog LM for 9 years (she is nearly 11 now) and we Still have some bad days. Think of it as the dog learning from it – and us too of course. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for commenting, you’re probably right that there was something making her nervous that she could notice but that we weren’t aware of. I have calmed down now from earlier and I should probably take a leaf from how dogs live in the moment!
      I don’t think I’ll be using the clicker for a good while now not until at least the trainer advises us on it.
      Thanks for reminding us that we sometimes go backwards as well because although this is a set back I’m currently watching her be settled on the sofa rather than pacing about the room which was how she used to be when she first came to us, so I need to appreciate how far we’ve come together.
      I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning from Bonnie, she has made me much more aware of dog body language, positive reinforcement etc.
      Thanks again for the positive comment, it’s great to have supportive people around that care 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m glad Bonnie settled, and you realise how much she has improved overall.
        And yes, I have also learnt way more from my anxious dog, as you say – to pick up on energies, and read dog body language etc
        It is a bond between the two, and we both learn and develop.
        Good Luck moving forward 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Has she been ill recently at all? Only asking because I know virtually all of Kasper’s fears come back when he is poorly. When he had swallowed a chunk of bone and was in considerable pain (we had no idea what was causing him to act weird at the time) he was terrified of our friend who he’d happily spent several days with, he wouldn’t come to us, he was cowering every time we moved near him, he was restless, panting, lying down on walks etc…he’s had tummy bugs quite a few times and when he feels crappy he gets fearful. Just thought I’d throw that out there 😉

    Secondly what clicker do you use? If it’s one of the box ones with the silver metal part, you can put a blob of blu tack on the metal to quieten it. Do you think it’s the noise of the clicker, and maybe something freaked her at the exact point that it clicked, and now she associates the sound with a scary thing?

    I know with my pups we’ve had some weird associations when something ‘scary’ has happened and something else has been nearby…you know like how if a dog was wearing a shock collar, and they got shocked when they saw another dog, so dogs = shock and are now scary?

    Kasper used to be really anxious, he is somewhat better now but there’s still things we can’t do…for example he loves sitting outside in the garden and chilling, but ANY nearby noise sets him off barking and he won’t stop for anything. He gets extremely stressed. A car door slamming streets away will have him from sleeping to high alert in an instant. He used to be the same indoors (to the point where we couldn’t have windows open, ever, and our house feels like an oven in summer!!) but thankfully we have been making strides with that 🙂

    It’s okay if she needs medication for anxiety, even just for a while. I’ve heard some really positive experiences from other dog owners, where they weren’t really able to make any progress because their dog was always too anxious to learn. They started anxiety meds, could finally see the progress, and the meds weren’t a long-term thing.

    Anxious and fearful dogs take a lot out of you, and when something goes wrong it can feel absolutely devastating…and it’s fine to go be sad and have time away from them. I remember the first time Kasper resource guarded (I was a dog noob and never expected my dog to growl at me, doh!) I went into our bedroom and sobbed my eyes out…he’s resource guarded dozens of times since then but I don’t even consider it an issue anymore!

    I feel like I am failing every one of my dogs constantly, or not doing enough for them. Every single day I worry about that. I take things they do extremely personally and in general I’m a bit rubbish haha…but we bounce back, and when I do spot their progress (or when my partner points it out) I feel on top of the world 🙂

    Bonnie loves you, and she knows you love her. She trusts you. But something in her head flipped today, maybe she was hurting or something reared its’ ugly head from her past, and she got scared. It happens. It still happens with us and Kasper. But it doesn’t mean she loves you less.

    Good luck with the behaviourst, you’re an awesome doggy owner 🙂


    Nyxie wanted to leave you a little number 2 for some reason also XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think she has been in okay health in general, she had a few suspect looking poops recently but nothing too out of the ordinary as she’s always eating weird things on our walks before I notice what she’s doing lol but we’ve decided that since we have insurance for her we are going to take advantage and do like a MOT on her and get a full checkup for fecal, bloods, thyroid, allergies, dental, just everything to make sure she has no underlying problems that could be exasperating her anxiety. Before this happened as well we had already ordered a thundershirt and adaptil spray to see if they would help her at all, so once they arrive we will be doing some settling work with them like giving her a kong when we put the thundershirt on and giving her some chillax time with it and then eventually see if that will transfer outdoors. I’m not sure how effective it will be but I thought it couldn’t hurt to try.
      We use the clix multi clicker which has a volume adjustment, we used the loudest setting outdoors but even when i tried turning it to the lowest setting and clicked it in the next room she still wasn’t happy. For now I’m avoiding using the clicker until we meet the trainer but might look into a softer sounding clicker.
      I think she has developed a bad association with the clicker and thus me holding the food in that certain way too as she still licks wet food and peanut butter from my hand and still likes pets so its not an aversion to my hand but just presenting normal treats and kibble in my hands. Although I didn’t think of it at the time I think I may have “poisoned” the clicker as recently we decided to try clicking and treating for her reacting to barking outside to try and classically condition her to not mind it instead of ignoring her pacing and grumbling, but it seems that maybe it has gone the other way and just at that point in the walk she was a bit anxious and then the click made her worried that some dog was going to start barking because of me building the association of the clicker with dogs barking outside possibly? It’s difficult to know what goes on in that sweet little nervous head of hers.
      Once we have ruled out any health issues and after meeting the trainer I think the next step will be to met with a vet behaviourist and see what they suggest in terms of medication or any supplements. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and we are moving her diet to Eden which is better than the food she is currently on (skinners duck and rice) and are going to ask the vet about the Nutricalm supplement which has Tryptophan in it which is linked to lower cortisol levels in dogs.
      Yea I definitely get you, it’s so difficult when you feel like you’re failing your animals or not doing enough, I went and had a massive cry before I wrote this post. But I feel much better now and more hopeful that with the changes we make she will become a bit more adjusted and less scared of the world.
      Seriously thank you so much for your lovely comment, I read it yesterday when I was feeling really low and it really made me feel less alone in dealing with these issues and I also giggled out loud seeing Nyx’s little number 2 she left me haha

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha I thought Nyx’s message deserved to be posted too 🙂

        I feel like you’re doing absolutely everything you can for Bonnie, and you have awesome insight into behaviour, training, and you’re constantly doing your best…she’s so lucky to have you and you’ve done awesome with her. In fact my partner said before that you are such an awesome dog owner; honestly it shines through in your posts.

        I also know how easy it is to feel lost when your dog starts freaking out over something and you have no idea why (in fact that happened with us just last night)…it’s never a nice feeling and on top of that it’s extremely difficult to work with because you don’t know what you’re working with!!!

        Anyway, rambling 🙂 I basically just wanted to say you really are a great dog owner, and I know it’s easy to forget that when you feel like you’re in over your head!!

        Oh one more thing, does Zooplus deliver to you? Because they have some unusual dry dog foods, and if you hunt through you can often find ones with good ingredients at a good price, we’re currently trying Lukullus which comes in large oblongs and the pups seem to love it! I was just thinking they might have Eden at a good price…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aw thank you, you’re honestly too kind 🙂 It really is so cool to have others around that totally understand what it’s like and the struggles and successes. Zooplus does deliver to us so will need to check it out and see what cool things they have for dogs as last time we just got stuff for the degus. We actually ended up getting the Eden delivered from a local pet shop which was handy and so far I’m liking it, once Bonnie has been fully switched over I’ll probably do a short review on it 🙂


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