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.