Through all of life's changes, Salinger has been a champion for the most part. It's me.
The dreaded "it's not you, it's me", right?
Dogs are incredible creatures. They offer us companionship, unconditional love, and a daily dose of adorableness. But, just when you think you've got them all figured out, they throw you a curveball – the sudden and baffling refusal to listen. It's as if they've decided to join a canine rebellion, and you're left wondering, "What on earth is going on here?" Fear not, fellow dog lover, for I have your survival guide to navigating this peculiar canine phenomenon.
First, let's acknowledge the bewilderment that comes with a dog suddenly ignoring your cues. Your once responsive Fido has decided that your pleas for a sit, stay, or even a simple "come here" are simply not worth their time. It's like they've discovered a new dimension where there are no consequences and they know better. While it might be frustrating, it's essential not to take this personally. Dogs, like humans, go through phases and changes.
Yes. Dogs are allowed to change, evolve, even devolve sometimes. *shrug*
In all honesty, when Salinger stopped listening to me this summer, I took it personally. Probably more so than the average bear because of my profession. I beat myself up over it and was really in a shame-spiral. All the hard work I had done disappeared overnight and obviously I suck. Right?
There were other things going on.
If you know me, you know that I will always tell you to rule out health issues first, before you jump to conclusions about your dog's behaviour. Sometimes, sudden behaviour changes can be attributed to pain or discomfort. If they get the all-clear, then we look at the development factor:
How old is your dog? Is there a major developmental change happening right now?
In the first 18 months, they develop SO MUCH. It's hard to imagine a dog going through so many changes in their behaviour, personality, likes/dislikes, quirks, etc...but that first year or so is a rollercoaster.
Like teenagers, dogs can go through rebellious phases, especially during adolescence. Just as your teenage child might rebel against your parental authority, your puppy may decide to test the limits. This is entirely normal, and patience is your greatest ally. Stick to your training routines and be consistent in your expectations.
Try not to let yourself be the one to lose control by resorting to punishment out of frustration. You're supposed to be the calm, cool, collected one, remember?
Then you must learn the art of reinforcement: one of the best ways to get your dog back on the same page as you is through positive reinforcement. Dogs are motivated by rewards – it's in their DNA. Treats, toys, play, access to resources, and even affection can work wonders. Consider retraining some basic behaviours from scratch as if your dog has never done them before. You might be surprised at how quickly you can reprogram some of those basics!
Now let's mix up the routine: just like humans, dogs can get bored. This is actually one of the most important things we can do for our dogs. I'm not saying turn your daily schedule on its head and change everything, I'm saying to change things up and look at your dog's experience for gaps in novelty. If you take the same route every walk and you feed the same food out of the same bowl and the same toys are always lying around, you need to spice things up a little. Seriously.
Change up the route! Let them have a good sniffari. Switch up the mealtime experience by experimenting with new food toys and puzzles. Consider putting their toys on a daily rotation so that there's some novelty to keep them interested. Train some fun tricks that are completely useless in every day life but create a sense of closeness and enjoyment for both of you.
Remember that change doesn't happen overnight. Don't try to do all of this in the course of a few days. You'll burn out and you won't get lasting results. Make small changes that feel manageable and sustainable for you and then track the results over the course of a few weeks.
If these challenges persist despite your best efforts, don't hesitate to reach out! Our membership provides a TON of resources to guide you through these challenges, plus the community for support, and the live events and challenges for accountability.
Just like your dog deserves patience and understanding, so do you.
Maybe you've run out of spoons lately and you need support. Is there someone you can enlist to help take something off your plate? A dog walker twice a week? Setting a regular playdate with your dog's best friend? Hiring a cleaner once a month? Enlisting the help of a meal delivery service? Hiring a local student to do yard work or a grocery run?
We need to put our mask on before we can help others and maybe that's at the core of all this.
Lastly, when you're struggling with patience with your pooch, take a moment and look at them. Just breathe and observe. Imagine you've come back from 20 years in the future to spend a few minutes with your dog. Suddenly these little rebellions feel endearing for a moment, don't they? That might give you the ounce of patience and humour you need to get through the next 24 hours and try one of the strategies I've mentioned above.
Whatever you do, don't blame and shame yourself. We all go through this. Be kind to yourself, okay? You're doing your best and that's pretty fantastic in my opinion.
Salinger and I are in a much better place and we're communicating again. It took a combo of all the things I mentioned above and I lie down at night feeling like we're back where we used to be. It feels so nice. I know you can get there too, if you're struggling as I was.