From 1 inch to over 20 feet; The Story of the Ultimate Underdog
I live with the ultimate underdog… well maybe not THE; but I venture to bet he is ONE of them!
At 9 weeks my oldest Belgian Malinois (yes I know only crazy people have more than one… and a Dutch Shepherd!) was a quivering ball of fear.
He has spent too much of his life dealing with fears and phobias, and because of that I feel bad for him. Nothing should be that scared of regular things (like our new recliner, for more on that and how to help a fearful dog click here)
We Don’t Coddle Him
He is afraid of the ceiling fan (still at 3 years old) but we don’t keep from turning them on, he is afraid of my hair dryer but I don’t stop drying my hair when I need to, he was afraid of the chair but we didn’t throw it away, and he was a little nervous about dock diving but we didn’t stop working with him.
Living in a neutral house and never going out is not the answer either. If you do that your dog will only marinade in his own fears and begin obsessing over new ones.
If you work on counter conditioning and desensitization your dog will learn to overcome his fears and it will build his confidence within his world.
My boy has always liked to swim, and we worked with him to teach him to jump off of a dock at our local lake; which he and my female dog “Fury” love.
He has these HUGE long spider like legs and he is muscled to the hilt, so jumping off of docks and swimming should kind of come natural to him.
But learning to jump off of a two foot dock into a clear blue pool with a ton of spectators around cheering and screaming can be overwhelming to a nervous dog to say the least.
Thankfully our first event was an Ultimate Air Dog event and they are willing and happy to help you teach your dog and help them learn the pool.
I like their organization because they want everyone to learn and progress and give you extra time to help your dog make that final plunge.
He would do pretty well in practice; I think because the stands weren’t full of screaming people and there is no PA system.
But as soon as the lights were on, the music was blaring and people were all around him looking and cheering, he had a harder time focusing on jumping in the water.
So Milt Wilcox and the team at Ultimate Air Dogs encouraged him and gave him a little extra time. As long as he was trying to get into the water he was allowed to try and think about it (no pushing is allowed because you don’t want to force them or scare them) and work his way into the water.
His shortest jump was 1 inch.
I swear he was like Jello falling off of the dock, or a snake slithering into the water.
There was no real jump in it, more of an acquiescing to the pool and the water.
We, well, mostly my husband have kept up with it.
Honestly we went a year and waited for the same event and entered both dogs again.
This year was better, he was keeping up with my dog and they were jumping about 17 feet into the water.
But this weekend he beat his personal best.
He has gone from 1 inch to 20 feet 5 inches!
What an amazing feat to be able to overcome his fears and increase his distance to this degree. I am quite proud of him!
Moral of The Story
The moral of the story is to work with your dog to overcome his fears. Don’t lock him away and hope they will get better or allow yourself to rationalize that staying at home and avoiding the things he fears is actually what he wants and better for him.
Life can be scary. I wish it wasn’t but life is full of things we don’t necessarily want to face; but as humans we know that we have to deal with them at some point.
Your dog doesn’t have the ability to think deep like this; he would rather avoid anything he doesn’t like.
But if you work with him, at his pace, together you can overcome almost anything!
For help specifically with aggression click here.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.