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The need for transparency

Something I’ve noticed recently is an increase in dog professionals being honest about the struggles they’ve had/are still having with their own dogs. I think this is such a positive shift and I want to talk a little about why.

I’ve posted many times on this page about my own experiences of adopting my two Romanian rescue dogs - Dylan and Sia. Dylan, who I adopted back in 2017, was really anxious as a pup, and over time that developed into some selective reactivity towards other dogs. It’s one of the reasons I studied to become a behaviourist - to help him. He’s my soul dog - the love of my life - and I would have done anything to understand what he was going through and help ease his worries.

I remember when I first started working as a behaviourist, I felt so inadequate because all I saw from other dog professionals were posts of ‘perfect’ dogs doing complex tricks, competing at sports and showing at Crufts. I wasn’t in that space at all and I thought that made me less than. There have been times when I’ve felt like I didn’t know what the heck I was doing with my dog, and felt so depressed and deflated, worrying that I was failing him. I’m not joking when I say I’ve been in your shoes if you have a tricky dog!

Today, Dylan is NOT PERFECT. This is really important to say. His reactivity is 1000 times better than it was before, and we’ve worked HARD on it over the years. He only reacts to the odd dog now (boisterous dogs who get in his face, and occasionally breeds he’s had bad experiences with in the past). But it’s still there, and it’s something I have to be aware of. I’m so incredibly proud of how far he’s come and I have no shame at all in telling people about him - his reactions are always understandable and make total sense. He’s perfect to me.

When we adopted Sia last year, I was a little worried that Dylan’s fears would rub off on her. But actually, she’s picked up on all the wonderful things about him - his kindness, his zest for life, his love and loyalty for his people. It’s reminded me that he’s actually a wonderful role model and an amazing boy. He makes me proud.

When professionals in the dog world tell their own stories and are HONEST about where they’re at, it helps other people feel less guilty, less alone and more hopeful that things can get better. I’m a much better trainer and behaviourist because of the things my dogs have taught me. Clients have told me they appreciate the honesty and feel better that they’re working with someone who’s been in their shoes. I’ll never try to hide my dogs away.

Whatever the future brings, we’ll face it together, without shame. And I’ll keep sharing and advocating for those dogs who aren’t deemed ‘perfect’, but actually, are wonderful in so many ways.

My babies! ❤️

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