Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Noticing Household Needs

When we bring a new dog into our house, this is by our choice not that of the dog!

It's easy to put all our focus on the new dog, but we must also look at the whole household and what every member needs!

For my final blog in Noticing Needs November 2023, I'm going to be taking a look at what we as dog owners need for our house.

As a Canine Coach & Behavior Consultant I try to take a step back and look at the whole picture of what is happening when an owner/caregiver comes to me for help. Of course this means looking at the dog's needs but it also means taking a look at what the human coming with the dog needs, what other household humans need, and what other household pets need.

When we open our doors to welcome a new dog in, we often have a mental picture of what family life is going to look like with our dogs. We have big dreams of a perfect world or perfect life, perhaps we've picked out the "perfect" dog for our family. But more often than not, things are far from perfect! It doesn't matter if you welcome a new puppy or an older dog into your house or even a new human, there is always a period of adjustment and learning about each other. Everyone that already resided in the house has to learn about the newcomer, just one new change. While the newcomer, has to learn about everyone else, typically multiple residents and where they fit in with everyone.

Those that have been following SDiT Rosalind already know that she was placed with a new handler, returned to me, and has now been placed with yet another new handler. We spent 4 days working with the new handler getting human and Roz to know each other, making sure the other dog in the house and Roz could be friends. And we all thought it was going to be a good match. Yet over the 2 months there, the new handler realized that caring for 2 dogs instead of 1 was really exhausting & costly! Roz at barely 2 yrs old has way more energy and stamina then the others in the house, illness happened with 2 of the 3 residents, planned vacation, and basically a whirlwind of activity in those 2 months. Unfortunately, things just were not working and continuing to try was having a negative impact on everyone involved. The decision to return Roz to me was not made easily, but was best for all involved.

Roz has now been transferred to a new home with a family she already knows and loves, that also loves & NEEDS her. This family has worked to understand the needs of everyone involved and is confident that Roz is exactly what they need.  They know Roz's energy level and needs for social, mental, and emotional stimulation every day. I'm confident this placement will work out and I'm excited what this means for Roz's new handler, Eddie! 

Young SDiT Rosalind, aka Roz, Rozzie, and Rozzie Bear, is a great example of a dog that needs to be with her people and have a job. Her goal in life is simply to be loved and please everyone around her!

Considering the Needs of the Handler

Some might say that this is more important for Service Dog Handlers that might have very specific needs. I believe this might be harder to understand or pinpoint the needs of Service Dog Handlers, but it's also true for every dog owner.

Generally the main person who will care for, train, and enjoy the dog the most is the one who brings the dog home. (Unless the dog is given for a gift, but that's a BAD IDEA!) This is also the person who typically reaches out to me for help when something is not going as planned. Occasionally a family member that didn't plan to get a dog and ended up "stuck" with the dog reaches out to me.

Often the person reaching out feels stuck, embarrassed, annoyed or a whole slew of other emotions due to the problems they are having. It's my job as a Canine Coach to simply listen to their struggle, observe the dog, and look for the missing puzzle pieces that are causing the struggles. Thankfully, listening has always been one of my strong suits!

We also need to consider the handler/caregiver's needs as far as other commitments, energy level, physical ability to manage the dog (especially true in large/giant dogs), and their end goal dreams. Most caregivers have other jobs in or out of the house; going to work, raising the kids, taking care of the house, etc. Available time to work with the dog is a huge part of creating a solution to the struggles. Energy levels vary from person to person. Often a caretaker gets the dog because they want to walk a dog, but the dog they get either doesn't like walks because the world is too scary or the dog wants/needs to walk much faster and/or further then the human anticipated. Too much exercise can be a bad thing too! Just like children some dogs simply don't realize how much a dog needs sleep. I need to understand the caretaker's available time, energy, physical strength, mental strength, etc.

Another huge caregiver need is learning style. Some individuals need hands on demonstrations with their dog, while other's can copy a well made video or watching another team in action. Some people prefer audio learning and enjoy listening to a podcast or webinar. Others need to read text to really process what they are learning.  And some caregivers need all 3 forms of learning; watching, listening, reading! Some people learn more quickly than others, while some need lots of practice. As a Canine Coach I really try to take all of this in consideration when creating a training plan.

Considering the Needs of other Humans in the House

I always say it's best to make sure everyone is on board before bringing a dog into the home. Sometimes that easier said then done and none of us lives in a perfect world. Often for me, my spouse is the hardest sell when I'm trying to bring in a new dog. He totally loves dogs, but only if he doesn't have to do the work and simply do the fun stuff like daily belly rubs. My husband does do the occasional walk with one of my dogs, but I need to have realistic expectations that he won't do this unless he really needs to. Often when a dog is struggling with behaviors the caregiver or spouse doesn't like, that can cause stress in the relationship. Not only does the dog feel that stress, but that can also make the behavior worse becoming a vicious cycle.

If there are children in the home, their needs must be considered. Are they old enough to help with the dog? Do they know how to be safe around dogs? Do they even like dogs? My grandson has never really liked dogs even though he's only slightly older than Azul he really only tolerates Azul. Forrest also hates most other dogs and new people too. For some reason, Forrest really clicked with Roz and he broke our hearts when he wanted to buy Roz from the day I was scheduled to take her back to Michigan. Roz is a sweetheart for sure and for a time we considered her staying at my daughter's house, but that doesn't fit everyone else's needs and Roz would be under utilized. She was born to be a Service Dog! 

If the caregiver is also a caregiver to young children, a senior adult with a disability, or other caregiving responsibilities, that will impact how much time the caregiver has to work with the dog from day to day. 

Sometimes we even need to consider the needs of our neighbors. No one wants to be at constant war with the family next door. Nor do we want our dogs to be barking at the neighbors dog every time we let them out. Depending on how many neighbors you have, that may be something that needs to be considered too. Some dogs do well in busy urban environments and some do not. While Roz has spent most of her life in urban environments, the rural environments definitely make it easier to meet her needs for exercise and sniffing time. At my house Roz gets 10 min of off leash zooming in the morning and evening with a 30-45 min walk. In an urban environment where she must be on leash all the time, a 60 min walk each day is not enough. Some of this is age related for our dogs, but the environment and neighborhood that the family lives in has to be a part of the training plan too!

Don't forget to consider the other animals in the house! That's a whole different blog!

I hope this has given you some food for thought before you welcome your next dog into your home. I hope it also helps you to realize what YOU need for a good at trainer. As caregiver, or the one seeking help with your dog, you need a trainer or coach that can understand your needs, the needs of your dog and help you bridge the gaps between where your needs don't quite meet up. 

If you can't connect with your dog trainer in a way that makes you feel good about your sessions, you likely need to look for a new trainer. Please search for one that uses force free, games based dog training that can make learning fun for everyone!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Adding More Enrichment

As dog owners, we use reinforcement to reward our dogs for the behaviors we like. Enrichment is often confused as being an extra great or j...