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Rule Breaker

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There are those that follow rules and those who break them. Malibu seems to be saying, “I’m next, Quest. Get on line behind me!”

Road to Rehabilitation

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For the past six years, I have been on a journey. My destination is a long way off, perhaps unreachable, but I continue heading toward it because it is the only direction I can go. This journey of mine has taken a toll on my body, mind, and spirit. “I can’t do this anymore – I give up”, has been declared countless times.  But I can do this – because I have to.

Making the decision to rehabilitate three reactive Miniature Pinschers is an undertaking of epic proportions.  It requires a commitment of vast amounts of time and energy, as well as patience and perseverance.  For me, this was never a choice, but a responsibility that was owed to my dogs.

The rehabilitation of reactive dogs is a long, arduous process and my journey has been a continuous uphill trek from the beginning.  For starters, Miniature Pinschers are extremely hypervigilant dogs, and mine have the watchdog act down to a science. Always on high alert and extremely wary of strangers, the traits of a Min Pin appear to be the perfect ingredients for reactivity.  Not only do I have one of this breed, but a litter of three!

Pack mentality has been a roadblock to progress as well.  It is difficult enough dealing with one reactive dog, but when you are attempting to train a trio, it raises the challenge to a whole new level.  As discussed in a previous post, Reality Barks, one of my greatest enemies has been the doggie domino effect.

I realized early on that my crew would need specialized training if we were to have any hope for success.  But what did I know about dog training, let alone the kind of training that would be required to rehabilitate my dogs?  The puppy training books that I had read were useless since they did not discuss the reactive behaviors in which I was dealing.  What I needed was a manual that focused on raising multiple reactive dogs. Well, as it turns out, none exist.

Educating myself was the first step in attempting to meet the unique needs of my dogs. Searching the Internet, I found articles and books that focused on specific canine behavioral issues. The concepts and methods presented are geared towards fearful/reactive dogs who require more than basic obedience training.  Authors including Pat Miller, Leslie McDevitt, Patricia McConnell, and Jane Killion became my mentors while Amazon became my new best friend as I amassed a compilation of books that would rival your local public library.

With my guide books in hand, I began the monumental task of rehabilitating my reactive dogs.  Progress has been painstakingly slow, and regression is too frequent.  I have taken wrong turns, encountered detours, and reached dead-ends while on this journey. Frustration and exhaustion have become second nature and are a part of my everyday life.

Currently, I am reading Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out by Laura Van Arendonk Baugh.  A true gem, this book first hooked me with its title which seemed to capture the very essence of my Min Pins.  The theme of this book is “training crazy dog from over-the-top to under control”.  This recent addition to my collection may  become my bible!

Always a realist, I know that my dogs will never be “bomb proof”.  After all, they are Miniature Pinschers! As I continue striving to rehabilitate my dogs, I try to remain optimistic about the future.  The road I am on stretches before me, so I will keep walking forward with faith, determination, and three Min Pins by my side.

The Bottom Line

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It has been six years since Bob and I embarked on this life-changing journey.  To say it has been a wild and crazy ride would be an understatement!

Do we regret the decision we made to keep the litter together? The answer is a resounding, “No”.  The past six years have been anything but easy.  In fact, they have been the hardest, most trying time of my entire life. But if I could go back and change anything, I would not.

Parenting our Min Pin crew is a full-time job. In the first couple of years, Bob and I said, “What were we thinking?” more times than I can count. What kind of people fly halfway across the country to pick up a litter of puppies? Obviously, we are those kind of people.  Well, it has been a bumpy ride, with extreme turbulence along the way.

The first few months with the puppies were exhausting – we did not get a lot of sleep, but were so elated to finally have them that it didn’t matter.  Aside from our jobs, Bob and I spent every waking moment with the pups.  Having multiple pups under one roof was no easy task, but we managed and believed that the hardest part was behind us.

It was not until the puppies turned five months that we noticed trouble may be brewing. It seemed that all of a sudden, the pups realized that there was a whole world outside of our doors.  The crew began showing signs of what I now know is called reactive behavior.  Reactivity + pack mentality = trouble!!

Bob and I quickly learned that raising three Miniature Pinschers was going to be very different from caring for just one, as we had in the past.  The challenges have been almost insurmountable.  Torrents of tears and fits of frustration have been a common theme, but the sweet sprinkles of happiness and joy have made this difficult situation worthwhile.

As we continue our journey we are certain to experience more failure, but we will also celebrate success.  Sometimes it will seem like two steps forward and four steps back. That has pretty much been the status quo from the beginning.

The bottom line – we love our dogs. They are our world and we couldn’t imagine our lives without them.

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