In August myself and the Pets2impress Canine Carers put our communication skills to the test by participating in an Escape Room Challenge.

We were placed in a room and there were 4 padlocks on the door which we believed to be the exit. We allocated each other tasks to try and solve the clues as quickly and effectively as possible. After 20 minutes we had unlocked 3 of the 4 padlocks and we were feeling confident that we were going escape well within the time. I cannot really take too much credit as I spent the majority of the time reading through books which I believed must contain a clue. This turned out to be a futile exercise (my instincts were totally wrong and in fact the books where placed there as a diversion technique to which I fell for hook, line and sinker).

We had 16 minutes remaining and we found the final code for the final padlock enabling us to exit the room and win the game (or so we thought). When we opened up the door we were faced with another room which was filled with yet more padlocks and clues.

This is when it all went to s**t! We all had the same motivation and goal to succeed, however our methods were inconsistent, haphazard and frankly crap (not dissimilar to the way many well-meaning owners attempt to train their dog luckily, Pets2impress are here to offer a free telephone assessment followed by a one to one training programme utilising positive based methods of training to try and correct behaviours of both you and your dog).

Our fannying on and flapping about meant we failed in achieving our goal of being the fastest (albeit only) Pets2impress team to escape the mother of all escape rooms. We did however succeed in royally confusing each other and if we were skunks, our scent would definitely be left behind as a result of all of the stress we were experiencing. This is exactly how dogs feel when one owner says ‘stay’ and the other says ‘wait’. When it comes to training your dog you need to surround yourself with a supportive team, all members of which are singing from the same hymm sheet (or Pets2impress training manual which is given free when you enrol on one of our training classes).

Alfie the Labrador’s humans contacted Pets2impress (I am sure it was the offer of a free training manual that enticed them, or maybe it was my dashing good looks) as Alfie had recently started reacting to other dogs whilst out and about. 

Alfie had been with his owners since he was 8 weeks old and his owners were a perfect example of how when faced with a challenge (dog-dog aggression rather than being trapped in a room with 4 lovely ladies) they discarded the training methods as taught by Pets2impress during their 6 week puppy training course, and instead chose what they deemed to be the easy options of avoidance and negative based training.

The cracks were starting to appear (like any normal marriage) when Alfie was 18 months old. He was wearing the yellow ‘give me space’ bandana and had turned into a snapping land piranha (think of a bitey and ferocious piranha that has the ability to charge through fields to capture it’s prey) on and off lead which resulted in his owners only walking him in the dead o night (well early morning and late night).

Alfie had previously attended Pets2impress Puppy classes and often attended the stay and play classes at our daycare centre so we knew he started off on the right paw. Alfie used to enjoy playing with his furry friends, especially on the beach, but over the last 3 months his owners reported this had become impossible.

At our assessment appointment both owners blamed one another for Alfie’s behaviour (think of a budget version of Coronation Street Jack and Vera rather than Liz and Jim). We took Alfie out for a walk and I observed not only Alfie but both owners as they took charge of the lead.

One of the owners changed direction as soon as they saw another dog and they later advised that they would prefer to get up 4am to walk him to avoid seeing other dogs. This same owner believed Alfie’s behaviour to be the consequence of fear (They clearly remembered some nuggets of information from the latest Pets2impress Dog to Dog Aggression seminar).

The other owner walked head on towards the other dog and tightened the lead as short as possible before passing the potential enemy. This owner shouted ‘NO’ at Alfie frequently during his way and after the dog passed, Alfie was then told he was a ‘naughty boy’. This owner, let’s call them Vera in comparison to the more empathetic Jack, believed that Alfie needed to get used to dogs and that his behaviour was unacceptable.

Following on from our assessment we then implemented a training programme to help rebuild a positive association with other dogs once again. This training programme involved working with Alfie on the lead and focused on changing Alfie’s unwanted behaviours to that of a more acceptable behaviour.

Instead of Alfie lunging, barking and acting problematically, through a training programme we reconditioned these behaviours to one simple movement which involved Alfie looking at his owners whenever he seen another dog.

This is what we call the ‘watch’ command. Gradually exposing Alfie to other dogs and 2 months later Alfie was back to the dog the owners knew and loved. Once the owners started to work together and implement positive based methods of training (the only type of training Pets2impress offer) they started to get the results they had worked for. Hard work and determination is always far better than giving up at the first hurdle and I always love working with owners that are not prepared to give up on their dog.

It is important to remember that training takes time, commitment and requires a lot of communication as you never know what is around the corner (or on the opposite side of that door). Try not to be complacent with your dog’s training and always make sure to work together as a family. Alfie’s owners learnt the hard way but they never gave up and with the help from Pets2impress they were able to implement a desensitisation programme and recondition Alfie’s unwanted behaviours in a positive way.

In December the Pets2impress team are planning our next escape room as although we failed this time, we do not give up that easily (you shouldn’t either). Failures should be used as opportunities for improvement no excuses to quite.

You have it in you to be a great dog owner and to have a great (or should I say greater) dog, sometimes you just need a push in the right direction.

Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson runs Pets2impress in South Shields. Pets2impress provides daycare, one-on-one behaviour consultations and training programmes, training classes for puppies and adult dogs, agility training, pet sitting, dog walking and grooming services. My 10 years experience as a qualified veterinary nurse, dog trainer and canine behaviourist gives me a comprehensive understanding that all dogs have different physical and emotional needs, allowing daycare sessions to be tailor made to suit each individual.

We like to run our daycare as close to a nursery setting as possible and therefore follow a daily schedule as closely as we can. This is extremely beneficial to the dogs in our care as it has been well documented that dogs thrive off predictability and it has positive effects on both their behaviour and mental well-being. To ensure we create the perfect balance of play time and valuable naps, each dog is individually assessed prior to their stay at the centre.

To find out more about Tim and Pets2impress visit the website here

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