So, the past few months have been a little, uh, busy.

HOW IS IT ALREADY APRIL!?

I'm going to back up and go back to the beginning.  Back in January, Trooper's tail started bleeding.  I thought it was a little sore on the end of his tail that would heal up.  Unfortunately, the bleeding kept going, and my walls became SPLATTERED with what seemed like gallons of blood.  I did weekly clean-up on the walls to try and keep everything clean, but I was getting tired of it.

I took Trooper (now 1 yr old) to my vet and she shaved the tail and diagnosed it as "happy tail."  This means that he becomes so excited that he quite literally bangs the shit out of the end of his tail, so much so that it has created a wound, and every time he hits it again it reopens.  So, we wrapped it up in a lot of bandaging material, with the instructions to keep his tail wrapped for up to 3 months.

We were warned that if it didn't heal, there wasn't really much else to be done except to (1) keep bandaging it, or (2) amputate it.

I didn't like either of those solutions.  I contacted a trainer that happens to be located near me.  She owns her own (large) business and trains police dogs to do various tasks (attacking, scent dogs, etc.).  She also takes on harder clients - aggression problems, red-zone dogs, and teaches private and group classes on basic obedience.

I had Trooper on a pinch collar when we first went, and he was nuts as usual.  He didn't jump up, which is what we had been working on, but he did bang his tail around in every direction - which is the reason why were there.  She realized that even when he was focused intently on something (e.g., another dog), he would still get distracted when someone - like his handler - pet him or gave him any sort of attention.  So much so that when she ran her hand down her back, he kind of reared back and bounced around.  She concluded that he had touch sensitivity, which was causing him to be quite reactive in his environment.

It explained a lot -- why I couldn't pet him without him going balls to the walls nuts.  Many other things as well.  So, she had us take him off his pinch collar and start again with a choke chain.

We met with her several times a week for four weeks straight.

I diligently led him through his daily activities, which usually equated to a full hour of just training (not to mention other sorts of play time).  So, every single day, we would go to an empty field, he and I, and we'd "walk squares" which is the activity we were focusing on the first week.  Squares allows the handler to keep the dog on a 15-ft leash and work with them one on one.  It also teaches the dog to be mindful of the handler, and to stay within a reasonable distance of the handler.  This went on for days as we slowly began to shorten the lead to 12, then 10, then 8, then 5 ft of lead. 

Then we started working on heeling, sitting, staying. 

Four weeks later, he is almost a different dog.  He still gets hyper (like most Labs) but he has learned to control himself and calm himself down. 

He listens, pays attention, and follows commands beautifully.

He is now up to a full two minutes of "stay" (probably longer, but I get impatient!) and can maintain his sit/stay even if I am wiggling around or crouching down in an inviting manner.  He waits at doors, looks us in the eye, and is generally calmer.

When he is calm, his tail is manageable and he slows it down.  When he is hyper, like when he hasn't been worked for a while, he grows antsy and starts reverting back to his old tricks.  So, I realize the importance of training him every day, consistently, without fail.  Every moment is a training opportunity for him (and me) and so far it's working out well.
 


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