Pack Restructuring After A Dog Dies

Whether you're a trainer, owner or rescuer, dogs will ALWAYS remind you when they are not in a balanced state of mind.   One of the things I do best is tell my clients the truth--about myself, my dogs, where I go wrong and how I corrected it or intend to correct it.

As you all know, Petunia started acting out during Big Rosie's decline and subsequent death over the past month. She gave Chunky a bite on the ear one night due to a space shortage (she was blocked in). She forgot how to move away and reacted inappropriately. Chunky was fine and brushed it off. For the next 24 hours, I watched Petunia come around every corner with trepidation. I know she was waiting for the big retaliation by Chunky. She was certain she was about to get an ass whoopin'. But it never came. I could feel Petunia's mind spiraling out of control. In order to break that mindset, we took a quiet pack walk with the girls tethered to each other as a team. They sniffed and peed and carried on. That was the end of that.

She ignored my command the other day and charged out the door to meet another dog in my training yard. That approach caused trouble even though it was not her intention. That same dog who bit her before bit her again. She latched on to the dog but didn't bite her. She responded to my command by releasing the dog unharmed. Even though that dog bit her, she was inappropriate in her approach.

Her excitability has always been her downfall. The point is--she still disobeyed my command to Stay and made her own choice. I will never tolerate that.

It was then I realized she needs to be rebooted and taken back to square one. I believe she is trying to fill Big Rosie's shoes and take her position in the pack. Even though Rosie didn't lead the pack, she was the alpha over Petunia. Petunia is not ready nor is she qualified to be the alpha of the dogs. She's a follower and most likely always will be. That position can only go to the dog most equipped to direct and protect with calm assertive energy. That dog is Chunky. Thank dog I adopted the old, deaf dog. She works miracles with dogs in ways that leave me in awe.

The reason I'm sharing all of this is to teach you that your pack will change time and time again. It's important as the ultimate alpha leader of the pack (YOU and ME) to be the one who directs and protects. Chunky is second to me and she knows it and respects it.

Petunia and I are back to basics including the e collar. I love the collar in that it gives me the ability to communicate with her in such a gentle way that you'd never know it's turned on. It's like a tap on her shoulder. I have never had to dial her up. She work on level 5 out of 100 levels. Tap. Come. Good!

In the past 24 hours, she has already figured out what is expected of her. I started by removing her from my bed and asking her to sleep on the little cat bed that she loves to tuck into. Yes, I had to set my personal desire to snuggle aside and do what's best for my dog.  She has no free run of the backyard and no access to toy unless we play together. During the day, I keep her in training with the other four dogs who are here at my business. She lives with them, eats with them, and exercises with them. She is free to come and go only when I allow her. She not only loves to be told what to do but she NEEDS to be told what to do.  You can see she has switched off already. She's in the living room with me right now and is dozing off in Place.

One of the most important aspects of what I teach and expect from dogs is mental balance. I never care if they give me the perfect sit as I dread seeing the military precision some of these dogs have been trained with who are screwed up in the head, nervous wrecks, a food drives built so high that they are obsessed with meals.  I look for state of mind first and foremost.

I promised Big Rosie a balanced state of mind if it was the last thing I did. I did give it to her and was rewarded with a great dog. It took me a hell of a long time to get her there but we arrived.  Remember that challenges and behaviors become minimal but do not miraculously go away after a couple weeks of training.  Training is every day and is a lifestyle.  I will do the same for Petunia as I did for Big Rosie and for my client dogs.

Stay tuned as we turn the corner without Big Rosie and right our ship once again.