I receive letters from my clients all of the time. Holidays, birthdays, updates on their dog and family, vacation photos, a new trick learned, and everything in between. I love it, it makes my work feel so real, tangible. This letter came in this morning and I was asked to share. While my heart is sad, and I write this with some tears, I thank this owner for being so brave to put pen to paper and send this my way. Fessing up to our mistakes is not easy, we have to let go of EGO completely. And with that comes the reality that there is going to be a level of judgement from others. If anything, it pains me that there are people out there calling themselves trainers, and harming dogs with really crappy awful advice, and allowing well intentioned people to believe it.
With love, peace, and kindness, Nancy…
Before I begin I want to make sure you share this on all of your lists and sites. I hope no person has to go through what we have, and hopefully our painful lesson will help someone else.
We came to you for help and advice for our sound sensitive dog. You were so kind, you gave us a plan, and told us over and over again that most likely our dog would never ‘get over’ this, but we would become great managers and help her to feel safe. In all honesty, we left joking about how many different ways you can say ‘safe’ in one hour. We wanted her to be better and not fear obvious noises, but you were telling us it was our responsibility to change our home environment for her and her well being. Calming scents, white noise, comfort space, and low light. We just didn’t buy it at the time. We tried it for awhile, and she was no worse, the house seemed calm, but it seemed like so much effort on our part.
On some level we knew there was a cure for her, that she could be cured. And frankly, we weren’t about to change our lives that much.
So we went to another trainer that promised us a cure, and 100% results. We were taught how to make a ‘correction noise’ when she showed fear or started to tremble. We were told that our dog needed a true leader and then she would stop ‘acting out’. We didn’t have to change our life style at all, and could sit in the comfort of our family room and verbally correct her. We were told not to comfort her, as that would reward her for being so ‘needy’.
Nancy, I am sure you have stopped breathing at this point, and I am sure you know what is coming.
Her stress, anxiety, and fears blossomed to a whole new level, to the point where any sound, even foot steps sent her into a total panic. She no longer trusted us. She started to foam and drool when we would come near her, trembling all of the time, she feared our touch, and running from room to room. Our hearts broke.
We wanted her to ‘be better’, we were doing what we thought was right, to give her a better quality of life, and in turn, we made her feel like she lived in a horror house 24/7. We not only neglected to make her feel safe, but we became her tormentors. And all we wanted was for her to be better, to have a better life.
We chose to end her suffering. Our hearts are heavy, and we fully understand what went wrong. Your words of ‘feeling safe’ ring in my head all of the time. What you tried to help us with was common sense, kindness, comfort, and really very doable. What we were apparently grasping for was a miracle. And the price for a failed miracle was a life.
I will never torment another dog, I will never go a day without comforting a dog, nurturing a dog, and allowing a dog to feel safe in my presence. Common sense will prevail.
There is so much dog training advice out there, a full spectrum, and we fell for superior marketing and promises of success. And what we failed to see was what you initially told us, ‘always think, does she feel safe’.
This is painful to write, and painful to think about, but if it helps one person, well then.
With heart felt sincerity,
This post has received a lot of attention and quite a few comments – I have posted my thoughts about this instead of responding to each individual reply – thoughts