So I know I haven’t been blogging for a while now. And I feel it it time to tell you all why. I hate to have to write this but I have noticed Bailey is not happy when he’s working outside of the home. He seems very nervous in public, even though I stopped working Bailey for six weeks and just focused on fun socializing outings. This made a huge improvement with his growling but when in public his eyes are constantly darting around on alert and he backs away from people when they get close. Also he still growls at people randomly. Although I have consulted professionals regarding this behavior, his growling is so inconsistent that we have not been able to pinpoint it to a specific trigger other than him just being generally uncomfortable around strangers.
He is able to relax and fall asleep when he is on a "down" for a long period of time, but if a person walks near to him he pops up and is on nervous alert again. At home he is great with me but not everybody else. He's incredibly smart and loves doing tasks for me, but he is still not comfortable with my two part time aides. One of which he has seen twice a week for the past four months. I haven't even been able to take him out when those aides are working. Of course we could physically get the leash on him but because I can see he is too nervous I was not working him when accompanied by those aides.
I know this is not a fear stage because looking back at his behavior and our training I realize now that he has been randomly uncomfortable with strangers since I first started working with him (ugh! Hindsight is always 20/20). Of course all dogs have “behaviors” that can be worked on. For example Bailey sometimes gets really excited when he sees other dogs. This is a behavior that with some work he can overcome. In comparison him being nervous and shy around strangers (and even some people who aren’t strangers) and generally just unhappy while out with me in public is not a “behavior” that can be trained out of him. At this point it is a part of his personality. Just like with some people he is a shy and sensitive little guy. Training cannot change him into an outgoing, stranger loving dog.
The most important task I want my SD to do is be a social facilitator by performing trained interactions with people (like taking stuff out of there hands when someone tries to give me something that I can't grab). And to just be friendly which encourages strangers to talk to me (everyone loves a friendly dog). I talked some more with my current trainer and the trainer Bailey lived with for 5 months. Both of them support my decision to retire Bailey as a Service Dog and are encouraging me to pursue a program dog.
One consistent thing that everybody notices about Bailey is that when he is around other dogs his confidence sky rockets. Obviously I can’t have a Service Dog that needs an additional emotional support animal (haha). But this is really comforting because I know if I get another dog in the future Bailey will be ecstatic about having a friend in the house with him.
So you might be wondering what this means for Bailey now. Well for one thing he’s getting to do more fun activities and can now go to the dog park and just be a playful pet. He is absolutely no longer going to be my Service Dog so my family and I have been transitioning him into getting used to be a family pet and not going everywhere with me. So far he is really enjoying his new status. Of course this doesn’t mean that he will no longer be receiving any training. All dogs regardless of working status should be stimulated with basic behavior and play training. Bailey loves his speak command and gets so excited to show off. And I will continue to work on his “dog distraction” because even as a pet he still needs to be well behaved when we’re out on walks. Once I get a program dog I will still do ”Bailey and Me” time, such as dog parks and walks just the two of us and Bailey will continue to get tons of love and attention.
Of course I really wanted Bailey to work out as my SD so this really sucks but I have always said if Bailey's not happy working then I won't make him work. He’s telling me he doesn’t want to work and I am listening. Thanks for reading.