Hello! Welcome to the 4th Instalment of Phoebes story, where she meets a professional trainer and our new fluffy neighbours.
Phoebes Story: Part Four
In the way that life does, things didn’t exactly run smoothly.
When we got Phoebe, we had just got a house together; Lord Geekus was working at home and I was split between Uni and home. We were in a good place to give a home to a dog.
Within 6 months we had to move house, my health took a nose dive and I got diagnosed with ME/CFS, and Lord Geekus’ job became more demanding.
We thankfully picked a house with the most perfect garden for her. It was huge, and wilderness had reclaimed the bottom half, so she could investigate till her heart was content.
What we hadn’t planned for was our fluffy neighbours. Within the first week of living there, Phoebe had a run in with our new neighbours…a Westie!
I looked up from the sink in the kitchen and there he was, pushing himself through a gap in the hedge, and there was Phoebe, frozen in surprise…but not for long.
I screamed and Lord Geekus ran out but she had already got to him. He grabbed her mouth and pulled her off the Westie and as he did the dog scrambled back to the hedge and disappeared through it.
I felt sick. We had been building so much trust, working so hard to try and avoid these encounters and then there he was, in our garden.
I went straight round to the neighbour I hadn’t met yet, with a bottle of wine and an apology.
She opened the door and was apparently completely unaware of what had happened.
Buster was his name, and his game was visiting all the gardens in the area, whenever he pleased.
She had tried to stop him, but it was no use. The owners of the house we now lived in, had owned a dog and he and Buster had been friends. Which explains why he came into ours, but not all the other gardens.
He was fine, a little shook up, but she seemed to think it would be a good deterrent.
There was silly me worried that her dog might meet a grizzly end, my bad.
Nothing we did stopped Buster. He wanted to show Phoebe who was boss and was convinced he was invincible.
We blocked up all the gaps in the hedge, so instead he would just run up and down barking at her.
Then some new neighbours moved in on the other side, they had two beautiful German Shepherds, only about 18months old. They liked to jump up at the wall and bark…continuously.
Of course, whenever Phoebe did, she was scolded and brought inside, because you know, dangerous. But they seemed quite happy to just leave them to bark into the night.
It did not end up being the tranquil wilderness I’d envisioned.
One day, in Pets at Home, we met a guy with his greying, gentle, Akita named Bear. He explained he had lots of problems too but gave us the name of his trainer who really helped.
I made an appointment, and eagerly awaited our improved relationship.
She came to our house and spent a bit of time with us getting to know Phoebe and how we interacted. Small things like, no letting her on the sofa, going through doors first, generally just showing her who is boss, was the first step, then small exercises like getting her to keep her focus on us as we walked around her.
There were lots of tips, including using noises to get her attention back. Catching her before she gets worked up. You can see it, in any dog, you can see the change as their focus gets pinned onto something and the anxiety increases. Catching her in this moment and bringing her back is very important…but not really a possibility when she is alone in the garden.
We did walking exercises, but honestly, I feel like even the trainer knew this wasn’t a problem to be fixed as such.
In fact, at one point, while trying out a walking exercise on our drive, Buster spotted Phoebe from his front door and ran, barking, towards her, as his family stood by. In that instant, Lord Geekus, grabbed Phoebe, who reared onto her hind legs, and just held her, as I chased him back. The trainer looked shocked and just explained we did the right thing in that moment.
Overall the trainers advice helped, mostly in getting Phoebe to listen and respect our authority…but the walking and dog problem was still bad.
At this point the daily walks around the village weren’t happening anymore, the paths were too narrow, and there were too many dogs about. Even with the training aids, the stress, and energy it was taking was crushing us.
A change of tactics was needed.
Find out what those were next time 🙂