Comment on Loving a reactive dog means grieving the dog you thought you would have by Emma Heasman.
Hi Stephen. I am so sorry to hear that you’re facing the highs and lows of life with a reactive dog at the moment. It can be tough, can’t it? Have you had a look at the resources mentioned in the blog? They’ve been a lifeline for me. Also, I recommend Janet Finlay’s fantastic book, “The other end of the lead”. Do you have any secure fields near you that you can hire? I can’t tell you how fantastic it is to have a day a week when I don’t have to look for triggers and I can just enjoy Willow getting to be a dog without any stress.
Emma Heasman Also Commented
Congratulations on bringing a lovely dog into your home. It can be quite an adjustment, can’t it? I’m not a vet or behaviourist but if your dog is reacting suddenly to your daughter, it might be worth just getting a full vet check as sometimes there can be underlying issues such as pain that prompt reactions. We discovered over the summer that our Willow has a calcified tendon in her shoulder and elbow dysplasia in both elbows, so the pain could be a factor in her reactivity.
Definitely check out the CARE protocol. Using this, we have gone from Willow reacting almost a football field’s distance away from other dogs to being able to walk past them on the opposite pavement. The great thing about this approach is that it’s force-free and great for building trust, which is so important for all dogs, but especially those who’ve had a difficult start in life. If you can find a good force-free behaviourist too, it can help so much, especially with managing your dog’s behaviour around your daughter.
I wish you well with everything and I’m so pleased you found this article helpful. I know it helps me to know I’m not alone on this journey!
I am so sorry that you have had to face this heartbreaking decision. It’s clear that you love your dog very much and have acted with his best interests, and those of your children, despite the grief it has caused you. Well done for finding your dog a calmer home more suited to his personality – despite our best attempts, sometimes we’re not the right fit with our animal companions and you’ve been brave to recognise this.
Have you read this article from The Ralph Site too: https://theralphsiteshop.com/rehoming-a-pet-how-to-cope-with-the-grief/
I truly believe that until someone has lived with a reactive dog, they can’t understand what it’s like and how it can impact every aspect of your life. Hopefully, with time, you will be able to move forward and recognise that your dog is well, happy and safe and that your kids are too.
For now, be kind to yourself.
Loving a reactive dog means grieving the dog you thought you would have
Hi Lara – It sounds like your three dogs are very lucky to have you. Having a reactive dog makes everything so complicated, doesn’t it? I totally understand the feeling of not wanting Bailey to miss out but also not wanting to compromise life for your non-reactives too. I believe the advice is always to walk reactive dogs separately from non-reactives in the household. This is because reactivity can be catching and because, as you’ve mentioned, handling multiple dogs when one is reacting can be chaos. Have you had a chance to look at the CARE protocol mentioned in the article? This is all about changing the reactive dog’s emotional response to scary things. It works but it takes time. If you’re in the UK, I really recommend joining the RDUK Community and Campaign Group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1633448230248202) – they help me so much. There’s also a group called Dog Training and Support that may be able to help with advice about multi-dog households. I wish I had more advice to give you. All I can say is that I totally understand and my heart goes out to you. Having a reactive dog is lonely and worrying at times.
Recent Comments by Emma Heasman
Writing your pet loss grief
I’m glad you liked the article, Jill, and I hope you find it helpful. I have been a bit slack with my own daily writing but I feel like it’s something I want to get back to because it really is a good outlet. Do let me know how you get on – I’m always hanging around in The Ralph Site Facebook group. Wishing you the very best and much love to your beautiful Dylan.
Stone, More Than ‘Just’ a Cat
I am so, so sorry for your loss. I understand your pain and I would never wish it on anyone.
Stone had to be sedated at the end too – the vet said she always does this as she didn’t want our last memory to be of Stone struggling. It does still haunt me that the sedative seemed to make her nauseous as first. She struggled to her feet to gag and I hate to think that feeling sick was one of her last sensations. Fortunately, the wave of nausea then passed and she relaxed as the sedative took hold. This gave us all the final peaceful moments that I described.
Stone’s been gone 15 months now and it still hurts beyond words, but the feeling has changed – like a pebble in my shoe that I’ve learned to walk with instead of it bringing me to my knees. It will be the same for you, I’m sure, but it’s early days.
I hope that you are able to move past the trauma at the end of her life to celebrate the joy of 21 and a half beautiful years together. If Petula is anything like Stone, I bet she only ever knew a life full of love, warmth and security at the heart of her family. That’s what I tell myself – Stone never had to be afraid, she was never alone, never hungry, always loved. I bet Petula fought at the end because she would have given anything to stay if she could, even if it meant suffering to be with you. And because you would never let her suffer, you found the strength to say goodbye.
If only they could stay with us forever.