Oh the Duck Toller scream

Dogs have a way of humbling us…just when you think you’ve got it- they show you that you really don’t.
Kingston is generally the best gentleman ever. He’s generally so attentive to me, responds quickly to cues and ignores other distractions. He is an intact male (He will be neutered, it has always been our plan) and usually is a great example of how intact dogs should behave around others- for example at our cottage at the beginning of the month, he dealt with an in heat GSD amazingly. He ignored he, worked around her. There was some whining, but he wasn’t bound and bet to get to her and did wonderful.
Yesterday was Pawlooza! Which is a large dog event in my hometown of London Ontario. I only wanted to bring one pup with me and I know Sheldon can get anxious and doesn’t always enjoy large crowds so I opted to go with Kingston- keeping in mind that I was expecting the behaviour of my rockstar dog…I didn’t quite get that rockstar I was hoping for.
King struggled hard. He struggled with all the scents, he struggled with being in proximity to water without having the option of running in and out, he struggled with ignoring other dogs, and he struggled with vocalization. You knew where we were in the park JUST by listening to this little duck tollers scream.
He screamed when there was a dog trying to get in his face, he screamed when he couldn’t get to the dogs out of reach, he screamed when he saw the water, he screamed when he couldn’t sniff something. Overall he was frustrated, over stimulated, and aroused which just equaled a hot mess of screaming. Thinking back- although he handled being around the in heat GSD, I do feel it raised his overall testosterone.

His screaming brought concerned citizens over- does your dog need water? Does he need a break? I think you should take off his Halti- I don’t think he can breath (okay people, if he can scream, he can certainly breath!). It was embarrassing. A duck toller scream is alarming- it sounds like a dying animal or child. I tried to shrug it off and laugh about it while my head was racing through management strategies and training protocols. In the end, he was removed from the craziness of the situation and placed away from the commotion. I couldn’t bring him home as we were going to demo impulse control exercises from the stage; which kind of made me laugh because in retrospect King was the one who was seriously needing impulse control lessons in the crazy environment.

Thankfully, the stage was raised and while he was demoing- Kingston was a peach. He still wasn’t nearly in tune with me as he usually is, but he wasn’t screaming and ignoring me…..until we brought other dogs on stage to demo with. Then he was removed from the situation as he was ignoring food and scrambling and screaming once more to my dismay.

What did this remind me?
1) Training is forever.
That’s right folks- it’s not just for today, or for when your dog is a puppy, or when you are struggling; training is on going. Your dog is constantly learning and re-learning what does and does not work for them.
2) Practice makes perfect.
Lately I have been super busy with clients and my dogs have been on the back burner. If you stop working on something (like focus in crazy, busy environments) you will have regression. Just like with many skills- if you don’t use it, you will lose it.
3) Compassion goes a long way.
Many people stopped, watched, judged (you could see the disgust on their faces, I could hear people comment as I passed) and offered unsolicited advice. I knew how to handle the situation (ultimately remove him) as he was not in the head space to learn. We need to work back up to where we once was and we will get there, but yesterday was not the day to try to get there.

Next year WILL be better, but it will take a lot of hard work to get back to that point. In the next month or two King will hopefully go in for his neuter (planning by the end of the year- just so busy) and that will help decrease hormonal arousal- as long as it is cause by his hormones and not a learned behaviour.

Regardless, we will preserver and we will get there and next year, hopefully we won’t concern quite as many people.