Seems like it's definitely time for a break from the stresses on both of you. I'm sorry the family walk didn't work (sometimes, it takes quite a few tries, sometimes it just doesn't work, at all) but, glad you're finding ways to work around it - which will also give you both some time to focus more on the behavioral/training strategies, before habit to deal with the issues as part of the 'daily grind'. Hopefully, his recovery period won't be too difficult on him, you, or your family.
what a difference almost-a-month makes!!! He'll turn 10 months on Sunday but here Thursday is a holiday and I'll be taking the long weekend in the big city, so here we are....
Between getting him fixed* and everything else, we have today done walk number 13, going from "absolutely horrible" to "couldn't have done better myself". He's not perfect, and Sunday when we went to a park where unbeknownst to us a horsemen's meetup of 250+ people and horses was happening (!!) it didn't go particularly well, but nobody died and even better, I'm walking in the neighborhood now with almost no stress at all.
It's all thanks to a series of changes, and I'm still trying anything and everything.....
1- experimenting with equipment: from harness to head collar to slip lead to now figure-of-8 (like slip lead with a muzzle loop). I also have a prong collar stuck in customs somewhere, in case I need another tool in the future, but so far that figure-8 has worked wonders.
2- avoid the cursed block: every block here is full of dogs, but that particular block gets him really upset for some reason. We actually now take another route that probably has even more houses with wildly barking dogs behind fences, but he doesn't seem to mind. I don't speak dog language so I imagine on that first block they said something really, really offensive he still hasn't forgotten?
3- bologna: Someone gave me one of those big loafs of bologna they slice up at the deli counter. It's like 5 kg of bologna. We ate about 50g of it before deciding we'd really rather not eat any more. So it's been frozen for training treats, which he only gets when we're walking around other dogs, especially barkers or loose dogs. So now he's looking to me for snacks. Yes, one day we'll run out, but it might be years first.... this dog would sell his soul for bologna.
4- the unexpected: I have been following a trainer online who works with large dogs, and he gave me a good idea. I don't think my dog is afraid, just reacting, but in case he feels insecure when an off-lead dog comes up to us (we have many, many strays here, so it's a constant wild card) I give him slack. It is exactly the opposite of what I would have done before, and it seems to create much less excitement. Occasionally I forget (today out on the walk a littler dog came up behind us and surprised me) and if I don't give the slack, it turns into a lungefest.
5- Bad Grandpa: when we used to go walking, the old man (who stays home) would howl, starting the whole neighborhood into a frenzy. I replenished our stock of Good Snacks (cow esophagus, which has lots of collageny stuff he could use anyway) and he gets one to eat when we leave- takes a while for him to chew on, and he enjoys it enough he knows now to go lay on his bed when he sees us suiting up.
6- speaking of suiting up: the backpack. Junior is now carrying just over 1 kg (two small water bottles, one on each side) and walking between 3 and 6 km each day. Works a charm. In the pic he's crashed out on my office floor after a good 4 km with the pack.
All in all he is acting like a different dog. I know we still have a good stretch of teenage silliness and fear periods to deal with, but now at least I feel pretty confident we'll all survive it.
*a week with a cone. hahahahaha. Internet search made it clear that anyone who wants a malinois to wear a cone is going to be disappointed. On the vet's advice, he had to be doped for the first 3 days, because he broke 2 cones within two hours of getting home. After that we replaced all the cone hardware with wire so he couldn't break it again, but he soon figured out he could manipulate the cone to get around it. This dog is so flexible he's got to be part snake. After day 7 i took him out to the park to walk a bit and noticed he didn't seem interested in licking at all, so after that we kind of just used the cone every once in a while, he knew he wasn't supposed to be licking. Stitches out on day 10 and he's now good as new, without any scent marking in my house (thank goodness).
We passed 11 months a few days ago and things are looking up!
For a while there it looked like I was going to have to board my boys for an event tomorrow (which, of course, was cancelled) so in anticipation I did some training. Hired a local guy who only does stuff online, and we did some tweaking of our environment (limiting indoor space and together time in line with desired behavior), feeding (work for food, even more than we were doing), and routine (less walking, more quiet indoor time on his place).
I was amazed to find the less we walk, the more relaxed the dog is. We are still walking really well, but we do avoid anything problematic. Today we walked (out of necessity) smack through the middle of 3 large, barking stray dogs-- he jumped (so did I!), but it was no biggie.
I've done some zen-level examinations about why I need the dog to be friendly with strangers (verdict: I don't) or strange dogs (also no). This dog is an anxious dog, and a phenomenal protection dog. He's not a golden or a pug, and I can't expect him to act like one. But he has been mellowing a bit, and there is a lot less hysterical barking and running around like a screaming meemie.
Added plus: Bad Grandpa has also been pulled into the training, and even though he pretends he can't hear me, he's also had to get his little butt into gear, which is wins all around.
Ah, the exercise trap ;) It's hard for clients to wrap their head around that LESS exercise might be the answer! No one is looking to create a power athlete they have to live with; one that needs more and more exercise to even. A good 20 minute free work session is really good thing to substitute for an exercise session too! Quiet, centered, focused, working/ turning on a different part of the brain. I use it at work with my dog before she crates up for client arrivals, instead of playing ball with her (that was getting her riled up and making it harder for her settle for me) and at the end of the day when I just have one dog left..
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