It’s been far too long since I featured little Lincoln over here and believe me we've been busy. As you know Lincoln started some anxiety related lead and shoe grabbing back in summer, so we started seeing a dog behaviourist to work on smoothing things out. We've been getting to grips with working together. The first thing I learned about 'dog training' is that the name is that the name is distinctly misleading; you can teach a dog in no time at all that by doing what you ask it gets rewarded. It is in fact the owner that gets the training by an instructor; the commands, your reactions whether it be quick to reward or prompt to correct and most importantly the need to be consistent and patient. We've not been working on tricks as such, but more a general emphasis on good behaviour, getting Lincoln to pay more attention to us and take direction from us instead of making his own plan. Importantly, we've been working on mitigating bad behaviour, how to avoid obvious triggers and what to do to get things back on track. We know that by nature staffies are easily excitable so we try to keep Lincoln nice and calm, he doesn't need us egging him on into a fizz. Lincoln is a really chilled out dog 90% of the time and that's what I think people don't expect about staffies: they react to your behaviour! If you're chilled out then they're chilled out. If you get them wound up then guess what? Excitement!
As part of our training, we have been muzzle training our little lad. This is so that if he starts redirecting excitement or anxiety to the lead (or my shoes) then at least we wont have a stand off as he can't get hold of anything. To start with I really thought the muzzle would be something that would cause more problems than it would solve. As a greedy little boy, Lincoln is always up for treats so getting familiar with Mr Muzzly (aka Muzzolini, 'Mr Muzzle-loves-the-dogs-you-hate) wasn't too difficult, but at first we couldn't get him to take a single step wearing it. He would stand completely rooted to the spot, almost like he was made of stone even with the lure of more cheese (we use soft cheese in a tube, which is gross but he really loves the stuff) just a couple of inches away wasn't enough to persuade him to take the smallest step. One biff of his paw would get the darned thing off before we could stop him too. I really thought we were wasting our time.
Nevertheless, we persevered despite the s.l.o.w start and now several months later Lincoln is happily wearing his muzzle for the duration of his dog training. I thought that he would find it too much of a distraction and would get into a right tizz trying to get it off his head, but conversely, he's found it very calming and he's not once had a burst of excitement with it on. After a couple of months of individual sessions we've finally made it into a group class, yay! Linky was so well behaved, I was so proud of him. To be honest, if Lincoln wasn't a staffie people would say he's a bloody good dog. It makes me sad that some people can't get passed the prejudice against the breed. I just hope that our little chap can help spread a bit of positivity around. We'll be checking back in here with news of what we've been getting up to so keep your eyes peeled. For now I'll leave you with some pictures I took of his little face. Cuteness!