Below we describe a recent behaviour case and have included a client's perspective on how they found working with Widget's Farm. Many thanks to Starbuck's owner for sharing her experiences.
Anna: The following client viewpoint regards Starbuck, an 18 month old labrador, who was barking and lunging towards unfamiliar people and dogs. The cause of the unwanted behaviour was due to fear of certain triggers which progressed to the need to use "distance-increasing" behaviours (barking and lunging) to avoid the "scary thing" approaching. There was also general anxiety that was worsened at times of hormonal imbalance.
To help Starbuck, we needed to completely change her perception of strangers and unknown dogs and improve her general confidence and optimism around novel environments. Her owner worked hard on the training and the significant progress is testament to this. Starbuck has also received further treatment at her vet to deal with the underlying health issues. Starbuck's owner has kindly provided her views on the treatment and progress to date.
The Client's Perspective...
Starbuck's owner: Anna recently came out to help me with my 18 month Labrador bitch (Starbuck) who I have been having problems with for over a year, mostly with her extreme reactivity to other dogs.
Walking her was becoming a real chore as we would inevitably see lots of dogs on our walk and her behaviour was getting worse and worse: barking, lunging, growling and whining. She was terrified of the outside world and hated leaving our home which was clearly her safe place.
Although I considered myself an experienced dog owner having had dogs for over 10 years and I also have four other dogs, I was at a loss as to how to deal with Starbucks behaviour. I found Anna after spending a huge amount of money working with another behaviourist who's methods did absolutely nothing to help Starbuck. If anything it made her behaviour worse as it was essentially based on punishing her every time she exhibited the behaviour. Anna took a lot of time to evaluate Starbucks behaviour and explained very clearly how we would set about reconditioning her and helping her to experience the outside world without such intense fear.
Anna's methods of using positive reinforcement and reward based training has been a complete revelation for both Starbuck and myself. She has responded so well to the training and is making excellent progress, all in the space of a month. I also really appreciated Anna's advice not to push Starbuck beyond her comfort zone and to create distance to help her confidence rather than force her into close proximity with other dogs. The other behaviourist advised that Starbuck should be meeting 30 new dogs every week and to take her to lots of new and busy locations, which was something that I strongly disagreed with.
I would highly recommend Anna to anyone having problems with their dog. Not only is she knowledgeable and patient, but is also very reasonably priced which is something I really appreciated having wasted so much money using the other behaviourist.