I sought the help of Vicky Lawes because our rescue Labrador, Simba, was not good with other dogs and in worst cases was aggressive towards them. Obviously this caused major issues with walks limiting the places we could visit and also at what times. Though I had been attending training regularly and had really tried to tackle the issues I felt that I really wasn’t making any significant progress.
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend a Cambridge School of behaviour course and be one of the case studies for the students to gain practical experience with actual clients. In a practical sense this meant attending the venue in chartridge with Simba and answering questions from the students and then demonstrating Simba’s problematic behaviour using other dogs.
Anyone that has any experience of having a dog with issues will understand my apprehension at having to do this. I shouldn’t have been concerned. Both Vicky and Ross who were running the course, were extremely good at putting me at my ease, from meeting us in the car park so that I wasn’t wandering around with the dog not knowing where I needed to be, to settling me in the meeting room and ensuring we had everything we needed. It was very well organised and ran extremely smoothly. In the practical element with the other dogs I was never asked to do anything I was uncomfortable to do, and what could have been an extremely stressful experience for both me and the dog, was handled efficiently and quickly so that Simba and I were not left waiting or put under undue pressure.
The second element of Vicky and Ross’ help involved them visiting our home and seeing Simba in that environment and sitting down and talking to my wife and I about our whole experience with Simba, the issues that we had and what our experiences were. It was very relaxed and informal and I immediately felt that we were in experienced hands. I had, up until that point, felt that I really didn’t quite know where to turn. It has always felt like it should be a secret that your dog could be aggressive, that it is somehow something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It was actually a great relief to sit down and have a frank conversation with people who clearly understood and who had real answers. Vicky and Ross then walked Simba with their dogs to gauge his reaction. They are so relaxed that it inspires confidence, again what could have been an extremely stressful situation was handled quietly, efficiently with the minimum of fuss. We then sat down again and Vicky and Ross diagnosed the problem, that Simba has fear based aggression and then ways that practically tackle this.
To try to get him over his fear we have, instead of avoiding dogs as we had been, we actively sought dogs out for him to meet and interact with. He needed to have some good experiences with dogs so that he could get over his fear.
The results have been fantastic. As with most things in life; if you understand the problem then you are halfway to solving it. I realise now that so many of Simba’s issues boiled down to the fact that he was scared of other dogs. If you tackle those nerves then it is no exaggeration to say that everything else is starting to fall into place. Because he is no longer constantly looking around nervously for other dogs he is able to look at me and take on board the instructions, that for months I have been trying to get across to no avail. He is so much more relaxed in everything he does, both in the house and out, and that in turn means he is better behaved and a pleasure to have around.
Having watched the dvd provided by Vicky and Ross I also realise how so much of the work goes on in the house, rather than simply trying to control the dog on a walk.
Simba is a long way from the finished article and we continue to work hard at it, but, and it’s a huge but, I have in a matter of weeks seen a vastly different dog appearing from the one that I first made the phone call about.
That credit should be placed firmly at the door of Vicky and Ross and I am extremely grateful.
Ross and Simba the Labrador