The Chaotic Moments: When Training Pays Off

Have you ever had one of those moments where everything kind of explodes?  This week, something happened in my house that, in one hour, brought home years of hard work and training with my oldest dog, Beskow. On Tuesday, our two children had their first day at daycare ever, my husband’s family was in town, and I was gearing up for the BACB certification exam.  All of those were good and exciting things, but they also introduced multiple elements of stress into the house.  For about a week prior to this, my dog Beskow – who can be anxious even on a good day – had been acting particularly stressed and having some stomach issues, so that morning I switched her over to chicken and rice, thinking it would help her.

Fast forward to three hours later, when we returned from daycare and lunch with the grandparents… and walked into the foulest smelling house ever.  Please forgive the description, but our poor dog had managed to completely explode from both ends!  Meanwhile, the kids were both upset because it was naptime, my husband wasn’t feeling well, and I was anxious to get to my studying.

Thankfully, Beskow had been crated, so the mess was contained.  The baby gates were all installed, so we could keep the toddler OUT, and the other dog could just stay in her crate while Beskow -- and the room around her -- were thoroughly cleaned.  After a quick discussion with my husband, punctuated by Beskow’s continued vomiting, I drove her over to Angell Memorial Animal Hospital.  Because Beskow isn’t good with other dogs, I left her in the car while I waited our turn inside.  When we were called, I went out, leashed her, and put her muzzle on.  I’ve only used her muzzle a couple of times, but with her stomach so upset, I couldn’t use treats to manage her discomfort over the other dogs in the building.

The Angell staff weighed Beskow in the lobby and my wonderful pup only whined and pulled towards the nosy spaniel poking its head around the corner trying to sniff her. Three years ago, she couldn’t tolerate a dog at the other end of the street without a full-blown, barking, lunging attack (but that’s a story for another day).  She was fantastic with the vet once we went to the room.

In the end, everything got cleaned up, the kids napped, Beskow is doing much better, and I took my test Thursday.  BUT- this whole event leaves me sitting here thinking about how the last four years of training my dog completely paid off in that one hour.  Here are some of the skills and management tools that I employed to keep everyone safe and comfortable amidst the chaos:

  1. Crating
  2. Baby gates
  3. Tolerance of being bathed (even though she hates it!)
  4. Riding quietly in the car
  5. Waiting quietly in the car without destroying anything
  6. Putting her nose into her muzzle and allowing me to attach it without complaint
  7. Dealing patiently (for her) with the nosy spaniel in the lobby
  8. Allowing an unfamiliar vet to handle her and administer injections
  9. Coming home and immediately resting on her bed
  10. “Leaving” all of the food my toddler has dropped on the floor since then- she is still on a limited diet.

When I got this dog, she could not accept crating, I didn’t have baby gates, and she pretty much freaked out in every other one of those situations.  She rarely wears a muzzle, but a couple of years ago I trained her to wear it, just in case. It really is remarkable how these moments of total (in this case, disgusting!) chaos can suddenly show us the value of the time spent working with our dogs.

I hope that you never have to deal with this type of incident, but realistically, in a life full of dogs, cats, kids, and everything else- these moments can happen, and always seem to arise at the most inconvenient of times!  That’s when you will realize just how grateful you are for all the work you put in to make your home a safe and comfortable place for your dogs and your children.