Go on, say Hi
He's a sweet-as-can-be, 6-month-old Springer Spaniel.
This excited little face is Oakley. He's a sweet-as-can-be, 6-month-old Springer Spaniel.
Oakley however does struggle with some anxiety around people he doesn't know, as well as some dogs. (same buddy, people are scary!) He's also a very typical Springer, so he loves to chase things, stick his nose to the ground and follow a scent - all those things Springers are very, very good at. A little breed history for those interested: Springers are bred to work, with a strong, hunters build and a powerful prey drive they excel at long days in the field in a working environment. That same breeding of course has also created a loving, family-friendly and incredibly loyal breed, and Oakley is a fine example of all this.
So, his wonderful family have given me a call to help them build his confidence around new people, alongside working on his lead and recall skills - both real essentials with strong, active dogs like Oakley.
We've been working together for a bit now, and the progress Oakley is making is fantastic - every time I see him he's got a bit better! He's already proven to be a fast learner and super smart, so I have no doubt he'll master all these skills and more soon. However, he's also in his terrible teen years, and much like our own kids he can be a bit of a rebel at times! We've been working to find ways to keep Oakley engaged and stop his focus from wandering, as it's prone to do with those dastardly teens, and so far he's been a real star.
So what's Oakley story? Well, he's been a nervous one since he was a pup. He's a working line Springer, so has all the drive to work all the time. He was also born and raised on a farm, in a barn, as you might well expect for a working dog. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this of course - he was still well-loved! However, it did lead to him missing out on some crucial life experiences before he was 8 weeks old, which has led to him not being quite so sure of himself in new situations. The 8-week mark is really an essential deadline for a lot of breeds, the old saying of "Start 'em young" Couldn't be more apt.
Incredible dedication from Oakley's family!
But like good things, with a little patience, a bit of hard work and lots of training (and the incredible dedication from Oakley's family!), Oakley is getting bolder and is even learning it's okay to check in with Mum when there's something worrying him. I know I've said it before in these blogs, but the "Check-in" Skill is really so essential - this is a great example of why. Oakley can now alert Mum quickly and easily, and she can act on his concern without any escalation or further issues. Oakley is happier, Mum is happy, and life is simple. All from a little "Check-in".
We're also working on teaching Oakley that coming back and engaging with his mum on walks means lots of fun (and delicious) things happen. Once Oakley has cracked this one we'll ease off the treats a little but maintain the high praise rewards for consistently coming back - And Oakley will learn that Mum is just as fun as that new smell over here.
This week we've been working on the final thing on Oakley's lesson plan: focus around other dogs and how to politely greet them. Here, the Lovely Little Lizzie has been generously assisting me, doing a fine job of completely and totally ignoring Oakley's over-eager approaches and having all the patience in the world while he learns what is okay and what isn't.
Little Lizzie, one of the G&S Assistants
Next, we'll be working on getting Oakely's focus when around other dogs and keeping his focus where we need it, when we need it.
I can't wait to see how far he's come at our next meeting.