Sue Williams BSC and Chairwoman of the Guild of Dog Trainers, is internationally renowned for her knowledge and expertise in dog training and behaviour modification. She is recognised as a leading authority and expert on raising puppies, something she is passionate about. New surroundings for puppies can be scary. Read this very insightful blog by Sue describing her Labrador puppy, Taggie’s, journey and day out to the biggest doggie event in the world… Crufts!
After Taggie’s illness I had given up on my plans for her to visit Crufts. Although physically she bounced back quickly the emotional and psychological effects lasted longer. The main issue was with confidence, although everyone involved in treating her medically acted compassionately and did their best to not stress or upset her, you cant get away from the fact she must have felt dreadful and that combined with having injections, being on a drip and away from everything familiar to her was always going to take its toll with an 8 week old pup!
Around 8 weeks is a critical time in a puppy’s mental development as they enter a natural fear period. During this time it is important not to expose them to high levels of stress as it can lead to future problems. This explained her confidence crash.
I planned a rehabilitation programme focused on socialisation and confidence building to address this however I could not implement it until she was physically better and poor little Taggie was ill for 2 weeks!
Taggie excited to enter Crufts 2017!
Once she was well, It was critical for me to take things at her pace and allow her to dictate her progression. My strategy was to create positive associations with the things she was concerned about. To do this I identified all of her fears and looked at how I could address each one using small steps.
For example: understandably, she was not confident greeting people she didn’t know this was exasperated if she was in an unfamiliar environment.
I started at home where she was relaxed and introduced her to lots of different people under controlled conditions. Food treats played an invaluable role. Once her appetite returned I used Natural Instinct Beef Jerky treats to reinforce her when she was confident, this also created positive associations (Natural Instinct Beef Jerky is her favourite).
Over the following week Taggie’s confidence improved dramatically and after a successful outing with her I decided that she had recovered emotionally and would enjoy Crufts.
I was at Crufts for the duration of the show, so my husband Derek brought her on the Saturday. Although I was 99% certain she was going to love it I had pre set everything in place so if she did show any hesitancy or stress I could remove her from the situation.
Taggie walked into Crufts as though in her mind she was the ‘Best in Show!’ I couldn’t have been more proud of my little girl. She had a fantastic time on the Guild of Dog Trainers stand where she met lots of people and had lots of fuss and cuddles.
Taggie at Crufts with Sue and the Guild of Dog Trainers
She came with me when I was on the Natural Instinct Stand and made an extra big fuss of everyone from Natural Instinct, it was as though she wanted to say thank you to them for making such fantastic food which helped her get better!
Sue and Taggie with Natural Instinct’s Acting MD Michelle Machin-Jefferies