So, I've been thinking...
I love my high energy, timid and reactive clients because many of them absolutely blossom when given the time to CHOOSE how and when to interact.
I notice that my enthusiasm for dogs with behavioral needs often overshadows the parallel reality that sharing a life with high need dogs can be emotionally exhausting, time consuming, expensive and sometimes scary.
For example, just to go on vacation, my pet sitting clients:
pay me a premium to have a behaviorally competent handler provide for their care
often require multiple meets before guardians go on vacation
may have to come home early or have a safety plan in case the dog won't let me in the house or is otherwise defensive/aggressive
We do these visits and establish safety plans because things can and do go wrong.
a boarding client had to come home early because their dog was charging at us through a barriers and alarm barking whenever we walked past her. We nearly needed to call animal control and had to remove all the resident dogs for safety.
a dog was so easily frustrated that he walked up and bit me in the thigh. He was over his threshold and my ambiguous mechanics were contributing factors to the bite, which was an escalation from clacking his teeth in my face and grabbing at my clothes.
another dog charged the door when I tried to enter his apartment. It took a dozen treat drops, an ex pen, advice from a trainer with more skill than me, and more to build the trust he needed to leash up and go outside to potty.
In all cases, we called in advice from senior trainers dealt with the issues and prioritized safety. The owners were still understandably overwhelmed and frustrated and sad. After all, they just wanted to do right by their dogs and still live their human lives.
These are all dogs that I have worked with and posted about at one time or another but usually only highlighting the many things that make them wonderful. I didn't think about it at the time, but these omissions painted an incomplete picture and failed to embrace the whole dog in front of me. They didn't educate anyone or build much needed support for their guardians.
Documenting and sharing this is all feels like a necessary piece of cultivating compassion and kindness towards the human end of the leash for me. Because, as it happens, supporting owners in providing good lives for their dogs has proven to be one of my raisons d'être.
I see y'all working hard to support your dogs needs and I love you for it.