WOOF! Working Out Our Fears

isis buddha (13)

Isis, fearsome and fearful

Where were all the Fearful Dog support groups when I was struggling with Isis? Did they not exist, or did I not understand until way too late that fear was the root of her problem? Social media was still young then, way back in 2008.

I’m part of two great Facebook communities where every day, people post questions and success stories about their fearful or reactive dogs. Truly, I am not alone.

UPDATE: During the WOOF Blog Hop, I was introduced to another Facebook group for Reactive Dogs.

I wrote a book about my experience with Isis, and am in the process of getting it published. This is probably against protocol, but I want to share some of the concerns editors had about the marketability of my book:

1) Readers will not be able to connect with the character of Isis the aggressive dog.

2) My book is not different enough from all the other dog books.

3) It is not a “feel-good” book: “Rather, I felt a lot of sadness and regret.”

I flat-out disagree with points 1 and 2, but point 3 gave me pause. It’s true! I feel sadness and regret, too! But is that any reason not to tell my story? Doesn’t the dog always die at the end? I gave the manuscript another read, searching for places where I might alleviate sadness and regret in my readers. I revised my proposal so that the chapter summaries don’t end on such a down note, and I wrote a little epilogue, describing life now with Mia.

A sad ending does not make it a sad book. We treasured every minute we spent with Isis, and she brought us joy beyond measure. If you asked her, Isis would tell you that her life was filled with an abundance of love and happiness. Writing (and reading) the book does make me “feel good.”

My true goal in writing this book, however, is to help others learn from our mistakes. To give hope to dog owners experiencing the same guilt and frustration that I felt while trying to train my “problem” dog. Bark and Lunge will raise awareness about the importance of socialization, the benefits of positive reinforcement, and the hazards of aversive training methods.

In the coming months, I will be giving away free copies of the book to readers willing to post an honest review to Amazon (and/or GoodReads or Barnes and Noble). Stay tuned!

Today is the inaugural WOOF Blog Hop. WOOF = Working Out Our Fears. Not just our dogs’ fears but our own fears of inadequacy and hopelessness that our dog will never get better. Fear that other people will think our dogs are mean.

Oz the Terrier

Do you have a reactive or fearful dog? Please join us and share your story. The Blog Hop is open through Sunday, February 16, hosted by Oz the Terrier, Roxy The Traveling Dog and Wag ‘n Woof Pets.

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15 thoughts on “WOOF! Working Out Our Fears

  1. Well, Kari, your post brought tears to my eyes so I am really looking forward to the book… I think. When I made my “Hello My Name is Bethany and I created a monster” graphic for my WOOF Support post I wondered if it would turn people off with it’s negativity but now I see I am not alone in that either!!! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Yes, I do regret the mistakes I made with my baby corgi but no, I would not trade a moment of it or his future with me for anything in the world!

  2. Thank you so much for joining our first hop! I think it is such a wonderful thing that you wrote a book on this subject, and I look forward to reading it. I think it is a “feel good” thing that you did all the work to write this book in order to help others, it sounds like it will have a lot of important information that people with reactive dogs can benefit from learning. It can’t be all happy and light when the subject is a difficult one, and giving hope alone will go a long way towards helping others.

  3. Kari, so glad to have you join our first WOOF Support hop! Your book sounds like it is going to be “spot on”…because it can be so frustrating and embarrassing and people need to know they are not alone in the way they feel. I think having some great positive training techniques in the book is brilliant…and if only we could pinpoint the “early warning signs” of reactivity!! Maybe if someone could catch it early, the retraining wouldn’t be so exhausting and frustrating. Your Isis was a beautiful GSD, by the way (one of my favorite breeds). Thanks so much for sharing with us! I cannot wait for your book to come out.
    Gina and Oz

  4. Wow! You hit on a lot of the things I’m feeling with Morgan, in a lot of different ways. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get in on this version of the hop, but i might try to on future versions.

  5. That sounds like a great book. I’m glad you joined our hop today. Torrey is not really fearful, but has leash re activity for some reason. We are working on the problem, rather than trying to figure out a reason.

  6. I have a 15 month old GSD that is not as friendly and outgoing as I would like. It kills me. At home he’s wonderful. In public is a different story. Sometimes he’s great. Sometimes he lunges and barks. He’s never bitten anybody, but his brother (owned by my friend) has. It’s obvious that he’s not confident. I worked so hard to socialize him as a puppy. I ask myself: Is this because of his age? Is this something he’ll outgrow? Did I do something wrong? Can I fix this? Is my anxiety over his behavior in public only making this worse? I WANT follow this hop and to read you book, but I’m afraid of the answers . . .

    • Honestly, the number one thing I took away from Isis’s too-short life is that I wished I hadn’t worried so much about “curing” her reactivity. She was a wonderful dog and SHE didn’t care about walking around the neighborhood past bicycles and joggers. We wanted to take her hiking and out in the world, but she was happier playing in our backyard. I’m glad I learned what I did about behavior and that we got her comfortable with people coming into the house without barking at them. German shepherds are protective dogs. I think that’s okay. It’s our job to keep them safe and happy, and if it’s not safe to take them out in public, that’s okay, too. There are lots of things you can do to improve confidence, like nose work and agility (in a class or at home). Best of luck to you, and I hope you do read the book! Maybe you’ll be relieved that your dog isn’t as bad as Isis was!

  7. I have a lot of regrets, too – thinking I was doing all the right things with Ruby and probably really traumatizing her more. There was an ‘incident’ at doggie daycare that seemed to coincide with the shift in her behavior and it wasn’t until afterwards that I fully realized the daycare subscribed to dominance/pack theory methods. Our group obedience class was far too much for her and we were (politely) asked to leave. I try for the most part to keep moving forward but sometimes I can’t help but think of what I could have done differently.

    I really look forward to your book and would be happy to review it. I think it’s important to get the word out about the reality of challenging, complicated dogs, so that people don’t feel alone.

    • Thanks, Lara. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you and Ruby on your blog and other social media. Sometimes I look at her pictures and think, “Funny. She doesn’t look reactive.” 🙂

      I feel you about being asked to leave obedience class. Isis flunked two levels of the old-school class we started in. If ONLY they’d kicked us out. For some reason, I blamed myself, not the prong collar. Leo was simultaneously removed from a class and asked not to return to daycare at the same facility. For two different reasons, I think, but that’s a chapter for book two!

  8. Hey Kari,
    Guilt, frustration, sadness, regret – all things I’ve felt with my ‘problem’ dog. I loved your post and would love to read your book when it’s published. I think you hit the nail on the head in your comment though when you said you wished you hadn’t worried so much about ‘curing’ Isis’ reactivity. I too am learning to manage my expectations both of my dog and myself, and I think that’d really important for both of our happiness 🙂

  9. I really look forward to reading this! As the dog-mom of a barker & lunger- it will undoubtedly be refreshing and much needed read!

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