I haven't made any updates in a while about Tesla's training progress. Nothing too ground shattering had happened, just working through his adolescent stuff. It was all going fairly well, he was doing well at doctor's appointments and in public, fine in pet stores and anywhere else we went. Bracing well, starting to retrieve objects in public, more challenging scenarios.
But then there was an incident involving a pack of nasty reactive dogs belonging to an irresponsible neighbor of family we visited. They were constantly fence fighting trying to antagonize Ember and Tesla, who ignored them. At one point the bad dogs started fighting with each other right next to the fence, and because I was near the fence when it happened, Tesla ran toward me and them, to defend me.
I stepped in to stop him, grabbing his collar to hold him back, because the other dogs were small and I was worried he would be blamed for hurting them or of him getting hurt. I lost my balance and used my hand to steady myself on the ground. The most aggressive of those bad dogs pushed through/under the chain fence at that point and nailed my hand while trying to get at Tesla, and the whole thing got Tesla real upset.
I actually ended up having a pain induced syncope episode and passed out after I managed to stumble deliriously inside with partial tunnel vision. I had to go to the emergency clinic and report the incident. Then went through a horrible experience of having an allergic reaction to the antibiotics they gave me as precaution for the animal bite.
Ever since that happened, Tesla has been reactive to other dogs and more protective in general. Any time he sees dogs in public, he has outbursts. I have been working for months trying to re-socialize him, and just when it seems like we have progress, something happens to undo it.
Like the amazing day of Tesla going with me to the hospital for doctor's appointments and radiology stuff. Got all sorts of comments on how well behaved he was, etc. Then we stopped by our local pet store to see friends and get his claws ground, since I was having bad wrist trouble.
He was fine with dogs already behind the counter, peeking over to see them curiously while we waited our turn. A man suddenly comes in despite that I was right against the door and there was clearly no space with big Tesla standing there too. The guy had some sort of Pekinese or similar, and the dog was straining at the leash panting like crazy pulling to get into the salon... right into Tesla's face. Which triggered an outburst.
It's difficult. I now feel like I am "that person, with that kind of dog". I have worked with dog reactivity, but none of my own personal dogs have ever been this bad off.
I am at a point now where I don't have much choice but to consider Tesla a washout. Unless I can drastically change the behavior to where it wouldn't be a liability. I don't have the money for taking him to repeated long term reactive dog classes to try and sort the issue out, and I am not sure it would fix things enough to allow him to ever not have that liability. Unfortunately assistance dogs cannot be reactive in the way he is acting.
He'd be perfect for Schutzhund IPO work. Which is the next thing we are going to try, to see if putting the reaction under controlled environment and command will help him understand he should not react that way unless asked to do so, and only in the IPO "game" situations. It's sort of like a kid going to karate. They learn discipline and skills and time and place for using those skills and energy, in controlled environments or situations.
Even with the specific training, there is no guarantee it will work well enough that I can keep working Tesla as my assistance dog. Even with the right training, he probably never will be 100% again. There might be too much liability if there is even a slight chance he might become reactive at the wrong place and time. Granted, this could happen with ANY dog, even one who has never shown any reactivity. They are animals, not machines. At this rate I don't have many options.
I will probably need to get another dog, if by some miracle I can't make Tesla work out. I run into the same problem as before. As much as I want to keep Tesla and I am really attached to him, I don't really have the financial means to keep 3 large dogs ( Ember, Tesla, and whoever new dog is ) if I do need to start all over again and get another dog. Especially since we'd be looking at a larger breed like a mastiff type dog. I'm just not sure I can try owner training again,between the financial and emotional strain. Raising these dogs from tiny pups and then them being perfect except for some random fluke reason, too much emotional hurt in it and feeling like a failure when I have been forced to rehome them.
I am still on CPL's waiting list, but have not heard anything back besides forms to update my information periodically. I am not hopeful I will hear anything anytime soon.
I am at a point where I am ready to give up if this working dog training doesn't work. Maybe I'll just become a hermit and not leave the house anymore.
This week starts the Schutzhund IPO training with someone I was introduced to who has experience with police K-9s and military working dogs. He is familiar with the most high drive of working dog lines, which will be a valuable asset in trying to reshape Tesla's behavior.
Fingers crossed this will all somehow work out. I will post more updates along the way. Positive thoughts for us are greatly appreciated.