I’ve had Pearl for a year and a half. She was our first dog, we were unprepared, and we knew next to nothing. In that time, we’ve spent thousands of dollars, literally thousands, on training and my husband and I are students so it is not money we can afford to spend. We’ve done classes, seminars, board and train, private lessons in our home, private lessons at a training facility. Add to that the thousands we have spent on her ongoing digestive issues, vets, specialists, expensive diets, expensive supplements and pills. Training her is made more challenging because her limited diet makes it almost impossible to find high value treats that don’t upset her stomach. We have had to move twice because of her. She has sky high energy and prey drive. I walk her and walk her and walk her and she still often acts like a terror in the house. Her reactivity means I have to avoid dogs as much as I can when walking. She also lunges at bicycles, runners, and people, and she will try with all her might to catch any rabbit or cat or other moving creature in eyeshot. She figured out she can jump our backyard fence so we can’t let her run in the backyard anymore and walking is pretty much the only way we can give her exercise. Her newest habit is waking us up before our alarm whining. She nips at us and jumps on us, she rips up all my blankets, she barks at my husband and I anytime we touch. We are trying hard to manage this, we really are, and we do have a good trainer who is helping us, so it is not as if we are not working to address these issues or we are just letting them happen and blaming her. I am convinced that Pearl is smart, trainable, and a good dog. She can be sweet and she can be fun.

But I am tired. I am so tired. I haven’t blogged in awhile because it is so hard to stay positive. I feel guilty for getting so frustrated and for thinking, at times, how much easier my life would be if we gave her up or if we never adopted her in the first place. A large reason we have stuck it out so long is because I know we have no good reason to give her away. We made the decision to adopt her and so she is ours. Sometimes I feel like we are stuck with her. I know she is our responsibility. I just keep hoping that it’s not this hard for the next ten or fifteen years.

Even though we work on training every day I am convinced that she will never be the dog I dreamed of having, a dog that I can take to the park and to picnics with friends, who I could train to be a jogging companion or even just walk down the street with and not worry. I don’t think Pearl will even be that. I love her. I love cuddling with her in the mornings after our early walk. I love teaching her new tricks and how she loves to work. She is a good dog. But I also feel like she controls my life and sucks away my money, my energy, my time and adds to my stress, anxiety, and frustration. It’s pretty telling that I am a law student and the thing that causes me the most stress is my dog. She makes me feel like a failure. Life with Pearl often feels like a struggle. And it sucks. I feel like I can’t get work done at home because of her. I can’t stay long at my office because of her either, because she has to be crated when we aren’t home and I know she will be crazy if she is cooped up too long during the day and doesn’t get walked the three or four times a day that she is used to.

I know this post is incredibly negative and I know it makes me sound like an awful pet owner. But I have to vent and I’d rather do it here than take it out on her when I know none of this is her fault. I just don’t know what to do anymore and today was particularly hard. We take one step forward and two steps back with training. I feel so guilty. Guilty and alone and stuck.

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About Pearl the Puppy

Pearl is just over 40 lbs of energy mixed with a pinch of crazy. We adopted her in March 2011 from a St. Louis rescue organization called Impact for Animals (now Pet Rescue Network). We are unsure about her age, but we are guessing she was born in Fall 2010. Her background is anybody's guess, but we are pretty sure that she has at least some sighthound in her. She's a whole lot of trouble but a whole lot of fun.

9 thoughts on “Setbacks

  1. Have you thought about trying a medication like xanax? I don’t remember if you said you’ve tried something like that or not. If not, it might be well worth a try to see if it can make your life a lot easier, along with Pearl’s life.

  2. I wonder if maybe some kind of agility classes would help. Is there somewhere you can let her off the lead for a good run? Don’t feel a failure. It’s learning curve and all of a sudden you could find things click. Try and enjoy every minute, as all too soon she will be an old dog.

  3. I’m so sorry you’re feeling down. She’s a good dog, though, and you guys are doing great with her. Don’t be too hard on yourself about how far she’s come – I’m sure if you a year and a half ago could meet her today she’d be amazed at how changed she is.

  4. Ah gosh. This must be going around. It has to be the fourth post I’ve read about people feeling down about their dogs and training progress… including my own.

    To me, this just screams to me that Pearl is the type of dog that needs a job to do. She needs some kind of constant focus to vent all that energy into. Walks often aren’t enough for dogs like these. Reading “Chase!” by Clarissa Von Reinhart is something I recommend. She has a game in there called Sausage Trees that you might be interested in.

  5. Gosh, been there, done that. Delilah is the same way, but when I think back to the dog she was 5 1/2 years ago, I can see how far she’s come.

    A few thoughts, because I’m not sure why Pearl is reactive. Is she fearful? has lots of great tips and advice. I love my trainer, she was great for Sampson but Delilah needed a different kind of trainer, when I changed the way I was training I really began to see a difference.

    There are agility classes for reactive dogs, and I’m sure there are other sports as well. I know money is probably tight, but have you considered daycare for her? Or having a dog walker come during the day to get her out of the house?

    I sometimes think Delilah would be suited to be an only dog, but I’m not giving her up and there’s no way I’d ever give up Sampson so I need to figure out a way to work with it.

    Hang in there, you aren’t alone. There are many of us that feel the same way you do.

  6. I am so so so sorry I am only getting to this post today. I hope you are now in a better place with Pearl but if not that’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person. Only a good person would have worked so hard and so long with her despite all the setbacks. You have nothing to prove and nothing to feel guilty about. But because you are so kind, I know you will feel guilty anyway.

    If you need to talk, feel free to send me an email or Facebook message or whatever. It’s okay to feel like giving up. And you know what? It’s okay to give up too, sometimes. *hugs* Just know there are many people here for you in spirit and you are not alone.

  7. Pingback: The Week in Tweets – 12th November | Some Thoughts About Dogs

    • Wow sorry I have taken forever to get back to you. Things are going better with Pearl but as a law student graduating in May I am SWAMPED. Things aren’t perfect but the three of us (Pearl, myself, and my husband) are our own little family and its good. Maybe I will start posting again… eventually. Right now, busy figuring out the rest of my life!

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