Fear& Reactivity Series

When your pet is reactive (from avoidance to aggression), it can sometimes feel as if the world has flown out from under your feet. Depending on the severity or your sensitivity to it (or the sensitivity of others to it), your perception of a nice day outside can completely change. The way the of structuring your day becomes different. You stop enjoying walks with your pet or having people over because it becomes too stressful. Over time, you may even stop taking walks on your own. I’ve myself not only seen people who used to hike and jog become the type that over time only go out to work, run errands, and hang out in a way that doesn’t involve taking much of a stroll.

Once upon a time, I even was one of those people very, very briefly while I helped Dougal, my newly adopted and extremely reactive GSD/Hound/Akita/??? 8 year old adjust. And like most other animals, Dougal's only problem was extreme fear and no coping skills beyond reacting instinctively.

More often than not, we're told these are the pets (and I've known all kinds, from dogs to cats, parrots with serious bite risk issues, large mammals, bunnies, the list goes on) are unmanageable and can not be helped, while everyone around us tells us a myriad of ways that are supposed to "fix it". Often, those ways are antiquated or just plain well-meant nonsense passed down through media, family, or friends, and what's more: they can make the problem worse. Suddenly you no longer even have the support of the people who were giving you advice, who not only refuse to take responsibility for pitching bad ideas your way but tell you that you're still not doing it right.
By now, you might be even feeling enough resentment that you think your pet does this to spite you, not because they too are stressed in their own way.
So what’s a burnt out, compassionate animal lover to do?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting articles and essays specifically about reactivity and fear, and how to help yourself and your pet. We’ll be talking about minimizing reactions to phobic or overstimulating triggers (people, other animals, kids, noises, cars, you name it), building confidence, and then slowly increasing the intensity of said trigger, and throwing in other distractions. While not an overnight cure, these short sessions (which should be attempted with the aid of a certified professional for best results and increased safety) will make a difference in your pet, and allow them and yourself to start enjoying the things you want to enjoy together.

Until our next update, however, do yourself a favor: Change the context.
Have walks become terrifying? Go for a stroll in your neighborhood without your pet and make it enjoyable. Get an ice cream, bring a coffee, sit somewhere and read a book or play with your phone. If you’re in a neighborhood you feel safer with some company, bring a friend. Say hi to your neighbors, strike up a conversation that “oh yes I know, Fluffy’s developed a problem, but we’re starting something to help them out”.
Friends can’t come over? Go to someone else’s house for some hang out time, or meet up somewhere with some pals and enjoy yourself. And then go home, set yourself up with something yummy and relaxing and read or watch a movie with your stressed pet.
Noises or sights at the apartment are scary? Set up a safe place for your pet, be it a crate (yes, even for a cat) or a room with it's own small den area and start pairing scary sounds or sights off with being given a high-value chew (like a kong – even for kitties!) and going to that safe space and hanging out together. Helpful tip: If your pet is reacting to reflections in a door or appliance, get some nice looking contact paper or window cling film (and it looks cool too).
So scared you can’t even get near? Get a professional trainer or behaviorist involved immediately, preferably one CPDT or IAABC certified (no force training!). In the meantime make your existence mean random wonderful things when you walk by at a distance (snacks, toys, etc) and otherwise engage them as little as possible (even if they come up to check you out). Let them greet you on their terms for a bit.


One paw in front of the other

The hardest things are worth fighting for. Cliché as can be, but something that’s clearly getting hit home for Ian and myself this year. And from everyone else that I’ve been talking to, it seems we’re not the only ones effected by this (something I’m never shocked by).


Those of you that know us and know where Ian and I want Mantra Pet to be headed in life, as well as where we know we’re supposed to be headed, are pretty aware that we had planned to be back up in the NYC area as of June 1st. However, three trips up to the NYC/NJ area later, we fell in love with Jersey City, and specifically a little place off a park on Garfield Ave (an area I wasn’t trying to continually look at, but keeps throwing apartments my way).


And one of the real selling points? One of Jersey City’s leading pet rescues is a mile from the location we’re fighting for, which would mean they’d be getting an email from yours’ truly the moment we know our move in date asking for volunteer paperwork and letting them know what skills I can lend to them (on site behavioral and training assistance, home visits for their foster pets in need, etc). One of the core reasons Mantra Pet exists: helping shelters for no or low cost when possible.

Being a mile walk/bike ride from my house would make that more than possible, wouldn’t you say?


Multiple realtors later and three apartments applied for, and we’re still in limbo. After being told we would be approved for the first two apartments and then having that denied due to Bowie’s size (after being told, yes, having a 60lb hound would not be an issue), we were feeling the pet-owner burn pretty heavily that renters everywhere know. As always, it doesn’t matter that our pooch is amazing with people, kids, other dogs, doesn’t bark, isn’t destructive, etc. So we’ve been soldiering on.


Currently we’ve been approved for a place exactly where we want to be, but we’ve been getting pushed back on a move in date repeatedly – to the point where it may not be worth it to wait it out due to concern over if this is really a company we want to continue working with. I’m hoping they are, and this snag lets us get go so we can move onto the next thing.


By this point, I think life has gotten a bit silly and we’ve paid our dues. I’m a firm believer that you have to go through a lot of trials and tribulations to get to where you know you need to be in life. However, taking the plunge into making the dream of a low cost training and behavioral counseling service real (that donates free help to rescues in need and has a certain allotted pro-bono time towards clients who cannot pay for help), was a huge decision, and I didn’t expect life to not expect a massive amount of stress and suffering back from us to get this rolling.


Richmond has been good to us. While we’ve been here longer than planned, I’ve watched dogs that used to not be able to even go outside become well-mannered pups on excursions to VMFA and Stony Point after putting in the work to make them feel confident and keep training safe in such high traffic areas. And through this, I’ve seen owners change – not just in how they look at their dogs, but how they look at life.


But now these pups have graduated their own gauntlets (at a much more managed and rewarding game of trading a little stress for big payoffs), and it’s time we graduated our own.


Our current realtor hopefully will pan out. If not, we’ll move onto the next and maybe fourth time will be the charm. I know however this ends, it will end how it has to. We’ll get our place, I’ll find rescues and clients, it will all come together. I look forward to the now two month hunt for an apartment to be over.


After all, this won’t get easier (not for a while, at least). After the move we’ve still got permits to file, paperwork to complete, advertising to keep on top of, generating a regular clientele pool and managing it, hiring in PA, meeting and working with other trainers and behaviorists in the area, doing a few classes at local pet services, the list goes on. But we’re ready for that now – so how about we get some traction?


Over the next few days, expect new posts of all the amazing photography Ian has been doing, our Instagram to get updated, and the like. I’ll be making this blog start getting updated weekly with tips, info, etc instead of waiting for the move to happen (which I’m currently guilty of).


Always striving, always thankful

-          T

A quick update!

Hello folks!

Ty and I are still on the hunt for an apartment that would be suitable for us and the pets in the NY/NJ area but we haven't found the right fit as of yet. We'll be making another trip to the NY area this week and with some luck will sign a lease so that we can move in by July 1st (At this point, we're packed and ready to go and are staying with a friend. ). 

Until then, Ty will continue to be available for consults in the Richmond, VA area for those of you with interest. I will also be available for pet portraits as well. :)

We also wanted to say thank you to all who have donated so far to the Mantra Pet GoFundMe , without your help it would've taken much longer to get our website, business cards, and more. We are so thankful for the help we've received from friends, family, and clients and look forward to continuing to give back and help those in need.

We hope to have good news in our future updates regarding the move and look forward to sharing our adventures with you!

Wishing you all the best, 

Ian & Ty


Hello Folks!

Today marks the launch of our website. I still have quite a bit of editing and additions to make but we are well on our way to becoming fully functional!

AS A NOTE : While we are taking select consultations from clientele in RVA, many of the services listed - will not - be available until we have relocated to NY in June.