Routine was key; feeding him bang on time every day, and slowly and carefully building up his time alone.
“After about two months he could be left on his own properly without stressing. We’d come home and he would just be on the bed, which was huge progress,” said Jade-Marie.
The biggest challenge was teaching Flynn to stop mouthing. He’d never learnt as a puppy not to do this, so it took a huge commitment from Jade-Marie and plenty of support throughout from the Blue Cross Behaviour Team to get him out of the habit.
“It took about a year,” said Jade-Marie. “It was always just play but, the problem is, that type of play would come out when he was anxious. I was commuting into work with him and he got nervous around a lot of people. So, we would get on a train and he would focus that energy on me, jumping up and mouthing my arms.”
She continued: “He’d be jumping up at me like a puppy, but because he didn’t look like a puppy anymore, people would think that he was a full-grown dog attacking me. Of course, it wasn’t that, he just had no boundaries as a puppy and didn’t understand what was socially acceptable.
“People didn’t understand his background, so how could they know that he was a bit broken, and that I was essentially trying to fix him.
“That’s the sort of pre-judgment that comes with it that you worry about. So, actually, the one beautiful thing about having a dog is that you learn not to care so much about what people think. You learn to be much more like a dog and take each day and moment as it comes.”
Jade-Marie tried all kinds of different approaches, such as redirecting Flynn’s play onto balls, but found the breakthrough came with teaching him the ‘watch me’ command and rewarding his focus on her.