Doing activities with Sarah has helped Tigger to overcome some of the anxieties he has and grow in confidence thanks to the strong bond they have. Sarah is patient with Tigger and has worked with him using a behaviour technique called ‘shaping’ which encourages dogs to think about decisions they choose to take and rewards them for getting it right. It is hugely powerful for building a dog’s confidence and is lots of fun.
Sarah encouraged Tigger to become comfortable with the paddleboard by placing it in her kitchen and giving him a treat every time he interacted with it.
She explains: “It lead to him eventually voluntarily jumping on to it and he’d get loads of treats. I think he thought it was another bed, and he’d sleep on it! At that point I knew he was very happy with it so then we took it out to the water. I just took it really slow with him, starting on some very calm water. But I didn’t need to worry too much as he just jumped on and was absolutely fine! He took to it really well.”
I love staffies. I love the fact that they smile, and he’s the perfect size Sarah, Tigger's owner
Tigger sits on the front of Sarah’s board and when the water is calm, he lies down and has a snooze. He wears a doggy lifejacket in case he should fall in and his swimming skills fail. Spending time with a gentle, patient and dedicated owner has done the world of good for nervous Tigger and Sarah can see the hard work paying off.
“When I first got him you could tell he was nervous about putting a foot wrong, and he didn’t know what was right or wrong and was concerned that he was going to do something that I wasn’t going to like, so I went full positive reinforcement training and just taught him that he can make choices, and even if he makes the wrong choice then nothing’s going to happen. What happens is that he gets a treat when he does what I want him to do instead.
“It’s boosted his confidence massively. It’s helped improve his focus; we often go where there are lots of other dogs but he keeps his focus on me, and then goes off and plays afterwards.”