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Why We decided to Send Gatsby to Professional Dog Training

Ya’ll I come to you with a confession.

My dog, Gatsby – my first born, my baby boy, my source of joy – is not perfect.

I know, I still struggle to believe this even as I type it out, but it’s true. He has flaws and he isn’t perfectly behaved at all times. Perfectly adorable at all times – yes! Perfectly behaved at all times – not so much!

Gatsby is an awesome dog, and on a daily basis he is a dream. However, when he doesn’t want to do something he can be an huge butt-head. Some of this is probably just because I wasn’t stern enough with him at a young age, but some of it has developed over time.

Major Problem 1: The Vet

During my senior year in college Gatsby was attacked by another dog at the park. The aftermath was nearly $2,000 worth of vet bills, an emergency surgery, an overnight stay at the doggie hospital and lots of other vet work. Ever since then (somewhat reasonably so) he has not been a fan of going to the vet. In fact, ever since then he has not been a fan of people he doesn’t know being closely “in his space”. If you’re handing out belly rubs and love he’s all about it, but the second someone he doesn’t know starts poking are prodding around on him his anxiety goes through the roof and he starts to bark and even growl.

Major Problem 2: The Groomer

With that being said it’s probably not a surprise he’s also not a fan of the groomers. Once upon a time I could drop him off at the groomers; he could be bathed and given a cut, and I’d be back in 2 hours to pick him up.

Not the case anymore. I have to be with him the entire time. When I’m there it’s all good. When I leave he refuses to let anyone touch him. Once again, more barking and growling.

Major Problem 3: The Ears

Another problem: Shar Peis have little bitty tiny ear flaps which make them very prone to ear infections. They really should have their ears cleaned out weekly. Well, Gatsby has had a few nasty ear infections and now he will not let anyone (even me!) clean his ears. He runs away and when I finally catch him he thrashes his head and squeals like you would not believe. This, of course, just leads to more infections, and more vet bills. I hate seeing the little guy in pain, and my wallet hates the $300 hit each time he has to be sedated to have his ears cleaned and treated for an infection.

You’re probably saying, “Carrie! He’s 6! Why haven’t you addressed this earlier!?”

Well to be honest he didn’t have a lot of these problems until about 3 or so years ago. I’ve kind of put up with it/tried to work with him/hoped he would just get over these weird phobias and none of that has helped.

The Breaking Point

A few weeks ago, I woke up to Gatsby shaking is head uncontrollably (this means his ears are bothering him). Casey and I knew we had to clean them so I picked him up and Casey tried to be a ninja and get the solution in his ears, but we were unsuccessful yet again. I, of course as a rational woman (read: not rational at all), immediately stared bawling an blubbering about how we’re-going-to-have-to-take-him-to-the-vet-again-and-it’s-going-to-be-so-expensive-and-they’re-going-to-have-to-sedate him-to clean-them-and-that-scares-me-and-i-just-hate-to-see-him-in-pain-blah-blah-blah. You get the idea.

I, in all my rationalness, declared “I can’t take it anymore and he needs professional help”. Casey did what any man would do in this situation and told me anything to make me stop. I jumped on my computer and did a google search for dog training in the Raleigh/Durham area. There were quite a few options that came up, but the one that stuck out to me was Sit Means Sit. I saw they offered a free consultation and immediately booked an appointment.

The Decision

The consultation was very low-key. The trainer we sat down with (Hannah) was great and really took the time to ask me all about Gats. She was also not pushy in anyway, which I completely appreciated. We’ve all been to those “free” consultations when they’re really just being super pushy about their product/service the entire time #annyoing. Sit Means Sit offers a lot of different classes and training options, so after we chatted about Gats, we discussed what option would be best for him – for his training needs and his personality.

In the end, I decided to go with the 10-day Board & Train Immersion Program. Gatsby is 3 days into his 10 day program. I received my first update (complete with pictures) on his second day there. They confirmed his problems with having his ears touched/cleaned, but they also said they were impressed with how smart he is, and that he’s been taking to the learning exercises well.

I always thought professional training was too drastic for Gatsby. That it was only for dogs with severe problems. The truth is while Gatsby’s problems may not be categorized as “severe”, the issues he does have stem from some underlying dominance problems (something that is very common for the Shar Pei breed). He’s a great dog and behaves as long as he wants to. The second he doesn’t want to he gets this “you’re not the boss of me attitude” similar to that of a naughty toddler.

Making this decision was not easy. He’s been gone 3 days and I miss him like crazy! BUT if this process leads to a Gatsby that can have his ears cleaned out, go to the vet, and the groomers without being naughty, then it will all be worth it. I can’t wait until he gets home and I can tell ya’ll about the brand new Gatsby 2.0. Stay tuned for more!

Professional dog training was always something I thought was too drastic for my pretty well-behaved pup. Turns out I was wrong! Find out why we made the decision to send our dog to professional training.

Now tell me…

Do you have experience with professional dog training? Either you, or a friend, or a friend of a friend?


I think that this option is great for y’all! I often forget how lucky we are that Dart loves going to the vet so much because it could have easily gone the way that it did for y’all with Gatsby where he hates going to the vet. At the end of the day if the training can help him to control his anxiety about the vet and other people touching his ears and grooming him then I think y’all made the right decision!

Totally agree, Ashley! We miss him so much, but I think it’ll be worth it if, as you said, he can go to the vet and the groomers without having a panic attack!

This came at a perfect time! I just called and made an appointment for my Gatsby, too!

yay for our Gatsbys going to school! haha. I miss him so much! It’s been the longest 10 days of my life, but I think it’ll be worth it when he comes home! 🙂

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