Eureka! Dog Blog

Dog Training and Behavior weblog

A Story from Cathie

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Cathie and Maverick were students in a Canine Good Citizen class at McKinney Community Center in 2009.  Cathie has written a delightful account of thier experiences, which I’m happy to share with you!  (I hope we’ll be able to add a photo of Cathie and Maverick to this post later!)

The Situation

I was scared: my neighbor accused my dog, Maverick, of biting him and trying to kill his dog. I hadn’t seen what happened, but my husband’s version of it was:

“Maverick just ran down the driveway. He said Mav bit him and his dog, and he’s calling the police.”

My husband is a big man who’s never been afraid of anything. He could not understand why our neighbor was so upset about our 150lb dog galloping up to him to play with his 18lb dog. And my husband was quite sure Mav didn’t bite anyone.

I understood my neighbor’s fear. And I know Texas state law requires that a dog accused of biting be quarantined for 10 days to observe for rabies. We visited Maverick in quarantine, and some days found him loose in the kennel—the staff hated to keep him kenneled all day and definitely didn’t consider him dangerous.

Maverick isn’t dangerous, but he looks it. A huge Great Dane, his front legs look like fence posts. I wouldn’t want him running up to me if I didn’t know him.

The evening after the incident, I went to my neighbor to express my concern. I told him I was very sorry there had been a problem. I was surprised when he showed me his “bite,” since I was certain he didn’t have one. What he showed me was a tiny red spot on the back of his hand. No big puncture, no stitches, no band-aid. Not surprisingly, his little pooch didn’t have any injuries at all.

I said again how sorry I was about what had happened. My neighbor asked if I would get rid of my dog. I said no. I said, “I’ll take him to obedience school and promise you he will not be loose in the yard again.”

I had to find a way to allay this man’s fear of my dog because if I didn’t, I was sure he’d accuse Maverick of another bad act. I needed to get Maverick under verbal control—no more loping down the driveway to greet passersby.  Maverick needed better manners. I had to find a good obedience instructor to help me get Maverick in line.

The Solution

I have the good fortune to live near the very best boarding facility: Pet Paradise in Melissa. One of Pet Paradise’s owners, Hazel, had been a professional dog handler with top awards to her credit, so I called Pet Paradise for a referral to a trainer. The receptionist said Hazel recommended only one: Jane Davidson.

I contacted Jane and was enrolled in a Canine Good Citizen class that would run for seven weeks.

Maverick was quicker to catch on to commands than I thought he would be. He has an aloof/dopey look on his big mug most of the time. He’s a rescue Dane, purebred but not a particularly fine specimen. He has a pointy head and floppy ears. He just doesn’t look smart. Scary? Yes. Smart? Not so much. But Maverick is smart, and he associated commands to actions quickly. He learned sit, down, come, stay, heel, and off within a couple workouts. When he heard my command, he would do it.

Most of the time…

Slowly…

A foot or ten off the mark.

Sometimes he ignored me altogether, and that’s why I needed the trainer. I know the commands and how to teach them. I’ve done it before, even competed in obedience events with my other dogs. But no one can properly train her dog by herself. I needed Jane to watch and guide us in order to get Mav to obey commands immediately, every time, on the mark. I could not see what I was doing wrong with my commands, body language, and attitude. But Jane could.

By the end of our seven weeks, I had learned to stand tall and state commands in a manner that Maverick hears every time. Jane was able to show me when what I said, how I moved, or my posture or tone confused rather than commanded Maverick. Jane would gently point out that I was using words in casual chatter that had specific meaning for Maverick. She’d tell me when I wasn’t being Maverick’s “pack leader.” Dogs always read your mood and ‘tude, and if it isn’t masterful, they’ll know it. Which is to say, Maverick learned everything he needed to know in the first two weeks. The last five weeks of class were for training me.

The Success and Joy

Maverick and I work out every day. He sits while I get his breakfast, he comes whenever I call him, he stays where he’s told even if his favorite toy is three feet away. Our favorite days are when we go on long walks with other dogs and kids and bikes and big people because that’s when he gets to show me and everyone else what an obedient, gentle dog he is.

He is not perfect. No dog gets his butt on the ground slower than Maverick does when he hears, “Sit!” When I say, “Maverick, come!” he runs right to me and sits… somewhere. Try as I might, I haven’t yet gotten him to sit directly in front of me on recall. Not perfect, but Maverick now has his AKC issued CGC (Canine Good Citizen Certificate). He passed the test on his first try.

That would not have happened without Jane Davidson and Eureka! There were too many things I was doing wrong, inconsistently, and over-anxiously for Maverick to have been successful working with me alone. I simply could not see or hear the words, tone, and movements I was using that were confusing to the dog. Jane’s directions and corrections were always clear and delivered with kindness and good humor. Had she been a domineering trainer, or an apologetic, nervous trainer (I’ve worked with both kinds) Maverick would not have earned his CGC. There is a right way to train dogs, and it’s unique to each dog and owner. Jane knows this, studies it, and acts on it.

I now have a giant dog I am proud to take with me everywhere. I know exactly how he will behave, and he knows exactly what I want him to do whenever I ask him to do it. But we’re not done: I want Maverick to become a therapy dog for struggling readers. Reading to a big goofy dog improves your reading quickly because dogs never criticize. In fact, you become a perfect reader in the only way a human is ever perfect: in the eyes of her dog.

As for my neighbor, he hasn’t come walking with us yet, but he hasn’t accused Mav of any new transgressions, either.

And he won’t.

Written by eurekapaws

February 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Case Study 4 – Fearful Dog

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Coffee was rescued from the streets, and then spent a couple of years in a shelter.  By the time he came to a home, he had developed fears of many things – people, storms, ceiling fans, you name it, he was scared of it! In June of this year, he finally found himself in a home with just two other dogs, and he started to come out of his well-constructed shell.

Coffee

Coffee in 2008

When I first met Coffee, he would not let me come close to him. He would pace about ten to fifteen feet away, watching carefully.  He was actively scared of everyone he met, especially men. He did not have good social skills with other dogs either – he did not play, and he had been attacked by other dogs in the past (and he is missing part of an ear as a result). He was terrified of all the things that frighten many dogs, including thunderstorms, but he also looked with fear at ceiling fans (moving or still). He became very distressed being bathed or having his nails clipped.

Now that he has a home with only two other dogs (both female) he has started to be more comfortable with them.  He continues to be less than friendly with some visiting male dogs. Interestingly, he bonded with Tuffy, the Tough Dog in case study 3. They apparently found they had some things in common. Both of them had lived rough for a while, and both of them are fearful of men.

Coffee and Tuffy

Coffee and Tuffy getting acquainted

We worked on integrating Coffee into the household. In this household, that means siting and waiting for his food bowl to go down and starting to eat only when he is given permission.  It also means participating in the daily “Cookie Time” ritual, where the dogs do a couple of obedience commands and get rewarded with dog cookies. This was a challenge for Coffee on two levels. Firstly, because he still did not like to approach me too closely, and secondly because he did not want to compete with the other dogs for food, or to lie down next to them. Over the weeks he has become comfortable with doing a Sit and a Down beside the other dogs, and he now trots happily to the kitchen when he hears “Cookie Time”. He still hangs back when we play hide and seek; the other dogs run through the house trying to find where I have hidden, but Coffee waits until I come out before coming for his treat.

One of Coffee’s most obvious fears was of thunderstorms.  He would pace, go outside, come inside, could not find anywhere he felt safe. He started to come to my room in the middle of the night to let me know there was a thunderstorm going on. To my amazement, one night he was so scared that he overcame his residual fear of me, and jumped on to the bed beside me, and lay shaking with fear. He is not allowed on the bed, but his distress was so obvious that I did not turn him away. I gave him some drops of Rescue Remedy to calm him, and turned on a light so the lightning would be less dramatic. I resisted the urge to comfort him, and instead spoke in a calm, happy voice, and settled down to sleep. I could feel him shuddering as I drifted off to sleep. At some stage he must have fallen asleep, and in the morning he jumped off the bed as soon as I stirred.

This procedure repeated itself about three more times. I started to keep the Rescue Remedy and a flashlight by my bed, so I was ready for Coffee’s late night visits. If the weather was good, he would spend the night as usual in my office, but as the storm started up, he would come to my bedroom. He would wake me, I would turn on the light (or the flashlight, if the pwoer was out), speak cheerfully to him and give him a few drops of the Rescue Remedy. If the storm continued to get worse, he would jump on the bed and hide from it behind me, shaking with fear. I might pat him briefly on the back or neck, as I would normally, but I would not cuddle him, baby talk him, or stroke him to calm him.  I would tell him he was being foolish, then go back to sleep.

Then the night came when all he needed was the light and the Rescue Remedy. The storms were beginning to lose their power over him. Last time we had a storm, I woke up and realized he was not in my room. I went to the office, and he was lying calmly under the desk. Coffee was officially not afraid of storms any more!

Coffee still has many challenges to overcome, but it is exciting to see him grow. He keeps reaching new milestones – he has stayed calm while his nails were clipped, he has been on walks in the park where there were lots of other dogs and people, he has had his first real bath in a bathtub.  This weekend, he approached a stranger (to him) and took a treat from her.

The key factors in helping Coffee have been a small, stable household where he could develop relationships with each of the other members (human and canine), not indulging his fears but showing leadership in being calm and confident, and having him participate in activities a little outside his comfort zone.

Written by eurekapaws

November 10, 2009 at 10:15 am

Thoughts from Dan – Leadership

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Dan English has been working with Eureka! Canine Behavior Specialists for the last few months.  He has a 2 year old American Bulldog, Tex, and has a long history of training dogs of all sizes.  His skills are particularly impressive with the larger, more assertive breeds.   From time to time, he will be writing blog entries on various aspects of dog training.  Here is his first.

 

I was assisting Jane during a Canine Good Citizen class with my 2 year old American Bulldog, Tex.  Tex had reacted with some tension around an unaltered male so I was closely monitoring their interaction.  At one point I had to walk past the dog on the left so I put Tex on my right side.  I began walking him on my right side instead of my left when he was young while we were at parks to avoid the zooming bicycle riders and joggers and other dogs.  Initially Tex would try to cross over to the left side and I extended the hand with the leash out to the right (no jerking, just a little pressure on the c0llar) and gave the command of “Don’t cross that trail.”
 
So as we walked past the dog Tex showed interest, I moved the leash slightly and gave him the command.  The dog’s owner walked up to me and asked me how I trained him to do that.
 
I really did not have a clear answer for her.  But as I started to ponder how I should have answered that question it all came down to one thing.  I was Tex’s leader.  There had been no “don’t cross the trail” training sessions.  I did not teach him to not cross the trail like I had taught him to sit, down and stay.  Those skills were accomplished in sessions using treats and commands in a repetitive way.  The command for Tex not to cross the trail was on the job training but it became possible because I am his leader.
 
People come to us with a variety of dog behavior issues and they ask our help to bring about the behavior they want to see out of their dog.  Different training techniques are required for different situations but one thing stays constant.  Leadership.
 
How do I stop my dog from barking?  Be their leader.
 
How do I stop my dog from pulling on the leash?  Be their leader.
 
The basic commands of sit, stay and down can be accomplished by formal training and rewards.  They learn pretty quickly that if they perform a certain trick they will be rewarded with a tasty treat.  But in order to change unwanted behavior or to teach a dog more abstract skills you must be unquestionably the dog’s leader.
 
In the dog world there are only two positions.  Leader and follower.  If you are not one, you are the other.  And with almost every dog behavior problem I see the problem is that the dog does not recognize the owner as a leader.  This can be because of the youth and inexperience of the dog or it can just be a learned behavior of not taking the owner seriously.
 
So how do we become our dog’s leader?  It begins when the alarm clock rings in the morning.  Canines in the wild never stop posturing and they never allow a breach of etiquette.  Rules like “No Free Lunch” and the controlling of food and the high ground put us in position to lead.  You can spot a dog with a strong leader pretty easily.  They are a pair that seem to have a vibe going on.  Almost like the dog can read the owner’s mind.  The truth is the dog has learned to pay close attention to their leader and has grown accustomed to their mannerisms.
 
Exercises like “Watch Me” and “Leave It” focus the dog on the owner.  Giving the dog clear physical boundaries that they can understand like the tile in the kitchen or around the entrance way to the front door puts the owner in the leadership position.
 
No matter how domesticated your dog is they still react with instincts.  What we as owners need to learn are the skills to tap in to those canine pack instincts to bring about the behaviors we want.  One of the most important instincts is that the pack must have a leader.  And if we do not take that position and maintain that position every day, the dog will attempt to take it.
 
The good news is that it is not impossible to be a dog’s leader.  In fact most dogs want us to lead; freeing them up to just be a dog and exist in the world in a carefree state.  They will relax knowing that you are there to handle whatever situation comes up.
 
So find the skills you need to become your dog’s pack leader and use them every day.  Do not practice them, use them.  You will see your dog look to you for guidance and reassurance in every situation.

Written by eurekapaws

October 1, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Articles, General, Training

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Case Study 3 – One Tough Dog Part 2

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We went out to see Tuffy again three weeks later.   The mange had cleared up, and he was starting to look a lot better as a result.  His behavior had improved substantially, and he was especially good around the girls, but his relationship with Joe was still a problem.  Joe would go away on business for several days at a time, and Tuffy still felt that he was a potential threat.  Joe would walk him in the mornings, and Tuffy was happy with that.  However, there had been an incident – Joe had taken Tuffy by car to a park.  The drive there had gone well, as Tuffy seemed to love the car, and the two of them had had a good walk.  Tuffy did not pull on the leash, and although he was still shy when they passed other people, he was well-behaved.  As they returned to the car, another car pulled into the parking lot with a large white labrador in the back seat.  The next paragraph is Joe’s description of what happened.

The dog spotted Joe and Tuffy and leapt from the backseat windows out of the car (leash attached) and sprinted at Joe and Tuffy “ears back and snarling”.  Joe had only a split-second to decide what was best for him and Tuffy.  Joe decided Tuffy’s health more important than his own and quickly reached under Tuffy’s belly and “jerked” him up and out of reach of the attacking White Lab, who arrived at the moment Tuffy went off the round, owner shrieking its name while still getting out of the car.  Tuffy did not like Joe’s decision at all.  Tuffy began squirming from side to side, attempting to break Joe’s grip, as Joe headed toward his car.  Joe realized (too late) Tuffy should have been picked up with two arms (front and back) as Tuffy nipped Joe on the right forearm.  Joe didn’t let go until they had arrived at Joe’s car and the White Lab had been “retrieved” by the dog’s owner, who by now, had grabbed the leash and was loudly chastising her dog while intermittently apologizing.  Joe assured the lady he was OK, promptly got Tuffy and himself into his car and drove home. 

Luckily, the wound was superficial, a clean puncture with no tearing.  Joe was adamant about keeping Tuffy and that Joe was at fault for potentially overreacting.  We discussed what had happened with the Gilbert family.   It was unfortunate, and had set back the development of trust between Tuffy and Joe.  In fact, Tuffy was probably better equipped to deal with the situation with the lab than Joe was.  It is always dangerous to pick up a dog to prevent a fight – in fact it can make the fight worse, as well as putting the person in a dangerous position in the middle of it.  In this case, Tuffy was more alarmed by Joe’s actions than by the lab’s.  His nipping at Joe was a desperate attempt to get free, not an attack.

Tuffy continued to try to avoid Joe around the house, and to stay in the backyard rather than come in if he knew Joe was in the house.  He was responding very well to Millie, and was happy to play with the girls although he was still occasionally frightened when they made sudden movements or noises.  When he was scared, he would bark at the person who had scared him, and sometimes advance towards them.  Millie would stop him when he advanced, and her presence would normally calm him.  (Having a dog give warning signals is very good – we never discourage dogs from giving them, because when they give us the warning, the humans can change their behavior to avoid a confrontation.  Dogs who have been taught never to bark or growl are the ones who are most likely to bite “without warning”.)  He managed to adjust to our presence in the house fairly easily, and eventually came to us for treats.

As Tuffy was gaining confidence, we decided that it was time to push him a little to get him more confidence.  We went through the exercise of putting him on leash in the house, and having him come to people when they called his name, and offered him treats.  He had developed a few preferences about where he was comfortable eating, and the Gilberts were putting his food bowl in a less convenient place for them to make sure he would eat.  Now that he was clearly more comfortable in the home, it was time to reassert the family as being in charge.  The food bowl needed to go where they wanted it, and he needed to adjust.

The family were about to go on a short break, so we made plans to have Tuffy stay at our facility, with our dogs, while they were away.  Tuffy was already known to be comfortable around other dogs – it was humans, and especially human males, that scared him.  But this would still be a significant change in the routine he was becoming accustomed to.

Tuffy settling in

A week later, we brought Tuffy to the facility, and let him greet the resident dogs.  As expected, he was very much a gentleman in his manners greeting the other dogs, and he was happy to play outside with them.  In particular, he made friends with a dog called Coffee, another dog with a fear of people, and men in particular.  Since Coffee also has limited dog social skills, it was great to see Tuffy helping Coffee to relax.

Tuffy and Coffee - The first meeting

Tuffy and Coffee - The first meeting

We were initially concerned about how we would bring Tuffy in for meals and at bedtime – his history at home was that he would go to the end of the yard and hide there when he was not comfortable.  However, he relaxed a great deal in the company of other dogs, and he just naturally followed them at mealtimes and at bedtime.  During the entire stay, he did not bark at us to indicate fear.
When the Gilberts returned home, Joe collected Tuffy from us and brought him into the house.  We felt it was important to establish Joe as the person brought him home, as his friend and protector.
Although he continued to bark at Joe from time to time, he settled back happily into the household routine, and handled a party of 8 houseguests (2 adults and 6 children) without difficulty.  It was time to start him on a proper training program.

Written by eurekapaws

July 26, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions, Training

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Farewell to a Friend

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Dazy was a great dog.  She was a catahoula / pit bull mix, and she was full of life and energy.  Unfortunately, she was also a challenging dog to control, and had a history of reactiveness/aggression towards other dogs.  Our friend David loved Dazy, but he also has multiple children.  The other day, Dazy snapped in the face of one of his children to tell him to back off.  The shelters are full because of the economic conditions, and Dazy was a pit mix, and would have to be labeled unsuitable for homes with children.  David knew that if he gave her to a shelter, she would spend a period of time confused and unhappy living in a cell, and then probably be euthanized.  He made the best decision for her by taking her to be euthanized rather than handing her over to strangers.  A very hard decision to make, but fairer to Dazy.  Here is the poem he wrote afterwards.

Run, Dazy, Run

Run, Dazy, run.
Pant in the heat of the Texas sun.
Stretch your legs of sinew and follow your heart,
Do not stop!
Run until the chase is done.
Then run, again, once more.

Run, Dazy, run.
Even though you sleep, your mind cast adrift,
I know of what you dream.
Smooth strides, a thunderous locomotive at full steam,
No hurdle too large;
No creek too wide;
No grass too long; as you move swiftly through the fields,
Magnificent, like a Cardinal’s song.

Run, Dazy, run.
Alas, you will run no more.
Your heart has stopped,
Your handsome head, dropped.
Hypnotic eyes of green, blue and brown, no longer shine,
For you now sleep and are no longer mine.
Legs, once taut as steel rope, now rest with your last breath,
And you will run, no more.

Run, Dazy, run.
As you stride, magnificently, towards the last horizon,
You will not escape me; my mind is already burned with your memory.
A permanent fixture in my heart,
A heart that is sore and hollow with you gone,
For you, were the only one.

Written by eurekapaws

July 16, 2009 at 10:54 am

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Eureka! North Now in Vermont

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Jan Gordon headed back to Vermont at the start of June, to avoid the Texas summer!  She arrived there on Friday June 5th, and did her first consultation as Eureka! North on Sunday June 7th.  We’ve added a page to the website so people in Vermont (especially around Stowe and Burlington) can find us. 

Meanwhile, business continues to grow in the DFW area.  We have Canine Good Citizen classes on Saturday mornings at the McKinney Community Center, and a fun introduction to agility at our location near McKinney on Sunday mornings, as well as providing in home consultations and training.  Of course, we are also proud to be local distributors for The Honest Kitchen nutritious dog foods and treats (featured recently in the Food Network’s “Will Work for Food“).

Jan of course is greatly missed but continues to provide advice and support from the frozen north.  However, to help meet growing demand in Texas, we have started working with Dan, and he is assisting with classes and on some consultations.  He also works independently with clients who need assistance with dog walking or “walking dates” for their dogs.

Written by eurekapaws

June 30, 2009 at 4:44 pm

No one should abandon a dog

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Times are hard for many people, and animals are suffering as a result.  Last October, we heard about a sweet young dog, Blue, who was trying to find a new home.  We offered a free training session to whoever adopted her, and the foster home passed that information to the adopter.  They also offered to refund the money and take Blue back if it did not work out.   A single mother adopted the dog, and she and her boyfriend came out with Blue and we gave them some tips on how to keep control and walk her properly, and teach her basic commands.

A few days ago, we heard from the foster home.  They had been contacted by an animal shelter in May, as Blue’s microchip had been traced back to them.  Blue had been abandoned, and the property owner had asked the shelter to come and pick her up.  The shelter did not find the chip when they scanned her, but they kept her for 2 weeks.  Then she became sick and they decided to euthanize her.  They did a final scan, and this time they found the chip.

The foster mother went to the shelter, and in her words “I went and picked her up and was shocked at her appearance. She was skin and bones and had a horrible head cold with kennel cough. We have decided to keep her because she had been through enough hell in her short life…I would like to sue [the adopter], not for the money but as an example. There was absolutely no reason for her to let this happen. I even told her that I’d give her money back if it didn’t work out with Blue.”

If you take a dog into your home, you have responsibilities.  There are many circumstances where it is not possible to keep the dog yourself.  Your responsibility is to find a new home for that dog.  In this case, there was a place they could have taken the dog, but they chose not to do so.  Dogs left to fend for themselves do not usually do well.  They end up abused or killed, either by wild animals or by people, or simply in accidents.  They become sick and often starve to death.  People who abandon a dog simply lack the moral courage to take action.  If the dog lives with you, you can find a shelter to take him or her.  Even if it is not a no-kill shelter, the dog will be given food and safety and a chance at adoption – they will not end their lives in fear and misery.

Some people simply leave their dog in the house when they go away.  Typically, those dogs starve to death before they are found and can be rescued.  Other people seem to think their dog will survive if abandoned in a rural area.  Perhaps they have some fantasy about returning a domestic dog to the wild.  Around here, there are coyotes, wildcats, snakes, and other abandoned dogs, among many other hazards.  You do not do your dog a favor by leaving him or her to try and survive in a hostile environment.

Blue is a very lucky dog.  She still needs training, but she has been rescued by people who care.  If you are running into difficulties and there is a possibility that you will not be able to continue to provide a home for your pet, DO SOMETHING.  There is no reason to make a family pet suffer and die.  Start looking at the options available in the worst case scenario.  Abandoning a dog is cowardly and unnecessary.

Written by eurekapaws

June 25, 2009 at 8:59 am

Posted in General

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Case Study 3 – One Tough Dog

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Tuffy was a dog who had learned to live without help from people.  He was trapped with a group of dogs in a gravel pit where they could not get out, and it appeared that they may have been abused by people in the area.  He was rescued by a caring person who worked at Operation Kindness animal shelter (www.operationkindness.org), on her third attempt to get any of the dogs out.  Tuffy and a greyhound were the only ones “smart or hungry enough” to be lured out to the edge of the quarry and saved from death by malnutrition.  Operation Kindness gave him several months of treatment for a severe case of Demodex Mange, and for malnutrition, and put him up for adoption.  In the shelter, he only bonded with female employees and was extremely shy of people in general, although he was friendly with the other dogs in his enclosure.

The Gilbert family saw Tuffy on a website, and their hearts melted.  They went to the shelter, and Millie and Joseph Gilbert and their 8 and 10 year old daughters met Tuffy and were able to pet him after some coaxing and offering treats.  He showed no signs of hostility, and they thought his shyness was to be expected, so they adopted him.  This was Tuffy’s second adoption, having been returned the first time for being “too difficult to housetrain”.

Within a week, the Gilberts were concerned that they had made a mistake.  Tuffy was comfortable around Millie, but he barked at Joe and avoided him.  Tuffy would hide at the end of the yard to avoid being trapped, and any changes in the routine, visitors, sudden noises and movements, would cause him to bark and either back away or sometimes walk slowly towards the person.  Joe traveled frequently on business, so while Tuffy was starting to settle into his new home Joe was often not there.  Whenever Joe came into a room, Tuffy would try to leave to go to a safer place.  (It seemed likely that Tuffy had suffered at the hands of a man, as his response to Joe was much stronger than to us or to any of the female members of the household.)

The Gilberts called us in because they were afraid that Tuffy might not be safe around their daughters, and because it seemed that his behavior problems might be more than they could handle.  We arrived at their house early, and saw a dog being walked back to the house.  Rather than meet the dog then and there, we went and parked for a few minutes to give them time to get the dog home.  When we returned, the dog and the dog walker were still in the same place!  Seeing a problem, we split up.  Jan went to the dog and helped Millie to walk him back to the house, while I met with Joe to find out what was happening.  The whole family had taken Tuffy on his walk that day, instead of just Millie.  Tuffy had sat down on his walk, and did not want to move any further.  Nervous about stressing him, Millie had stopped with him, and now could not make him walk the last few yards home.

We spent quite a while sitting in the living room with the entire Gilbert family and Tuffy, until he started to venture out and even take treats from Jan.  It became clear that he was afraid of all the new things he found, and that he had bonded to Millie as his savior, and regarded everyone else as a potential threat.  He tried always to be near where Millie was, or if she was away, to retreat to his crate.  If he was outside and Joe was in the living room, Tuffy would be afraid to venture into the house.  Because everyone was worried about Tuffy, they were trying to get him to respond to them with love and affection, and they were staring at him, which scared him.  Making direct eye contact is a threatening behavior from one dog to another, so Tuffy thought he was being challenged.  However, Tuffy was also a realist – once he had a leash on, he would be calmer.  Once he was sitting next to Millie with the leash on, she was able to pass the leash to Joe.

The Gilbert family had already made a great start on giving Tuffy his new home.  They had already started to have a daily routine for Tuffy, and routine helps a dog become confident in his surroundings.  They agreed to try to change their behavior so that they did not stare at Tuffy, they avoided sudden movements, and they learned to wait for Tuffy to come to them when he was ready to be petted or to want to be near them.  Tuffy was to stay on leash in the house while there were people there to supervise him, so that he stopped running to safe places whenever people moved around.  Joe needed to hold the leash on walks when possible, so that Tuffy could get used to him as a friendly pack leader.  They would walk Tuffy together as a family when they could, so that eventually the girls could take the leash as well.

When Tuffy tried to stop the walk, the person with the leash needed to act like a pack leader – walk on confidently, expecting Tuffy to follow.  That was how Jan had persuaded him to come back to the house.

Within a few days, Tuffy started to show definite signs of improvement.  He continued to be alarmed by Joe, especially when Joe arrived home.  However, he started to differentiate between “Good Joe” who had his leash, and “Bad Joe” who did not.  With “Good Joe”, he was more comfortable, and he would even come to him to get his walking leash put on.  With “Bad Joe”, he would still bark and back away.

Written by eurekapaws

June 7, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions

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Dog Clean-Up Continued

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Well, I have to report that the vegetable oil was awesome in helping me remove all the tar from Xena’s feet.  It was a big worry, because she had a huge amount of very sticky tar on all four paws, so her ability to cool down was compromised.  The vegetable oil made chemical changes to the tar over a 24 hour period so that it could easily be picked and washed off.  Of course, she was not steady on her feet after the initial application!

The other great piece of news is that courtesy of the Skunk Whisperer, we now have a good recipe for removing the skunk smell from dogs and their collars.  It is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid dish soap, see www.totalwildlifecontrol.com.  This recipe comes with all sorts of warnings, because it can be an irritant, so be sure to wash your dog after it has done its work, keep it away from eyes, etc. and make sure your dog gets plenty of oils for his/her skin.  And you can’t prepare it in advance – it has to be freshly made each time!  But it worked much better than the commercial remedy I was trying.  (But I still think that Skunk Off is a good commercial remedy, I just didn’t have any.)

Written by eurekapaws

June 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

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Dog Clean-Up

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Someone said to me the other day “of course, everyone thinks their own dog is unusually smart…”  Actually, I have toXena Deep in Thought admit that my dog Xena is quite remarkably NOT smart.  She came to me from Hurricane Katrina, a dog who had seen a lot of trouble.  She was heartworm positive, and I fostered her while she went through the heartworm treatments.  (For anyone who is not sure they need to give their dog heartworm preventive, please understand that heartworms are very damaging to the dog, and the treatment is really nasty and dangerous.  Make sure your dog is adequately protected.)  By the time Xena was well enough to be returned to the shelter, she had bonded so strongly with me that I simply could not take her back there, so I adopted her.

Here are two examples of Xena’s intelligence.

  • I have a dog door in the back door out to the yard.  One day, Xena was preparing to go in through the dog door when I walked up to let myself in through the door itself.  As I opened the door, Xena kept following it around so she could go in through the dog door when it stopped moving.
  • Xena has been exercised along with other dogs at a baseball practice area.  This area is surrounded by chain link fence with one gate in it.  When we let all the dogs out through the gate, Xena ran up and down the fence line, trying to work out why she couldn’t reach the other dogs.  She thought she was in a maze, and someone had to go in and guide her out.

So, you get the idea.  Xena will not win any Nobel prizes.  In the last week, she has managed to create severe clean-up emergencies for herself twice!

The first emergency was a skunk.  Xena was off-leash in an open area, and she and a friend managed to trap a skunk, getting squirted full on the face and neck.  The smell was unbelievable.  Her collar is hanging on a fence outside, and after 4 days, I still can’t bring it into the house because it smells so bad – within 2 hours your eyes start to sting from being in the room with it.  Xena has been banished to sleeping in my bathroom because we don’t to share the air we breathe with her.  Tomato juice works on people, but not on dogs – their skin is different from ours.  We got rid of some of the smell on her with bathing, but we did not have the Skunk-Off product on hand, so the rest of it will have to wear off.

Two days later, she thought she was on the trail of something else, and managed to get all four feet covered in fresh tar.  She came home with long streamers of tar attached to her feet.  After frantic research on the Internet, and some experimentation, we settled on vegetable oil as the most effective solution we had on hand.  It really has done well, although it is a lengthy process.  The oil needs to be rubbed into the tar and left for 24 hours.  During that time, it breaks down the structure of the tar so that it can be washed off with soap and water.  In Xena’s case, she had so much tar worked into her feet that we are still only about half way through the process of cleaning her up.

Xena is still trying to work out why she is suddenly so unpopular.  In any other dog, I would hope that she had learned a lesson from all this.

 

Xena Deep in Thought

Written by eurekapaws

May 29, 2009 at 9:32 pm

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