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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.

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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

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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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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Case Study 2 – Leader of the Pack

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This is a painful story from one of my first clients.  This experience actually drove me to move to a location where I could bring dogs in for training if necessary.

Mike and Laura are a couple close to retirement age.  They had a very smart little Jack Russell terrier called Jack.  Mike called me in, explaining that Jack had become aggressive at times, biting him and just recently trying to bite complete strangers.  He was afraid that he would have to have Jack euthanized, and he was looking for help to avoid that.

When I arrived at the house, Jack was out in the back yard.  I saw that food was left out for Jack in the kitchen, and also outdoors.  When Mike opened the back door, Jack rushed in, and by way of greeting me, he jumped on to every piece of furniture in the living room.  Jack was a smart little dog, and could do many tricks.  Mike explained that he loved the little dog, who had been his companion as Mike battled cancer, but on several occasions, Jack had been lying in his lap, and had suddenly bitten him, drawing blood.  As he told me about this, Mike played a game of tug-of-war with Jack using a soft toy, and allowed Jack to win.  Laura arrived home soon after, and it was clear that she was avoiding contact with Jack because she expected he might attack her.

We went through a lot of Jack’s history, but the situation was pretty clear.  Jack believed he was in charge of the house, and Mike and Laura were his staff.  He may have started out with respect for Mike, but lost it when Mike became weakened.  There was always food available for him, so he did not see that he was dependent upon them for anything.  He had control of the “high ground” – his jumping on all the furniture made that clear.  He consistently won contests of strength (when I asked Mike why he let him win the tug-of-war game, he said “I thought it would break his spirit if he lost”).  His biting was not an act of aggression, he was disciplining members of his pack who did not act appropriately towards him.  It is likely that he would lie in Mike’s lap, relaxing, but when Mike put a hand on top of him to pet him, Jack corrected him with a bite (the bite would not have done any serious damage to another dog, but Mike was weakened by his illness).

The right approach was also evident.  Jack needed to learn that he was not the leader of the pack.  Until he had learned to follow the lead of the people in his family, he could not be trusted.  If I could have taken him away with me that evening, I would have suggested it.  A few days of boot camp would set him up for coming home to a new world order.  However, at that time, I had nowhere to take him, so Mike and Laura would have to make the changes in his life.  Given that Laura was already afraid of him, and Mike was afraid that he could not control him, I was not sure that they would be successful.  The Jack Russell is small, but full of energy and determined to get his own way.

Sadly, the next day, Jack again attacked Mike, and he was euthanized.  I met Mike and Laura again a few months later, when they were adopting another dog – this time, a calmer, quieter dog – and they assured me that they would make the house rules much clearer from the start.

So, Jack, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.  Now I live out in the country, so that if the situation arises again, I would be able to take the dog away for the first couple of days of the rule change.

For everyone else out there – please take a look at your household from your dog’s perspective.  More than half the time when I go to a new client, the question of who is leader of the pack is behind many of their problems.  If your dog believes he can demand what he wants from you (food, treats, petting, playing, going outdoors, coming indoors, etc.) then he thinks he is in charge of the house.  You don’t have to be mean to him, just make it clear that you are in charge – keep him off the furniture, have him sit before his food goes down, and pick up his food bowl after 20 minutes, have him sit (or down, or high 5, or anything) before giving him the things he wants, make him wait at doors so you go first, then tell him when he can come through.  And if your dog is putting any part of his body on any part of yours (even resting his head on your knee), then make sure that you have your hand on top of him – you are the king of the hill.

Written by eurekapaws

April 13, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Case Studies

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Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog Part 4

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Knowing Mary, and knowing Hannah, we went to the shelter and looked around for the right match for them. When adopting a dog, there are obviously some physical criteria (some people can’t afford or manage a dog the size of a St Bernard, some people feel they must have a dog to raise from a puppy, and some people don’t want a dog that is high maintenance in terms of activity level or grooming needs).  But once those have been taken into account, the most important criterion is personality – does this dog have a personality that is compatible with everyone in the family?  I am always distressed when people focus on wanting a pure bred dog, or are concerned about whether the dog looks right for their home.  These things are so minor compared with the need for a good personality match – just as they are when choosing a human friend or partner.

In this case, we were looking for a dog who was less than 20 pounds, young but past puppyhood, upbeat and cheerful, and known to get along with other dogs. We found 3 likely candidates, and then met Mary at the shelter.  Mary had decided that she wanted a female dog, which brought us to one preferred candidate, Jenny.  As advertised, when she was brought out, Jenny immediately started to make friends with Mary.  In normal circumstances, we would introduce the potential new housemate to the incumbent dog before proceeding with the adoption, but these were not normal circumstances.  We already knew from her behavior at the shelter and with her foster family that Jenny was comfortable around other dogs, and we already knew that Hannah would not be comfortable at an introduction in a shelter, surrounded by people.  However, Hannah had met and stayed with many other dogs, and had shown no signs of aggression or intimidation – she was much happier with any dogs than any people!

Mary adopted Jenny that day, and took her home.  Jenny and Hannah became firm friends almost immediately, and Jenny became the active, outgoing dog that Mary had wanted.  The real question was, would this be enough to bring Hannah out of her shell, and get her to relate actively with people?

After a few weeks, the answer was that Jenny was becoming quite bossy, and Hannah was gaining confidence, but the relationship between Mary and Hannah still had not blossomed.  Hannah was still fearful of being trapped, and would not always come into the house when called – and she still did not show any affection towards Mary.  We separated the two dogs for a couple of weeks, giving Mary a chance to bond with Jenny, while we took Hannah for some intensive physical therapy.

Hannah would run away to avoid being trapped by a person, and would become rigid when picked up or cuddled.  However, on leash, she would tolerate being held, and would start to come when called.  She accepted that she could not control the situation, and tried to make the best of it.  After the first couple of sessions where I picked her up and held her on my lap, once I had put her down on the floor, she stood and trembled.  It was apparent that she was dealing with some powerful emotional conflicts.  Surrounded by our dogs, she relaxed a little, and on occasion she approached me when she wanted to be let out of a room.  (That sounds very minor, but for her it was a big step!)

After the two weeks, Mary and Jenny had made progress, and walking Jenny by herself had improved her responsiveness to Mary, but Mary was really starting to miss Hannah.  We brought her back with some trepidation – would Mary see enough progress in her?  Would Hannah continue to be more outgoing, as she had started to be with us?  When Mary picked her up and sat her on the chair beside her, Hannah started out as rigid as usual.  After several minutes of calm petting, while Mary talked with us, Hannah visibly relaxed.  When Mary went into the kitchen to make coffee, Hannah followed her to see what she was doing.  Those were both key indicators that Hannah had made some steps forward in relating to people.

It is still a journey – Hannah will not change overnight, and she may never be very demonstrative.  But she has had the great good fortune to find a home where she is loved and will be taken care of.  And Mary can look back over the last 9 months and see how she has changed in small ways: she used to run to her crate at every opportunity, now she is comfortable sitting in the living room; she used to avoid eating when anyone was around, now she happily eats in the kitchen; she used to sit rigidly upright on her cushion, now she has started to relax.  And of course, now she can play boisterously with her new friend Jenny.  All of those are because of Mary’s commitment to giving her a better life.

Written by eurekapaws

March 16, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog Part 3

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Now, Mary adopted Hannah in early July.  By August, Mary had been following our recommendations and she was making some progress, and housetraining was going well.  Mary brought her out to our facility to get to know the place, meet our dogs, and get used to some more social situations.  It was immediately striking that Hannah was not frightened of the other dogs – in fact, she seemed more relaxed when other dogs were around.  She was still scared of people, and after the other dogs had been handled, she would check them out to make sure they were OK.  Although Hannah spent most of the time in a safe corner of the fenced yard, she watched everything, and was keenly aware of where Mary was at all times.

Mary was going away for a few days at the end of August, and she was concerned about leaving Hannah at home with someone looking in on her.  Mary felt (and we agreed) that Hanah needed to be socialized more before she could be left with someone she did not already know and trust.  Hannah spent those few days with us, surrounded by our pack of ten dogs, just separated for feeding, and at night time, and when we were not there to supervise.  She learned how to use the dog door, and she relaxed noticeably around us – but she was clearly missing Mary.  She still avoided physical contact with us, but she would tolerate it if necessary, and she would approach for treats when the other dogs did.

When Mary was back, we worked with her on her body language when interacting with Hannah, and on loose leash walking.  Hannah needed to understand that Mary was her pack leader, and that she should trust her, even though she was human!  Mary had already implemented a structured regime so that Hannah understood how her days were organized; when she would eat, when she would go to bed, etc., so this was just refining that.  We like to see people working with their dogs while the dog is moving – the dog usually finds it easier to relax.  Mary quickly learned how to use the loose leash walking technique, and was able to walk Hannah around the neighborhood with the confidence we like to see in a pack leader!!!

Hannah was still very reserved, and was still not the cheery, outgoing dog that Mary had hoped for.  She was able to eat her food in the kitchen, and she was clearly comfortable on her cushion on the floor beside Mary during the day.  She would go out when Mary let her into the back yard to relieve herself, and come back in when Mary called for her.  But when Mary went out into the back yard, Hannah would not come to her.  Hannah had come a long way, but she still had a long way to go.

Mary had previously asked us about whether she should adopt a second dog to keep Hannah company, and we were not keen – often, people try to correct a problem with one dog by introducing another, and the situation gets worse rather than better.  It is much better to make sure that the situation is under control before introducing another dog into the mix.  However, we had now seen Hannah relax around other dogs, when she was one of a pack rather than a lone dog trying to live with a human.  And Mary had learned a lot about how to live with Hannah, and was subtly building her confidence, so we agreed that the time was right.  We just wanted to help with the process, as we wanted to make sure the second dog was the right match for Mary and for Hannah.

In October, about three months after Hannah came to live with Mary, we started to look for the right dog to introduce into the household.

Written by eurekapaws

February 9, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions, Training

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