This Canine Corner describes two more unusual cases we have come across while training dogs here in Naples. Like the previous column, I will share with you not only the unusual symptoms presented, but how we went about transposing the dogs back to normality.
The first dog to feature today was a lovely 6-year-old Bichon who had recently been rescued from a puppy mill in Miami by the new caring owners here in Naples. It was clear from the outset that this lovely little dog had been seriously abused in her previous home, and never been exposed to any real kindness or love.
This was one scared dog, who just hid away in the corner when our clients invited us in.
Before we start training any dog for the first time, I always take time to check that all the details we have on record are correct, and then get some more detail about the dog’s behaviors (triggers, etc) and I then go on to explain to the owners, while we sit round a table, how dogs think, and how we go about training them.
On this occasion, whilst I was conducting this part of the session, my wife (also a dog behavioral therapist) just sat on the floor in an effort to encourage the dog to come forward. With a dog such as this, it is important not to scare her further — she has to feel that it is her choice to come and meet any of us. After what seemed an eternity, her curiosity got the better of her, and she approached my wife, and we were able to work with her from there.
Not surprisingly, after more than five consecutive years of abuse, this was not a dog we were ever going to be able to cure in one lesson, but the basis for future lessons had been set, and after a few lessons, and lots of walks, love and consistency from her new owners (a lovely, retired couple), her confidence improved and she is at last enjoying the life she deserves.
Interestingly too, we teach our clients that dogs love praise, and they normally do, but this poor little dog didn’t seem to react positively at all to praise at first. We advised our clients to persist though, and she did come to love praise after a while. Whether it was because she didn’t understand what praise was, or didn’t feel worthy of it, or simply hadn’t (at that stage) sufficiently bonded with her new owners, who knows? What we do know is that she is now one happy, contented, confident dog, much loved by her new owners, and that makes us genuinely happy too.
We also came across an (almost obsessive) digger out in Golden Gates Estates recently.
This dog had plenty of land to manage, and quite a bit of spare time on his hands as well, so the opportunity was obviously there from the start.
However, his owner, a nurse, had better things to do with her time than going round the yard filling in all the holes he had dug. The solution here was quite simple – water bombs!
A normal Ziploc sandwich bag (thinner version) three-fourths filled with water then sealed, thrown — not at the dog — but to burst on the ground just in front of the dog will put him off. It is not getting wet that does the job, as many dogs like water — it is the semi-explosive effect of the bag bursting just as the dog is about to start digging which is the answer.
So, just as in any other type of correction you have occasion to give your dog, timing is vital. Dogs live in the moment, and if the moment has passed, then you are too late.
They do learn very quickly though, so you’ll probably need no more than four bags to fix this misbehavior. On this occasion we only used two, but I can think of another couple of dogs where only one did the trick.
In two weeks time, I shall feature another two unusual canine behaviors, the effects they were having, and the solutions selected. Meantime, enjoy the summer with your own dog(s) but take care — dogs can get sunburns too!
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Colin Glass is the dog behavioral therapist and trainer in Collier County for Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. Bark Busters trainers, who have trained more than 500,000 dogs worldwide, are renowned authorities in correcting dog behavior with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers a written lifetime guarantee. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.BarkBusters.com.