Thursday, June 23, 2011


Twice in the last few months I've had to recommend that the dogs a family just adopted be returned because they are a total mis-match for that family.

The first was a high energy, rambunctious 9 month old Airedale puppy.  When I did the evaluation, this poor puppy was so stressed her paws never stopped sweating - and it wasn't hot, it was January.  She couldn't hold a focus, her attention span, even on her favorite toys was about 1/4 of a second.  The family reported that she was also reactive, bordering on aggressive with the youngest grandchildren and anyone coming into the home.  She had also never been leash trained. So, I recommneded she come to class to handle her stress and her reported reactivity which I didn't see in the evaluation.

For two weeks this family faithfully brought her to class.  They started learning how to communicate with Nikki and how to get her calm and keep her that way.  Nikki's leash manner improved immensely.  Then she had another "episode" with a workman who surprised her in the backyard and she nipped him good.  Back to the rescue she went.  In two days, the sweaty feet, the anxiety, the reactivity and the lack of impulse control was gone.  She was still high energy - nearly all Airedales are - but the abnormal behavior was gone, like magic.

She has since been adopted again to a wonderful couple who continued her education with us and Nikki is living the good life.

Now, just this week, I had to help another dog get out of an untenable situation.  Vanessa is a shepard bassett mix.  She was with her foster for a couple of months along with 6 other dogs.  The only reported issues were an aversion for the crate and a tendency to ignore the humans.  She got adopted and by the third day, the new family was calling me for help.  Vanessa was reported to have severe separation anxiety, leash aggression and was getting worse and worse about lunging and snapping at any strangers who would enter the house.

For three weeks Vanessa came to reactive dog class and got no better.  She was fine with me, she was fine with Deena, but when her owner had her on a leash, she was a Tasmanian Devil.  The separation anxiety and the snapping were also getting worse.  So I put the owners on a strict program at home with her to handle these issues.  For four days they faithfully reported what they were doing and that the separation anxiety was resolving. 

Then last night she tried to maul a child visiting the home.  Back to the foster and again, no problems.  She immediately integrated into the pack of now 11 dogs - 6 of them new to her since she had been gone a month.  She slept peacefully in her crate which she would not do at her adopters home and no sign of leash reactivity or aggression towards humans.

Two instances of a total mis-match of human family to dog. We'll see how Vanessa does in the future and it is to be hoped that she will find the right family.  A family where she won't be stressed and feel like she has to defend herself and chase everything away because it's all so scary.

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