Profile: Lacie is a Maltese female, spayed, bought from breeder a couple years ago; mostly deaf and visually impaired; reactive to other dogs and people; owner hired a "traditional" style trainer who hasn't been able to even get Lacie comfortable enough with her presence to get out of her crate, because Lacie barks and bites and makes a big, threatening fuss. All due to alpha-domination, of course. (Can you sense my sarcasm and disgust?) Lacie's owner, let's call her D, would like Lacie to be comfortable around strangers of all sorts; however, things have gotten so bad and discouraging, D is to the heartbreaking point of seriously considering surrendering and/or rehoming Lacie. Lacie isn't even 100% friendly with D's husband or their other dog, Pepper, a Maltese-poodle mix.
At IDOGS yesterday, I finally got to interact with Lacie for the first time. Before, I was mostly working with Pepper, because Lacie was "so bad" we gave her lots of space to just observe the first few sessions. Lacie barked at me, lunged toward me, and clearly said, "Stay away from me!" with all 3-ish pounds of body weight she's got. I just kept my distance, and tossed treats her way. It was hard for her to find them, but she has an exceptional sense of smell to make up for her bad eyesight and hearing and she found them eventually. Within a few minutes of this, she ate out of my hand of her own choosing. With a few repetitions of that, she asked me to pet her by rubbing against my arm/leg (I was kneeling on the sidewalk). And then I was receiving a very enthusiastic, affectionate greeting, kisses and all. I was elated, touched, proud, and overcome with happiness.
D kept saying, throughout the whole process, "Wow, she's never done that before... OMG, she's definitely NEVER done that before with a stranger... WOW, Lacie, what a good girl!" We talked a bit, I confessed my opinion that the other trainer might not be the best match for Lacie (I really hope I said that as diplomatically as possible) and to try my trainer, Sue Myles. I told her I could pass along her contact information, and although she's pricey, she's worth every penny and Lacie could be happy and not need a new home. D saw a light at the end of the tunnel for the FIRST TIME, and promised not to get rid of Lacie now.
So I told Sue what happened, and that I was referring D and Lacie to her. Hopefully, D will take Lacie to Sue and all will be well, but my part in this story just makes my week. :) I have saved a dog from possible euthanasia; her disabilities, reactivity, and bite history would be a really hard sell. I'm convinced I want to be a dog trainer.
Here's our correspondence, in case you want to see:
Hi, Sue. I just have to tell you this story from our doggie socialization group this afternoon. I'm referring this woman and her maltese to you.
Lacie barks and lunges at strange dogs and people, but also even her owner, D husband and other dog. D bought her from a "breeder." However, Lacie is almost deaf (which D told me) and visually impaired, as I discovered today. It seems Lacie can hear higher, loud sounds; she sees shadows, movement, and darker objects so long as it's straight in front of her. D has a "trainer" who has given her the "alpha" speech and has forbidden Lacie's snuggling above D lap in its name. That's just one example...
Meeting Lacie today made my week. After respecting her space, throwing her some treats, and being patient, she totally came out of her shell and fell in love with me. She took food out of my hand, stopped barking at me, and even asked me to pet her, which she accepted eagerly! I am the first stranger she hasn't bitten, and I believe the first to rub her all over and get kisses. D was to the point of seriously considering surrendering or rehoming Lacie. Lacie hates the trainer and the trainer hasn't even been able to get her out of her crate from the barking and biting. After today, D sees a light at the end of the tunnel and promised me she won't get rid of Lacie now. I told her you would have the experience Lacie needs, so I'm giving her your contact info. I told her about our remarkable progress with you, and I think she believed me when I confessed this other trainer may not be as good a match for Lacie as you would be. God, I hope I pulled that off diplomatically.
I don't know if you allow visually impaired and nearly deaf dogs in your Rescue Rehab class. I'm sure Lacie will LOVE you as much as we do, so I really hope she'll get to work with you.
And I received a most encouraging reply this morning from Sue:
Oh this poor little thing!
Well, an A plus for you, ,too. Wonderful job. I think you may have turned Lacie's owner around in seeing that there IS hope and there ARE techniques that the dog will change from.
and where would she take the dog? Other than euthanizing her I think the options are pretty small of getting her a home.
So here is a TINY dog who does not see well and cannot hear and winds up with a 'you have to be the alpha" trainer. This is one of the many reasons that I just dont go out into the world to dog events, fun classes and activities with dogs and stay to myself. It just upsets me at such a deep level when dogs are forced and trained to be scared all the time.
Owners dont know any better and I dont expect them to. They are who they are and get information where they can and are not able to discern the good info from the bad...or the illegal sociopath with the 300 dollar haircut from a smart, kind person with good techniques. Another reason why I never Tell people what I do for a living....they think I am like the\at sociopath and then they start to blabber about an episode they saw, how effective he is with dogs.... it does not good to try and point anything out to them so I just shut up and stay with my little world.
One client, who had gone through the r/rehab class and not only did her dog improve I worked like a Roman slave for her to understand and get it right, came up to me one Sunday She had gone to one of Erin's agility play days. She was giggling and proudly telling me that her dog had been 'trained by Caesar" and told when the show would air.
I am proud to tell you all I did was turn and walk away. Poor dog. A terrified Belgian T. who had never left the breeders' home until the age of four. Would not get out of the car the first two sessions of class. had her approaching people by the end of class. Then she goes and get America's pet illegal to terrify it more.
One of the reasons I have never taught agility, other than setting up a course which is way beyond me, is it has never interested me. While I think it is a fine activity and encourage people to do it it just never grabbed me. The problem solving and instant creativity of a class appeals to me more. I never referred any trainer until Erin started as she has the safety of the dogs in mind, first.
I saw a Newfie yesterday on a house call. Dog is terribly noise phobic and terrified of crates. The last idiot trainer stuffed the dog in a thundershirt (which is ripped off with velcro) and wrangled it into a crate. Dog went nuts and owner wanted to take the dog out. Oh no says the bully trainer..you have to be ALPHA. Dog wound up breaking a tooth on the wire of the crate and flooding the room with diarrhea. And of course, with a Newf the dog' rear end was an unholy mess.
That is why I just avoid the world of dogs. It make me too crazy for my own good. But, I did get the dog fixed and now the owner can leave it alone and there is no crate in sight.
so, I sure hope to hear from poor Lacie and you bet, the rescue class is for the blind, the halt and the lame. Anyone who does not fit into 'regular kids school' goes there and once the owner understand more about this little dog I am sure they can live happily ever after.
Well good on you. First time the owner saw that smarts out train muscle any day