Okay Lowcountry Dog Community, I have to tell y’all something: I was wrong. Believe me, I’m just as shocked as you all are. Nevertheless, it’s true. When I first started the rescue, I just absolutely knew I was going to fix every single dog with love. “It’ll just take patience and with time they’ll get over their issues,” I’d say. WRONG-O! I quickly learned that it doesn’t matter how many belly rubs, treats, and squeaky toys you give a troublesome dog – sometimes you’re just going to need outside help.
When I unknowingly rescued my first “aggressive” dog, John Smithart of K9 Good Manners offered to help me out. Upon arrival, everything I thought I knew about rehabilitating a dog was completely thrown out the window. Initially I disagreed with 99% of what he said. However, after working with John and seeing how a once reactive dog has made a complete 180 in behavior – I can honestly say that I am a K9 Good Manners believer.
#1. Don’t be a wussy. You’re not a mean person if you tell your dog “no” in a loud manner and you’re not an animal abuser by taking on the alpha role. In fact, your dog is looking at you for the next command. The moment you let them down is the exact moment they feel the need to take over because YOU aren’t doing your part. Also to be mentioned in this section is the usage of slip/prong collars. Do I necessarily believe that these collars are meant for all dogs? No. Am I going to use a slip/prong collar to enforce good behavior so that a “bad” dog doesn’t get euthanized? Yes.
#2. Marking behavior. Like Danielle mentioned in the last issue, you have 1.3 seconds to either correct or reward your dog. After the 1.3 seconds, whatever behavior you’re trying to mark is completely misunderstood by the dog. Simply said, act fast. If your dog is misbehaving, sternly say no and pull on their leash to redirect their attention to you, their boss. If your dog is behaving tell them so in a high-pitched, friendly voice or give them a treat. (Note: Treats do not have to be organic and/or GMO-free, hotdogs will work just fine.)
#3. Adjust yourself. As much as we want to believe that every dog should have a happy-go-lucky personality, this isn’t always the case. Like some humans, some dogs just want to be left alone. So don’t bring your socially challenged dog to the dog park. Just like John said in his article - sometimes you have to think of yourself as a “service human;” YOU have to guide this pup through the rest of their life. With you, they aren’t considered “disabled” – without you, they’re questioning every move they make.
#4. Keep it up. Training isn’t magic, so once your dog has gone through training, it is YOUR job to keep it up. If you don’t do this, they will regress. ANIMAL RESCUE ORGANIZATIONS, I AM SPECIFICALLY ADDRESSING YOU. Yes - we already have enough to do – but we took a vow to not let animals down, and we can’t give up just because we come across a difficult case. If your 501c3 is lucky enough to work with someone like John from K9 Good Manners, make sure you hold up your end of the bargain. Once a dog returns from behavior boot-camp: don’t put it back in its kennel all day without going over exercises, don’t think that the dog will ever “act up” again, and don’t adopt the dog out to any idiot that shows interest. For those of you who are reading from a non-rescue standpoint: y’all understand, right? Don’t enroll your puppy for training and then expect to not put in the work afterwards – GOT IT?!
Well that’s all I got for ya, folks. Now let’s go rescue some dogs that normally wouldn’t be given a chance.
Written by Alicia Williams, Founder of Eunoia Rescue