A Prince’s tale: what a little dog taught me about possibility
I’d like to share the story of Prince, a Boston Terrier who helped define my career as a professional trainer and particularly my learning curve about how a remote dog training collar can assist in rehabilitating dog’s with aggression issues.
I don’t recall how Angie and Rob, Prince’s owners, found me or decided to seek That’s My Dog! for help. I just remember 10 pounds of spit and furry that arrived for a behavior evaluation. The Boston Terrier had a history of lunging, biting and generally *going nuts* when anyone arrived at his home or walked by on the street. Not the kind of yapping that we might typically see in little dogs that have big attitudes. This was the real deal of ” I will take off any piece of flesh you let me get a hold of.” Prince was serious in his intent, but since he was small it was easy enough to manage by putting him in a closed room when company arrived or hang on when he tried to attack others going by. But a new twist was coming; Angie and Rob were expecting their first child and wanted to know if anything could be done to ensure the baby’s safety.
I had very little initial hope that I could resolve the problems to the extent that we all would feel comfortable. I remember Angie’s tears as she searched for a commitment from me to please try. She did not want to give up hope so I agreed to take on the case under the terms that if things were not drastically improved by the time the baby arrived, Prince would be put down.
We embarked on a detailed rehabilitation process that included use of a remote dog training collar. The e-collar was used to teach Prince basic obedience. We insisted on behavior’s like remaining on a place when visitors arrived or learning to walk nicely rather than lunge at anything that moved. Our early walks needed a chain leash rather than nylon or leather because Prince would get so frustrated at not being able to bite the objects of his disdain that he would chew through anything or redirect at us. Several times he tossed himself into such a tizzy he would have blood and saliva dripping from his mouth from biting the chain lead.
It was not a joyous training experience but we persisted and he learned that all his antics did not work. We simple expected him to walk nicely or remain on the place. No drama on our end just calm and consistent expectation.
The advantage of using the remote dog training collar was that the comparison between acceptable and unacceptable behavior was very clear. Using negative reinforcement like a game of “hot and cold” yields quick learning.
Soon the breakthroughs began and we were able to add treats to the picture. He learned to reap the rewards of calm behavior. Next, touch became part of the equation. What was once cause for him to bite became something he would tolerate and eventually learned to enjoy. After establishing enough trust with the touch exercises I was able to do massage sessions on him and his little roached back began to relax as he eased into further believe that life was much better on the calm side.
Within weeks we had improvement. In months we had significant turn around. The remote dog training collar was still part of his daily management, as was the food reward and touch exercises, but he was truly becoming a new dog.
No longer did he freak out when people visited. He allowed petting and came to classes where he minded his own business as other dog’s went by. People could touch him, dog’s could sniff him. He accepted the arrival of the new baby as a true gentleman. To say I was astonished at what we had accomplished was an understatement. Looking back I can say it was not so much due to any magic I had done but due to the unwavering commitment that Rob and Angie made to helping their dog.
They never questioned the training advice. They came to every session, they practiced, made no excuses for their dog’s behavior, they worked diligently and came out the other side transformed. I think Prince transformed several of us who witnessed the progress.
Rob, Angie and their three children enjoyed many years of happiness with Prince and I was proud to have helped facilitate that. The tears flowed quickly when I heard the words that he passed last week due to liver cancer.
This was a dog that defied the limitations of what I thought possible. He taught me so much and I thought it valuable to share his story. One, because of the cathartic process in doing so but more importantly to make others aware there is often hope beyond what you may be led to believe. Don’t give up too quickly. Seek further opinion before you make any final decisions.
Aggression cases can be turned around. It is not always all positive or easy, but what was learned, can be unlearned and replaced with more acceptable behavior. Despite what you may hear, a remote dog training collar can be an addition to a dog aggression rehab case without making the problem worse. The key is in gaining knowledge from qualified professionals and then having the commitment to follow through.
I am very proud to have been part of Prince’s life and my sympathies go out to his family. I want to thank them for their trust and for allowing me to share his story. Prince will not be forgotten. Travel well little one.
Don’t cry because it’s over, Smile because it happened. ~ Dr. Suess