Acquired: Worked with pet (didn’t own)
Posted February 24, 2014
I assist with behavior and training at a Pitbull rescue and met a dog that didn’t seem to fit into that parameter. Chopin was a small, Welsh Terrier/Schnauzer mix with a big attitude to dogs and people. He had been surrendered due to that attitude and the subsequent snapping and biting that came with this little package of dynamite and faced almost certain euthanasia.
I was asked to try and work with him to allow him to be adoptable.
Apparently many people had tried to interact with him, many people got snapped at in the process. After asking how they had approached him, the common answer was that they walked to him, held out a hand, he started to growl and they immediately pulled back their hand.
I determined that those actions did a few things incorrectly; one, they approached him from the front, straight on and looking directly at him as a predator might, setting off his fight or flight response. In his case, it was to fight. They then reached toward him further causing him distress and a protective, aggressive response. And by pulling back immediately after hearing him bark, his thought process believed he won the battle and chased them off promoting more of that action with every new person. This is the same mentality behind dogs that bark and carry on when they successfully ‘chase off the mail carrier’. Every time, the carrier appears, the dog growls and barks, the person goes away. Dog wins.
I decided to take the assertive, quiet leader approach. When we met, he came running into the yard growling and snapping. I ignored him, so far as to turn my back on him as if he didn’t exist. He came around the front of me continuing the show and I turned away again. And sat down on a chair nearby, ignoring him. He circled me grumbling under his breath but coming closer with each pass. I did not respond nor reach for him, simply sat there allowing him to come to me. When he finally figured out that I was neither scared, nor a threat, he sat at my side quietly. I hung a hand down near him, still allowing him to make the first move to interact. He did. After a few moments of smelling me, he pushed his head into my palm for petting.
I pet him for a few moments to the amazement of the owner of the rescue who was observing from inside. When he seemed calmest, I slowly slid off of the chair until I was sitting on the ground. He crawled up into my lap. From that moment we were best buds, even having mock fights where he would lunge and softly bite until I said, “Enough” and rewarded him with pets and treats when he stopped.
He soon found a home with a furry brother and his human. Another life not only saved, but allowed to thrive.