Soon after adopting our mixed lab rescue we realized his personality wasn’t as sweet as it initially seemed. Either he had some issues, or we weren’t communicating, (or both) but he was aggressive and threatening when meeting anyone outside of his immediate family. This problem was made worse because of our overly social blond lab who loved everyone and every one of all ages loved her! They could no longer visit with her or her with them. I began looking for someone to help with training but it was necessary to first take Cooper through a month-long heartworm treatment and then several months of follow-up recovery. That’s when I contacted Houston Dog Behavior.A four-session series combined with online journals had me a little nervous wondering why we weren’t just working with other dogs in group socializing sessions. That had always worked in the past but as I soon learned from Michael Curran, that wasn’t what Cooper needed. We found it necessary to build his confidence and our two-way communication skills. I needed to learn to read his body language and provide him with the skills to relax when stressed. The process works.
When we began he was incredibly sweet with us, but that was the extent of it. He growled, snarled and lunged at everyone trying hard to just chase them away. He’d avoid situations or charge into them with his tail wagging but his teeth exposed and the hair on his back up (called piloerection). I wasn’t recognizing his distance-increasing signals. He’d display subtle muscle ridges around his eyes, fast breathing and whale eyes and I interpreted these to mean he was nervous but not that these were final warnings and I was supposed to help get him out of a bad situation. That was then, this is today.
Michael and Houston Dog Behavior provided me the skills to help resolve Cooper’s issues. There were only four sessions but it required a lot of work in between sessions on my part and my husband’s part. We had to commit to use training tools and run through strategies. The combination of these resources, our time, and his advice culminated with several very positive observations on the last session. Cooper ignores the doorbell (as well as our social lab), he rested with his head on Michael’s leg during the final session, and He’s just a different dog. Our lab also went through daily training sessions with Cooper and it provided her with new skills. I am so impressed.
Now, we’re planning a long road trip and the dogs will be riding in the back of the truck. Neither has traveled back there although we’ve always had dogs riding in the back of the truck. It has a shell, slider between shell and cab, dog-proof screens on windows and soft-surfaced bed designed for our dogs. I’ve taken the training tools (a relaxation protocol) and modified them for training both dogs to not only ride in the back of the truck and enjoy it (rather than their usual location in the extended cab) but to wait after I open the door and I give them a release command before exiting on the ramp. It’s already working.
I highly recommend Houston Dog Behavior. Michael proved knowledgeable, capable of identifying appropriate tools and resources for our needs, and definitely capable of isolating our problems. He was always punctual and professional in his approach. My blond lab likes him and while she’s Miss Social she also lets me know when she doesn’t trust people – and I trust her instincts. Cooper is a different dog now and while we still have work to do, each day he improves and continually impresses me. This was money well spent.