Hi Michael, my name is Vera ***** and I have a dog named Lucy. Lucy is a mixed breed from a local shelter and you provided four training sessions with us last Fall in Spring TX. I wanted to give you an update on her progress.
After our sessions with you, I continued to work with her specifically on looking at me and following the exercises you taught us. Of course, I haven’t always been consistent, but for the most part, I always work with her on looking at me before acting. We also continued working on crate training and using the treat and train device to reward her for her good behavior.
In the summer we finally were able to move out of our temporary rental home and into a permanent home which we renovated. You and I had discussed putting the crate in the master closet and fortunately we have space to do that, and it’s a wonderful, quiet retreat for her! We are able to have work/repair men over, and we even had a party on Labor Day and she quietly spent the evening in her crate. I hardly heard a peep out of her. She seems to understand that the crate is a safe place for her when strangers come into the house. She still barks at people outside when she looks out the window, but when someone comes to the door, I can answer it with her on a leash and for the most part, she will quiet down for a short period of time. One day, I was even able to walk outside with her on a leash and have a conversation with a repair man and she sat quietly while we talked. We stood at a safe distance (about 6-7 away for her comfort).
She now also walks quietly throughout the neighborhood with me. I still avoid walking her close to other people, but she can walk straight past strangers and not bark. She’ll only glance at them and then look straight ahead. Amazing! One day a few weeks ago we were walking on a sidewalk on Cypresswood road and there were lawn maintenance workers mowing and edging along the sidewalk. I could tell that she was a little distressed from all of the noise, but I quickly walked her through the action and encouraged her all along the way, and she did not bark once. She was stressed, but she made it through the experience and I rewarded her with affection all through it.
You and I also discussed the fact that my mom would come for a long visit, and even you were unsure if Lucy could accept my mom. I stressed about that for so long. My mom did not actually come to TX until last month. (we visited her instead) My mom’s health has declined and she is now living with us for a while. I had real concerns about Lucy accepting my mom. I tried a few things to help the transition. First, I let Lucy smell one of my mom’s tshirts to get her familiar with my mom’s scent. I let my mom talk to Lucy on speaker phone before she came out to TX. Lucy looked totally confused by all of that, but I gave it a shot. Finally, my mom came into the house and Lucy sat outside looking at us, and she sat quietly but looked confused. Finally, we let Lucy in the house, and she was very agitated, but she sat close to me on the leash and just observed. Over about a week, it was touch and go, and Lucy was very concerned with my mom’s every move. I never left them alone together and I monitored everything. I occasionally crated Lucy when I couldn’t watch her. Over about a week and a half, Lucy has totally accepted my mom and even is protective of her! Lucy sits at her feet and walks around the house with her. My mom was fantastic and she spoke softly to Lucy, never looked at her directly and for the most part ignored Lucy until Lucy got used to her. I would not expect Lucy to welcome any stranger into my house, but I think that my mom is so similar to me that it helped Lucy to accept her.
To sum up my experience, I am most appreciative of what I learned from you about dog behavior in general. When you explained to me that not all dogs will behave exactly the same, and that they each have their personalities, it really helped me understand that it wasn’t fair to expect Lucy to behave exactly like every other dog. She has her unique personality, and I need to work with her with her personality in mind. Rather than expecting her to greet everyone with a smile, I understand now that she’s not comfortable around strangers. She’s scared and prefers a quiet room and her crate sometimes. She loves us and she loves being at home with us. She also loves a long walk, but only with us and not around a bunch of strangers. I get that now. I think so many dog trainers and videos on youtube give us the false impression and false hope that every dog is able to be trained to be perfect, and I appreciated your candor and truthfulness about Lucy’s personality.
You truly have saved Lucy. I think if anyone else had adopted her from the shelter she most likely would have been returned to the shelter again and again. Eventually, she probably would have bitten someone. I’ve seen her give a warning nip, so I’m convinced that it was only a matter of time before she might have bitten someone if not properly trained. I also think that by you coming to our house for the training sessions, you were able to really help me understand how to handle her in my house. Lucy loves other dogs and is a model citizen in socialized training scenarios, but at home on her turf, her behavior is much worse if left untrained. She’s not a perfect dog by any means. She sometimes barks through the fence at the neighbors and she even had an altercation with a neighbor dog a while ago, so I have to monitor her and keep her in her appropriate areas in and around my house. She’s a high-maintenance dog, but with your help, I can give her the best life. (I hope!)
Sorry for the long-winded email, but I really wanted to give you the full update. Maybe someone else who is struggling with a family dog can benefit from my story. Thanks again for your help!