Dogs that are leash reactive on walks or that snap at guests can be very stressful for owners. Charlie is a newly adopted mixed-breed dog in Fairfax, VA, with a rough past. Before her rescue, she was chained most of her life in a trailer park and was abused. She has a strong spirit and escaped her terrible life. Unfortunately, during her escape, a car hit her. Her wonderful owner stepped up to avoid her being euthanized and nursed her back to health physically. However, once she got her home it became clear that Charlie has very bad separation anxiety. Charlie is also somewhat unpredictable with people in the house. She has bitten several people that move too quickly or that walk into the room unannounced. On top of all that, she also has bad leash reactivity towards dogs and some people on walks.
We did a few small nonphysical exercises today to help Charlie see her owner as the leader and protector. This is every dog owner’s job – to be their leader and protector. This is how you show real love and kindness to a dog. She did AMAZING! I was able to walk in the front door of the house without any incidents.
To tackle the separation anxiety I had her owner learn how to separate from Charlie, while home, without any physical barriers. Physical barriers will often cause more stress and frustration for a dog and can lead to them hurting themselves. Her owner was able to leave the room and house for several minutes and Charlie could not have cared any less. This was a first for them both.
Instead of letting Charlie pull on the leash and lead the walk, we did a few exercises to help Charlie learn to follow her owner. Again, nothing physical. Very quickly Charlie began to follow her owner and walk on a loose leash. We also passed a few dogs and Charlie barely noticed. As you can see in the video, Charlie is focusing on her owner so much that when she stops, Charlie stops too!
Part of the work is helping owners not view their dogs as victims. Dogs don’t live in the past and when we focus on how bad their life may have been, we can’t help them move forward. We can be empathetic to their past but don’t get stuck there.