Friday, December 04, 2009

Sharyl Mayhew on Rehabilitating an Untrusting Swissy

This is an email conversation between Sharyl Mayhew and a Swissy owner caring for another family's Swissy.... There is lot of wisdom in the post.

How old is Charlie now and is he neutered yet and when was that done if so?

Okay, first without seeing him, sounds like a normal adolescent male Swissy in a novice home. Most of the crap people try to "prevent" aggression almost always feeds it. Such as kids playing in the food bowl, etc. Also, lately we keep seeing more and more people attempting Cesar Millan type techniques on dogs when they have no business doing anything that he does with normal pet dogs. Mark my words we will see MANY more surrendered Swissies in the days to come because of these methods being "mainstreamed" right into the homes of novice owners. He has set dog training back 25 years. Try to get the idea of "dominant" humans out of your mind and vocabulary. -- We are a dominant species, we have opposable thumbs and "usually" greater intelligence, however we will never be dogs or wolves and the dogs know that and all it takes is one person to back the hell up when a growl or bite is thrown to teach a dog that "might equals right" and you can scare people off with displays of aggression. Instead of stopping aggression, we create and nurture it by trying to "dominate" dogs physically. Please see...

The best thing you described about Charlie is that he is still warning, i.e. has growls, bares his teeth and lunges without making contact. Usually by the time I am called they have had the warnings slapped or "whispered" out of them and are very very dangerous.

Okay, that said...Sounds like Julie has some sense, but is moving too fast. Remember, the first people had months to screw up this dog, it will likely take months to unscrew him. Before I can meet up with her, please pass on to her the importance of keeping this dog's anxiety low. He should be loved, fed, sheltered and little else. He should have NO outings or time spent with visitors whatsoever, he needs to ratchet down from what has probably been a whirlwind existence between a nervous permissive home, your transient environment with multiple employees and maybe even multiple techniques to handle him and now her home with too much stimuli too soon. He can and should be walked on leash but not at times she's likely to run into passersby with him.

He needs to focus on her and her husband and rebuild trust that THEY will take care of scary situations. He should not be put into a position to "practice" the ugly behaviors he has learned. Sometimes I have dogs here for weeks before they ever see anyone other than me or my husband and then only for food and exercise. We do not push them or try to get a reaction from them, we just care for them while they calm down and start to trust again. Since he seems good with other dogs, that is a HUGE bonus. Other trusting, calm and cooperative dogs will help him understand that he doesn't need to react to everything. Use that bonus.

Colleen may have told you about Jake and Mac that are here. Mac is a perfectly normal dog who resource guarded in his first home. To me resource guarding is the easiest problem to overcome if you can get the whole family to do it, sadly people with kids usually won't or say they can't, whatever. The trick is the dog owns nothing, so there is nothing to guard, but people with kids seem to always have food or whatever all over the freaking place, so the method to stop the problem is impossible with them.

Anyway, Mac is rock solid and wonderful with people if he has nothing to guard. So when Jake got here, he was so freakin scary Colleen and I unloaded him fully crated from the airport and placed crate, with dog in it, in a kennel at the clinic -- both of us 20plus year dog veterans were too scared to open that cage. The next morning, dog was still scary but more cooperative with an empty belly and a full bladder. Over the course of 3 or 4 days, I walked him and I fed him and THAT'S IT. He got NO response to his growls and kennel lunging, we ignored him. Once he stopped being an ass, I took him home and introduced him muzzled to his half-brother and they played like puppies. I took the muzzle off in less than 2 minutes and Mac has since taught Jake how to live again without fear and without the need for aggressive displays to get rid scary things. Fewer things scare him now because he has Mac and my other dogs to read for signals and because we don't put him in scary situations.

He had knee surgery this summer and was handled by more than 15 different people, he was occasionally in pain and/or uncomfortable, was restrained and x-rayed and bandaged and had Laser and Magnet therapy several times and he was completely trusting and normal, but it took over a year to get him to this point.

Just remind her that time is her best friend with a Swissy rehab. And I will meet with her as soon as possible to see him first hand and give her any help I can.


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