Often, I am called on by clients, friends, and even strangers to help find a home for a stray dog or cat. My many years of training dogs, and my own personal experiences have fine tuned my observation skills. My keen attention to body language enables me to receive the slightest message from our furry friends. I enjoy meeting, observing, and bonding with animals that are in need of a balanced life and home. It is fulfilling to watch the new family become a well working team!
Everyone has heard of the Dog Whisperer; and originally, the Horse Whisperer. It is one thing to edit out all of the boring interludes, and make it animal training all seem so…magical! What a skilled trainer does is NOT magic. It is listening, watching, and lots of team work between the trainer and the animal.
The world around us has multitudes of information to be received. It is a trainer that can absorb all that is happening, and then translate that back to you, the pet owner. We offer communication in its simplest form.
This following is an excerpt of this past weekend’s observations of a 35 pound, female Black Lab mix (most likely a British Lab and a Border Collie). Happy reading!
I observed Sheila over the weekend in an array of situations. I worked with her during passive rest times, active exercise, interaction with others (to include your dogs and my kids), and along the roadway with cars. She is a sweet dog, overall. She is still inexperienced and immature. When feeling insecure, she moved close to my side. Sheila constantly looked to me for guidance. This is good. She can/will default to whoever is in charge. Sheila is a well-balanced female pup with the right leadership! She is still learning, though. She is imprinting her behaviors for the rest of her life, now.
Sheila is naturally an Alpha (dominant) female. This just means that she is an independent thinker, and is comfortable being left alone or solving problems on her own. She requires a strong leader. Leaders can be a human or a matured, older canine pack leader. She shows an immediate loyalty to a balanced, calm leader. Sheila craves order. If the situation is lacking, she will try to take over the situation to regain that balance. This is why Sheila growls at Lacy when barking nonstop.
As a rescue, Sheila shows a tendency to be food territorial. Normally, I would say food aggressive, but she does not gobble all of her food right away. Sheila did not have any issues when I ran my fingers through her food, or squatted near her food bowl. She would back away and let me “have at it”. She is happy to take her place in line of the chain of command. This is the proper behavior and wanted respect in a pack.
I did not leave the food bowl down for free feeding, because that acerbated her growling at Boerne and Lacy when they were outside. The food bowl was initially placed near the back door. This created a necessary pass by of Sheila’s food by your dogs; whether they wanted Sheila’s food or not. Sheila had no qualms with the other dogs, once I put her food in the laundry room. She was no longer guarding the back porch.
*I do not free feed dogs, as a rule. Pack members should not have possessions, nor should they have the option to eat when they want. Trust and respect is pivotal in training and maintaining balance among pack members. They know I am in charge, must trust I will feed them regularly. I say when and where, and how. This just reiterates who is in charge. I can further explain the psychology, another time, if you are interested.
I observed Sheila on our walk / jog combination. My 17 year old daughter, my 11 year old son, and I all walked her at varying situations. I added in a mix of jogging stints to see how she behaves at a trot. She responds well; and quickly to my whistles / barks. Again, she is a well-balanced pup. Sheila maintains a healthy distance of about 4-6 feet from my side when we jogged. She tends to circle around my back, but never forging ahead more than 1-2 feet. My daughter was walking Sheila as cars passed by. She did pull towards the cars, but was easily redirected with mental stimulation in the form of new commands. We worked on SIT, mostly. She mastered that with me, but not the kids. This again proves to support of her value on strong leadership and consistency.
Sheila began to show aggression towards Lacy when I walked them side by side. This was easily redirected with my command of leave it. A guttural bark, if you will. In other words, STOP IT! She did. After a minute or two, they were easily walking side by side, and Sheila no longer showed any mind when they bumped into each other. Lacy, on the other hand, was now looking to me every few seconds for guidance. Neither dog showed fear or nervousness to the new scenario after the initial correction. Boerne was near, but is a quiet presence. He bares his teeth at Sheila when she is too close, but Sheila respects him. She and Boerne easily communicate with each other.
Sheila is in great fitness condition. I am sure she can run for a few miles without ever getting winded. This is important to know, because she will require daily exercise. She has a lot of herding qualities. It will be important to mix up her physical fitness not only with varying intensities, but especially adding in cutting work. This is quick sprints, direction / elevation changes, and mental problem solving. Without these activities, she will get bored and become destructive! This is common with most dogs without a purpose.
She did well left alone out back to be sentry, or indoors resting at my feet while I worked/watched TV. Sheila believes her general purpose is to be a guard dog, first; and a protector, secondary. When she is at post outside, she stayed at a high point where she was able to survey the grounds from the best vantage point of incoming “intruders”. When she was indoors, she was on alert while I busied my attention elsewhere.
Regardless of whatever Sheila experienced before coming home to you, she does not show any inclination that she is untrusting of humans. She was properly introduced to a variety of people. She is comfortable around children. I would guess she is more interested in herding, than hunting as a preoccupation.
She recalls to my every whistle, but did not recall to my kids. This just further proves that consistency and a strong leader is needed for her to bond.
I hope these observations help with homing Sheila. Please let me know if you have any questions, or her new owners need help transitioning her into their home and / or pack!