Patience, determination, and firm, loving guidance proved to be the key to changing the world for one dog.
Scooter is a young dog who was picked up as a stray and taken to a local shelter. He was thin, dirty, matted to the skin; and very obviously neglected. Unfortunately for Scooter, he was also very frightened of strangers‘ intentions; an issue that would prove to be unfavorable for him. He had no microchip and no ID tag. No owner could be located, and no one claimed him. When he bit someone during his bath, the shelter staff deemed him a “bad dog.” Had it not been for that one moment, Scooter would have gone to the adoption room to await his chance at a new home. Instead, his fears created one big strike against him, and he was taken from the adoption room to wait alone in another cell to be euthanized. Fortunately, a rescue group received word of Scooter’s plight, pulled him out of the shelter and placed him safely into foster care. There began the long road toward his rehabilitation.
Scooter’s behavior was adverse to say the least, albeit only when he seemed anxious or unsure. Aggression is not a personality trait in a dog. It is learned behavior, and it is behavior that can be unlearned with responsible handling and appropriate remediation. Knowing that, his foster parent engaged the assistance of Bark Busters, who completed a full evaluation, determined exactly what triggered his aggression, made a diagnosis, and designed an individual behavioral modification program for him. Scooter had learned at some point that if he felt scared or insecure, he could control the situation by biting. He was trying to be a pack leader, though in the words of his behaviorist, “he is no good at it and he is now unemployed.“ A true pack leader emanates passive dominance, which is a personality trait, however, not one of Scooter’s.
The first course of action was for his handler to assume the role of pack leader, establishing a set of ground rules to teach Scooter that biting was not acceptable and would no longer produce his desired outcome. Scooter was aggressively dominant on the furniture, so Rule #1; No more couch lounging. He was also food aggressive, therefore, Rule #2; Scooter was not permitted to approach his food bowl until given his handler’s command to do so. That was it; 2 simple rules combined with an obedience class, were the foundation. Although the rules were simple, that is not to say that enforcement was easy. Scooter learned the rules very quickly, however, it was many months before he stopped attempting to challenge them; but he did learn to accept and respect his new position in the hierarchy. He learned to rely on his handler for everything and to look to her for guidance. Over time, he also gained trust in her, a bond between them developed, and he relinquished control to the better candidate for the job. At about the 10 month mark in his rehabilitation, Scooter was comfortable and secure with the world around him, his anxiety level decreased tremendously, and he was able to let down his guard and just be a happy, content member of the family and simply one other, not the leader, in a canine pack of 5!
Scooter is living proof that aggressive behavior is not an indication of a dog’s character nor is it a reason to abandon, forget or otherwise give up on him. It takes patience, love and the right tools to help him overcome his insecurities; but it is worth the time to open up his world and lead him to the better life that he deserves. If you are experiencing behavioral problems with your dog or would like further information regarding training or rehabilitation, visit Bark Busters, type in your zip code on their web site and you are on your way to a happier and more peaceful existence for both you and your dog.