Moxie, our Rescue GSD

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Moxie is a female German Shepherd dog, born in December of 2007. A police officer in New Hampshire found her in an abandoned car with no food or water, windows closed. She was about 6 months old. So he took her and made effort to find her owner. As it turned out, the puppy was owned by a young person who lived in an apartment and whose landlord did not allow him to have a dog. So he kept the dog in an abandoned car and admited that he could not properly care for her.

So, the police officer took her home.

Over the next year and a half, care of this dog became difficult for them. Both the police officer and his wife worked full time, changed shifts occassionally and the police officer was going to school to become a lawyer, and his wife really isn’t a dog person (I know! Not a dog person?? ) So Moxie was crated most of the day, let out to pee and crated again at nite. The police officer wanted to incorporate her into his life, perhaps as a police K9 but without proper training this was impossible and he didn’t have time to invest into proper training. Moxie developed behavioral issues such as spinning and chasing her tail, eating poop, vehemently guarding food, guarding her space and a dislike for being touched and handled.

Enter my old friend from High School, who works at the police department in the next town over. She Facebook’d me that this animal was in desperate need of a new home, the owners were out of options and out of time and patience and the dog would be destroyed soon. I accepted the challenge and they delivered the dog to me, to Sturbridge, that weekend. Thanksgiving weekend of 2009.

We talked in the parking lot for a few minutes while they loaded her stuff into my SUV. She hopped in and layed down like she belonged there. I closed the tailgate and thought “off we go!” As soon as I opened the drivers door to my SUV, Moxie immediately sprung up looked right at me eyes wide and growled, lips peeled back as far as she could. Yea I said, this should be fun. So I just sighed, breathed deeply, didn’t look at her and in fact looked away, kept breathing slowly and deeply, looked at the ground and became as unimposing and nonthreatening as I possibly could. When she stopped growling, I approached the drivers door without looking at the dog and got in. I didn’t start the truck right away, I waited about 3 minutes, didn’t look at her, kept breathing softly and waited to see what she would do. First she put her snout to the back of my head and growled. When she got no reaction out of me, she finally went to the back and layed down. She didn’t make a move the 20 minute ride home.

Moxie had a ton of issues. She would prefer to not be petted and would bite, she did not like anyone near her while she was eating and would bite, don’t touch her while she is sleeping or she would ……… yup she would bite. But there was somthing in her that we loved almost right away and we knew we could help her. After all, I am a trainer, we already have 2 German Shepherds, my husband LOVES dogs, we have no human children to worry about and our yard is completely fenced in. So time to get to work. First up – relationship building.

We have had Moxie for 4 months as I start this writing and I haven’t done much obedience training with her. I have taught her to sit, down and stay mostly by capturing when she offered the behavior on her own. Capturing means that when the dog offers a behavior that you like, you reward it and reward it big! The dog will offer the behavior again! We are working on leash manners, she pulled like a freight train, she is better now but not perfect. We can pet her, hold her feet, squeeze her pads, hug her, she solicits attention from us now, she guards her food much less but we are still adding to her bowl as we walk past while she is eating. She poses for pictures with my other 2 dogs now! She no longer guards her space but she still doesn’t like to be pet while sleeping. We can live with that, I don’t like to be woke up either!!

How did we do all of this in just 4 months you ask? We let her make choices on her own and rewarded the right choices heavily. If I pet her and she growled at me, I would thank her for the warning and pet her for another 3 seconds and then leave her alone. In time, I could pet her for 5 seconds, then 30 seconds then longer and longer. Now she LOVES to be pet. The food guarding is substantially better. At first, she would be growling as I was lowering the bowl. Now some may say “growl at me? ok, no food for you” and not feed the dog then perhaps try again and again until the dog learns that growling doesn’t get her fed. Me on the other hand, I fed her anyway and left her alone while she was eating. After the first 2 weeks, I would stand next to her while she was eating. I didn’t look at her, no talking to her, just stand there and she learns that people near her while she is eating is a-ok. After the first month, I then started to add food to her bowl while she was eating. Never sneaking up on her, I would call her name “Moxie Moxie” as happy as I could and when she would look at me (sometimes with a sneer) I would show her the chicken in my hand and put it in her bowl, then walk away. Yes, I used real chicken or real steak. All of this taught Moxie that she could trust us. Relationship building can be a tricky thing with a rescued dog. Moxie bit me 6 or 8 times in the first 6 or so weeks that we had her. Thankfully she has great bite inhibition and she communicates wonderfully! Did I know I’d get bit? You betcha, she warns wonderfully but I had an agenda and I managed to teach her that biting me gets her no where, she’d look at me like “how’d you like that?” and I’d look at her like “is that all you got?” I never ever delivered a physical or verbal correction for biting me, after all she warned first! Moxie is learning that humans really are cool animals, we are fun, we provide food, treats, water and play though I believe she thinks we are not that smart!

Moxie is a high energy and high drive dog who loves to learn!

………………..check back for updated stories on Moxie’s transformation from a dog who would rather bite a human than even look at one to a wonderfully fun family dog !!

2011 – Moxie loves Freestyle!  Moxie has developed into a wonderful dog for our family.  She loves Canine Freestyle training and she still loves to be a pest!  Her obedience is coming along very nicely as well!  That resource guarding?  It’s much better, not gone completely but through relationship building it’s much better.  In fact, at a Canine Freestyle demo in Brimfield this spring I gave her the bait bag to empty out while I video’d some of the Freestyle performances.  Our friend Jackie Proko came over and picked up the bag, in other words she took food away from Moxie.  Moxie just looked at her like “whatcha doing?” and didn’t protest.  I was thrilled!!