Wild German Shep and the Child

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I don’t often write about training experiences with clients, particularly if they don’t voluntarily and without any prompting send in a photo with their story, but some stories are so touching that they must be told so they can influence others.

Fido the 9 month old German Shepherd and the 6 year old child were on a collision course.

The family was having difficulty controlling Fido and the child had no impulse control. He just wanted to pet and play with his dog but the dog would jump on him, knock him down, mouth him and scare the child with doggie antics. An untrained German Shepherd can be a difficult animal to live with indeed.

When the child was present, Fido was either tied to a tree on his pinch collar or crated. The child quickly became a huge source of frustration to Fido.

To compound the level of frustration within the family and especially for Fido, the only way the child was able to “enjoy” Fido was to run back and fourth in front of Fido while he was tied to a tree. Fido would lunge and bark and howl and the child would laugh and wave his hands around. Fido’s prey drive and his frustration became increasingly strong as did his physical strength as time went on. This was very dangerous and could have led to a tragedy.

The family knew they needed help.

Huge improvement came in only 3 short weeks. Some of what we did:

1. Threw away the pinch collars
2. No more yelling at either Fido or the child
3. Didn’t allow the child in Fido’s crate OR near Fido while he was tethered
4. Created a positive association for Fido to the child
5. Created a calm association for Fido to the child.
6. Taught some impulse control to both Fido and the child
7. NO RUNNING in the house for either Fido or the child
8. Feed Fido chicken, while in his down/stay and while the child pets Fido
9. The child feeds Fido chicken while he pets, calmly. WOW!

The family learned about the importance of mental stimulation for Fido as well as physical exercise and we developed some games that the child could participate in too. Mental stimulation for Fido and the child while building a bond and improving the relationship.

On the third lesson so much improvement was had that it truly warmed my heart. This family, including Fido, worked very hard to bring peace to their home. As I was leaving the home after the third visit, the client said “watch this new trick”. The child picked up a blanket and RAN toward Fido who was on the couch. I thought “oh crap” – BUT the child covered up Fido with the blanket, gave him a kiss on his muzzle and then walked gently away while Fido took a nap. Fido never moved, looked relaxed and happy.

The client also commented “WOW! That’s ALL it took?” Meaning relationship building and teamwork. It’s not just about the dog’s behaviors, it’s as much about the humans behaviors as well.