Pathetic dog update---year three

HandyMacSeptember 13, 2011

Three years ago we adopted a whippet mix from a local kill shelter. We have a GSD chow mix male that I also rescued because he was uncontrollably aggressive. He is now totally controllable, but was still a bit dog aggressive, so I had to be sure he would accept a new dog---since one dog does not a pack make.

We actually took Max(the male) to the shelter and brought females(our choice) out for his approval/disapproval. Molly was his pick. She was less than a year old(shelter/vets estimate) and literally scared to immobility. In all my years of working for a vet and handling animals, I have never seen a dog so totally scared of everything.

The folks at the shelter were astonished we picked her---she was skin and bones, was filthy(would not move to do her business) and so scared she could no longer shiver.

But, Max indicated she was his pick of the four we tried, so home she came.

Turns out the weight loss was because of allergies---lamb and rice diet put weight on so rapidly she was overweight in less than two weeks.

Her self esteem took much longer. She was so unbalanced, Max totally ignored her for a week. She did not move from the place in the dining room we put her initially for two days. I literally picked her up, took her outside and cleaned her off after she eliminated in place.

After two days, she timidly got up and began exploring the room she was in. The next day, she began to venture out into the rest of the house. Max now began to pay attention to her and helped her search and explore.

Any unknown/loud noise caused a panic and she would flatten out on the floor/ground.

Max and we simply ignored any of these episodes. And I mean ignored. No eye contact, no voice communication, no comfort at all. Continued normal activities. The only attention she got was when she acted 'normal'. She started playing after about three weeks. It was obvious she had no dog experience---did not know how to play/interact with Max at all.

Picture a 75 pound GSD mix that was once a very dangerous dog because he had no control and would get so aggressive he would bite himself. I rehabilitated him and he is now rehabilitating a dog. The things he allowed Molly to do to him amazed me.

Picture a grandfather letting three grandkids jump all over him, pull his ears, run into him, pile on top of him and more. That was what came to mind when Max taught Molly to play.

Fast forward three years. Molly can no longer do many of the things she once did to Max. She is now a fairly well balanced pack member, subordinant to Max. Max goes out/in the door first(after humans), and corrects her when she gets too rambunctious.

I can now make vocal corrections when she does something wrong(mainly barking too much) without her dissolving in fear. She stops the unwanted behavior and come running happily to me.

I have rehabilitated aggressive dogs before. I had never tried a really unbalanced fearful dog. And certainly not one of the intense disturbances Molly had.

She still has episodes of what I call flashbacks, and we still have to be careful of when we give her affection---so as not to do so during a flashback episode. Those episodes are more fearful looks and attitudes now---and a good tousel and happy "Pretty Girl!" and redirection of attention usually reverses those moments.

My point is this. Dogs, like people, sometimes have bad experiences. We humans are still exploring ways to help people overcome bad experiences. Dogs have that covered. Max showed Molly how to act and how to behave. I simply followed his lead and did what I learned dogs do. Treated Molly like a dog, and made sure the bad experiences disappeared---and most importantly, never allowed her to remember them.

Today. Molly keeps the trash trucks, school buses, and certain motorcycles from attacking her yard. She has yet to catch a squirrel, but surprisingly is a decent mole catcher. She chases and catches prey(soccer balls I kick for her) and devils Max on occasion.

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Congrats handymac! Boy, is Molly lucky you, or I should say Max, found her!
Got any pics?!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 8:02PM
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Max on alert


    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 12:58PM
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'My point is this. Dogs, like people, sometimes have bad experiences. We humans are still exploring ways to help people overcome bad experiences. Dogs have that covered.'

That is so true, our rescue dogs show us that they can usually recover from bad treatment, we need to listen to them more. And I'm sure you sleep better at night, knowing you're safe from buses, garbage trucks, and bikes!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:16PM
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what a great story!!! max and molly were lucky to find you and each other.

swee' pea, my second dane rescue girl, we extremely fearful when i got her although not nearly to molly's degree. ignoring her for the first few days worked for me as well as having my senior dane girl show her the ropes.

it's amazing how these creatures can recover from some deplorable conditions to thrive in the proper home!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 5:01PM
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Great story, love the pics .. Max looks like a bruiser!

I'm glad there are people like you that can and will take the time with these dogs that need the most help.

My female rescue Lily, after 5 years here, is still scared of certain sounds ... mostly rustling plastic bags. I just ignore her when she reacts. She's much better than she was when I got her at 8 mos old.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 5:20PM
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Max and Molly are both gorgeous dogs. Who couldn't love Max's face! What a sweetie. Likely his issues were fear related as well. Most 'aggression' is fear and dogs - just like other species - respond to fear with different behaviors - fight (Max) or flight/can't get away (Molly). Most behavioral issues aren't related to abuse - it's usually genetics and that's much harder to overcome, so kudos to you for your work with both dogs.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 8:22PM
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Actually, cynthia, Max's issues were inborn aggression. He is an extremely aggressive and dominant dog that has to be the boss. Once I established I was tougher than he---all done mostly by using body language and grunts meaning NO!---he became a controllable dog.

I am his boss---he is first an employee and second a pack member who gets people attention. Example; ever watch an dog nibble on another dog's neck/head? Like biting a flea? That is dog behavior for "I am your better". Max actually now comes to me daily for that 'nibble'---I use fingers and roughly approximate the act. I say nothing and he goes and lays down afterward. If I am gone for a day or longer, I have to do that almost immediately on return, or he is more aggressive.

He and I play Tennis Ball Keep Away. I throw the ball and he chases and grabs it. Part of the time I 'chase' him and he avoids me---and will come close if I 'ignore' him, and even drop the ball. If I reach for it, he grabs it and prances off, to do it all again. Now and then, I take control, just to remind him I am still the boss---DROP IT and move into the dominant body position. He resists briefly and then drops the ball---respecting my authority.

Now and then, he decides to test my authority. Totally normal for pack members to do that. He might even growl(seldom now) and not cooperate briefly. Twenty seconds later---back to being plain ol Max.

That behavior is inborn. He is only scared of storms---when the barometer falls or there is thunder/lightening. He has shown no other fears---noises/people/dogs/cars---nothing.

The original family from whom I got him had no idea how to control him---he was much more dominant than they were. He was one of those dogs Cesar Millan calls Red Zone. He would have bitten me had I not known how to handle him.

I have never hit him at all. All my training/rehabilitation was done by actions and voice. I never relaxed around him for the first six months. Other folks could play/etc., but I was a rival---I made him obey.

So, now that we have the routine established, I can have affection for him and he returns it---and could do a much better job of rehabilitating Molly than I early on in her stay here.

But, due to his extremely dominant nature---I always make sure he knows I am the boss. That is pack leadership.

Sounds corny and trite, but it is absolutely imperative.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 9:36PM
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Max looks nothing like I imagined but he's a great looking dog! Do I see Rottie in him?

Molly is as I pictured.......but was surprised to see the fluffy tail. :~)

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 10:07PM
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Might be some Rott. The GSD is easy, and he has a partially black tongue for the chow(we think).

That is his 'game' face. The face just before he bites---if you are an unwelcome intruder.

I say game face because that is him waiting for me to spray a short burst from the hose---he chases the short burst of water. We have no idea where that came from. The original owners never played with him at all---too scared of him.

But, the two times he has acted to protect, that was the face.

The neighbor all marvel at his training. In the fence(yard) he will bark and attack if an arm is on/over the fence(if I am not there). He never relaxes with someone at the fence. I can order him down and he lies down---tensed and ready to defend.

Same person can come through the front door, stand for inspection(no contact/talk) while Max 'inspects' them. After 10 seconds, that person can pet Max and he will roll over for belly rubs. That same person goes back outside---on the other side of the fence---Max is on guard again.

I put the leash on him, walk through the gate, and that person he would just have bitten if necessary can now pet him---as long as they make no aggressive movements towards me.

I take him and Molly to PetSmart and people pet him without incident. I put him in the van---and do not come close to a door.

Molly is around during all this---and is the total opposite---begs for attention, is submissive and quiet.

Except for those bad school buses and trash trucks.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:07PM
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Beautiful dogs, & what a wonderful story!

Max reminds me of an Akita I once knew:

I can't remember the dog's name, but his owners had gotten him as a family pet when he was just a puppy, & he was the gentlest thing with the kids.

The last child (a surprise) was a little pistol;
at two years old, he could climb onto the kitchen cabinet top to open the cabinets where Mom hid the graham crackers, & he could climb onto the back of the couch to open the streetside door.
He was totally busy except when he was asleep, & he was the dog's special charge:

You know how kids learn to walk by pulling themselves up around a coffee table or some such?
This kid learned to walk by pulling himself up on the dog;
he'd grab a great big hunk of fur & lever himself up.
He slept with the dog, & he occasionally chewed him a little bit (the kid chewed the dog, not vice versa; I think he was teething.)

& as you say, the dog was eternally patient, affectionate, & protective.

One day I got a little too animated when I was talking to the dad, & the dog walked between us, putting his body crossways in front of the "leader of the pack".
& he looked me in the eye.
& I understood him completely & immediately & shut my mouth & put my hands to my sides & looked at the ground.

It was exactly the same look as your Max's "game face"!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 1:32PM
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Bless you a million times handymac for making a difference. What a great story.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 5:38PM
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Handyman, I so liked your story. It reminded me so much of Ginger-the-drain-hugger.

Lately, Rusty is on his last leg and Mocha is gone now too. Ginger was always a dog's dog. She loves dogs, but not humans so much. She also worships Rusty.

Right now we are worrying about what she will do without an alpha when Rusty goes (NO, WE ARE THE ALPHAS).

We are thinking another male to go with her (fixed of course). Its a true delima.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:44AM
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