We have had Suki for almost two years; she is a mixed breed (best guess Lab/Shar-pei or Chow) and she is our heart. The issue is that she can be aggressive towards people and other dogs and has been that way since she was very young. What we thought was “puppy” behavior and would pass escalated at the vets one day – she barked and growled at them when they tried to put a lead leash on her to take her into the back room. She had been fine at the vets prior to this incident. They suggested we seek out a behaviorist because she might need to be treated with medicine but at the very least, they needed to diagnose what was wrong with her. They even ran blood tests to see if something was physically wrong.
We contacted someone who diagnosed her with “anxiety disorder with oversensitivity to sensory stimulation” and proceeded to put her on Prozac. At this point we were referred to a list of trainers who we could work with. We decided on a trainer that had worked with aggressive/anxious/fearful dogs. They came out and observed her and then assigned a trainer to us. They are clicker/reward type trainers and long story short, a year later, a few extra pounds and quite a lot of money out of pocket, she still had the same issues and they were getting worse.
We were all basically prisoners in our own home, not really ever taking her out but to potty (after making sure no one was outside) because she was so reactive, she was getting her exercise mainly on a treadmill (per trainers suggestion) and she was on melatonin and L-Theanine to “calm” her. It was sad, we felt so sorry for her – she wasn’t able to just be a dog.
We even considered that maybe we, or our condo, weren’t the right environment for her but we didn’t want to give her up and we also knew that she probably wouldn’t be considered adoptable. We had been discouraged from pack type training, as the belief was that it has been bred out of dogs, and also any dominating type training because it could be damaging to her. But we were frustrated and felt that what we were doing wasn’t working so maybe we needed to try the opposite.
We found Leonard’s website and his testimonials sold us. My first conversation with him, he was out of town and suggested that until we could meet, I reach out to other clients and get feedback. I did – and it was wonderful and everyone felt about their dogs as we felt about Suki. We were excited for her and us. The day we dropped her off was very hard but we knew it was for the best and we were very impressed with the ranch but mostly with what we saw between Leonard and his dogs – it was obvious what a great relationship they have.
When we had our first session with him after he had been working one on one with her at doggy boot camp, it was amazing to see the relationship she had developed with Leonard. She had always had trust issues and here she was totally bonded to him and not only that, happy and confident!
Within a few minutes of us arriving, she was walking without a leash at our side and knew to listen to us – this is after a year + of her dragging us on her leash and not paying any attention to us when outdoors. It was a long day but we left feeling relaxed and hopeful.
Two weeks home with us and we are still amazed at how different things are. We still have a lot of work to do at home with her so she understands her place in the pack but the changes we see in her make all the work worth it. It is obvious that she responded well to this training and that the other training just confused her and in some ways encouraged bad behavior. We are grateful to Leonard for rehabilitating Suki and showing us how to be proper pack leaders.
Bobby & Megan — 10/11/12
Update on Suki
Suki update: it has been 5 months since she came home from doggy boot camp and we still think sending her there was the best thing for us all. Our outside time is more productive since she isn’t reacting to everything she sees or hears. She thoroughly enjoys her “free” time and we have a lot of fun. As a result her inside time is better too, she rests more and even her eating habits have improved. She has done very well with other dogs she has been around; she is playing nicer and being polite. When she is around people she doesn’t know, she mainly acts indifferent to them, before she would pace, lunge toward or growl at anyone she saw. Our family and friends who have known her since she was a puppy all comment on how calm and well behaved she is now. Suki acts now like how she looks, healthy and happy.
Bobby & Megan