We adopted Braeburn when he was 8 weeks old. He was the biggest dachshund in his litter, and his breeder told us that he was opinionated. For example, He would tell her when he wanted to go outside. We noticed right away that he was a screamer. His nights were spent wailing his head off from separation anxiety, and his screams were ear-piercing. We’ve kept him in a pen in our office and wondered if he was keeping any of our neighbors up at night. We both had many dogs in our families growing up, and we felt that we knew how to raise him, but right away Braeburn gave us many troubles.
We began to socialize him as early as we could. He came down with a bout of coccidiosis, and due to its contagiousness we opted to wait until it cleared before we took him to training classes. Once we started taking him places, we noticed he was apprehensive, even though we took care to ease him into situations gently. His fear of strangers, dogs, cars, and kids turned into aggression somewhere along the line. He would bark incessantly when guests visited our home. He would charge ahead on walks, pulling on the leash and would lunge and bark at anyone who came close.
Worried he might actually hurt someone, we sought professional help. Four trainers prescribed “desensitization”, “counter-conditioning” and “behavior adjustment therapy”. This was training that focused on building associations between good behavior and rewards, with next to no strategy for how to go about correcting bad behavior. We were beginning to realize that our dog wasn’t gradually becoming less anxious as these trainers promised. He was actually becoming more aggressive, demanding, and anxious. He was still crying and howling for several hours after we put him to bed.
Braeburn has a personality where he seeks out every opportunity to take control of his situation. He simply did what he wanted to do. And he’s smart. He’d try different things and would quickly learn what he could get away with. We felt we were being taken advantage of. Our lives had been revolving around this dog, and it was exhausting.
Our research on corrective techniques that use training collars made us worry about safety, and about potentially making the aggression worse. But we had gotten to the point that we were running out of options. We found Leonard’s business card at our vet and told ourselves this was our last chance to keep this dog.
We met with Leonard for a consultation, and he immediately knew he could help us. After hearing our story, Leonard advised that we send Braeburn to his bootcamp. He wanted to work with our dog over the course of several weeks, and we agreed.
Leonard saw that Braeburn was a “piece of work”. Not only did Leonard take care of our dog during the stressful transition to bootcamp life, he took care of him when the stress caused a condition called hemorrhagic gastroenteritis to flare up. This was essentially vomit and a lot of bloody diarrhea. Leonard rushed Braeburn to the vet, and afterward nursed him back to health in addition to dealing with his behavioral problems. He even administered fluids to Braeburn with an IV.
After Braeburn was feeling better, Leonard asked us to meet him at Third Street Promenade, a place we thought we’d never be able to visit with our dog. In the past Braeburn would have gone nuts barking at everyone, but on this day Leonard had him walking calmly at his side. Braeburn was happy!
Leonard is a helpful source of knowledge and experience. In addition to answering our seemingly endless supply of questions, he made us feel better about all of this by sending us updates, pictures, and videos of Braeburn.
At the end of Braeburn’s bootcamp, we met Leonard at his ranch, where we learned techniques for keeping our dog in line. Leonard taught us what to look for to catch this behavior early, and what to do to nip it in the bud. He taught us to let Braeburn be free to do things that weren’t bad, because this wasn’t obedience training. This was building a new relationship; one where Braeburn didn’t define the power structure of our household, but more importantly one where Braeburn knew that he could trust us for protection, care, and love. This was a critical part of the stress management that keeps his gastroenteritis from flaring up, and we have Leonard to thank for that. In contrast, all of the “positive reinforcement” training we had tried with Braeburn ended up making him think he had to take responsibility for everything, and it made him an anxious mess. It just doesn’t work for all dogs, despite what most people will tell you.
Now that Braeburn is back home, we are noticing a big change in our dog. His separation anxiety has gotten a lot better. We’re able to leave him in his crate and walk around the house, and he doesn’t scream and whine like before.He is right by our side on walks, and he isn’t trying to bark and lunge at people and dogs like he did before. In addition, he responds to us a lot better than he did before. Leonard has helped us rebuild the bond between us and Braeburn.
Ryan & Rachael