We had so many incredible entries in the Positively Success Story contest. It was so hard to pick just one. The winning submission is an incredible story of how positive training helped a person who was fearful of dogs to establish a lifelong bond with their dog.
The Winning Submission
"I am writing this because, for a long time now, I have wanted to write to Victoria and tell her that she saved my dog’s life.
During my younger years I worked as a pizza delivery driver, during the course of which “career” I was bitten several times and developed a fear of dogs. But I have always had a dog; as long as I raised them from a puppy, there was never a problem. Four years ago, we adopted Cobie as a nine-week-old puppy, a husky-boxer Heinz mix, pick of a large accidental litter out of my daughter’s dog. Mama was a good dog. Cobie was horrible. He bit and bit and bit. He was my worst nightmare, and growing larger by the day. My arms were black and blue. My clothing was in tatters. He once ran along the back of the sofa, bit my ponytail, and leapt over my head, injuring my neck, and all this while he was still small.
I was afraid of him. What kind of damage was he going to do when he reached his full size? And what the heck was wrong with him? None of my other dogs had ever been monsters.
Meanwhile word was other adopters were “getting rid of” their puppies because of similar behavioral issues. Getting rid of them, or making them yard dogs.
I didn’t think Cobie stood a chance at a shelter. Who wants a dog like that?
So I went to the library and got books, and watched a certain other television program. I tried things I am now ashamed of. The “alpha roll” made Cobie instantly hysterical, and other attempts to exert “dominance” had likewise disastrous results.
I hated this puppy, but I still didn’t want him to die. I cried all the time.
Meanwhile one of my friends had been posting on her blog about a program she was watching called “It’s Me or the Dog.” Yeah, I thought. I need more stupid TV star advice.
One day I happened to turn it on by accident and there was an episode about a full-grown husky that was terrorizing his owner’s wife (or perhaps his girlfriend) in the exact way I was terrified Cobie would me once he achieved full growth. I watched, frozen with fear, waiting for the end when the dog would be “got rid of.”
But instead, I learned to be boring. I learned what I now call shunning. Cross your arms; turn away; look up; ignore, ignore, ignore…
It’s very hard to ignore a dog that’s launching itself at your face meaning to bite you, and maybe more so when you are afraid of being bitten, but somehow I managed, partly by telling myself, “This isn’t really biting, it’s mouthing.” I did it twice, the shunning. And Cobie stopped biting me, that quickly. He still bit everyone else!
My family initially ignored my attempts to teach them what I had learned until they realized I was no longer being bitten.
Today Cobie weighs over a hundred pounds. He is mostly a good boy, gloriously athletic and possessed of a kind of deliberate, problem-solving, intelligence that sometimes takes my breath away. It’s my job to make sure he has as many successes a day as possible. I usually have treats in my pocket, and where other people have candy dishes, I have treat jars so that extra good behavior can be rewarded.
I have learned so much from Victoria, to many things to go into here, but her positive training methods taught me to teach my dog “No.” And then they taught me to teach him, “Yes.” Without those two things, I don’t think I could have lived with him at the size he is now.
So yes, I think Victoria and her methods saved my dog’s life…and probably my soul. And even though it’s not enough, I just wanted to say, thank you.
For every time I bury my toes in his fur and he sags over onto my feet with a big trusting sigh…