I love to hear success stories about how positive training has impacted the lives of people and their dogs. Check out this wonderful story I received about how positive training methods truly saved a life.
"Dear Ms. Stilwell:
THANK YOU FOR SAVING MY LIFE.
Allow me to explain. For over 40 years I served as a psychologist, administrator and university professor in the field of developmental disabilities in children. In 2009, I was abruptly forced to retire from working with children, parents and educators whom I loved as I developed emphysema.
For three years I struggled with feelings of helplessness, insecurity and most of all loneliness. My wife is deceased and my children are adults. Though we remain very close, they have lives to live.
In September 2012, my son suggested that we get a dog. I had grown up with dogs and had several dogs when my children were young. I was unsure if I wanted the responsibility of a dog at my age and given my health. He kept insisting, so I finally caved in. I believe that it was my despondence doing the talking.
We visited the local animal shelter and discovered a two-year old Rat Terrier named Max. He was charming from the get go. As a psychologist I can recognize a vibrant personality when I see one. My son concurred. We asked to spend time with Max and asked all the pertinent questions about his history. The assistant told us that he had been surrendered by his previous owners because they had been unable to train him.
I looked at him and something told me that he was no different from the thousands of children with disabilities whom I have met during my lifetime. Most of them are bright, gifted in other areas and simply approach life to the beat of a different drummer. Unfortunately, many parents either spoil them until the child becomes a tyrant or they ignore their needs and the child never reaches his full potential.
We took Max home. The attendant was right, but so was I. Max was a disaster. He had no manners. However, he had personality. He loved a challenge. We noticed that he loved to play, enjoyed the company of humans and was eager to please. Even our two cats, who are very selective about their friends, settled in with Max within a few days.
Since my son has a full-time job and my daughter lives out of state, it was up to me to spend the days with Max. Little did I know that my son had this in mind from the beginning. I started reading everything that I could find on dog obedience, personality, behavior, psychology, neuroscience and personal anecdotes. I ran out and purchased lots of treats and a clicker. I also discovered two TV programs on dogs. “It’s Me or The Dog” and another on Nat Geo Wild.
“It’s Me or The Dog” caught my attention. Your methods are those that I have been teaching to educators and parents of children with disabilities for 40 years. They’re basic common sense. I’m not sure why I had to get a PhD to learn common sense, but that’s another story. The more I watched, the more excited I became.
I started to use your methods with Max and they worked. Once in a while, I couldn’t find a video or tape for a specific problem and I would ask myself, “How would Victoria Stilwell do this?” I’d try and it worked.
From September to November Max is housetrained, obeys all the basic commands, no longer pulls on a leash. He is no longer dog reactive. He goes to his place when visitors come to the door, rather than tackling them as if he was at the Super Bowl. He complies with house rules such as “Off the bed.” He even allows a bath every other week, necessary because of my respiratory problems.
His favorite activity is walking with me. Because of my emphysema I walk slowly and I take rests. I take about five or six 10 minute walks. That’s as much as I can walk in one day. Max seems to enjoy those short walks. On some walks he works for me and on others we just enjoy the world around us. When my son comes home in the evening, they go off on their daily jog, which Max thoroughly enjoys. He has learned to talk it slow and easy with the old man and give the young man a run for his money, proving again that sometimes, dogs have more common sense than human beings.
I’m no longer depressed, nor do I feel useless. Max has a safe and loving home and will not be put to sleep at a shelter. We owe it to your brilliance and your generosity with your online videos, blogs, interviews and your common sense approach. I’m not sure how to say thank you for saving our lives. I wish that I could do something for your work. I’m not wealthy, as I am retired. But whatever I can do to promote the cause of dogs who are on death row, because someone gave up on them rather than use common sense, I’d like to help.
Thank you for giving Max and me a second chance.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.