Trust me, I know this issue all too well. I hope in sharing it other people will benefit. And I will share in a series of blog posts as it's a long story, but a story worth telling and everyone should read.
It started 6 years ago when my husband saw this cute little shepherd mix puppy at a rescue event at Petco. Fast forward only 24 hours and he's ours. We named him Frisbee.
Frisbee was a perfect male addition to our house full of females (including two female dogs). He quickly became my husband's buddy and went everywhere with him. And he was a hit everywhere he went...most handsome dog I've ever seen. Our daughter's softball teammates lavished him with attention and he seemed to love it.
This was the happy ever after story...for about 18 months and life couldn't be better.
That's when something went terribly wrong.
On a normal day of running errands, my husband was in Home Depot with Frisbee. A young lady was petting him which seemed okay but then a little girl came out of nowhere and tried to hug him, basically putting him in a headlock. Something snapped. Frisbee showed aggression instead of just backing away. Fortunately, he did not bite her but it was a huge cause for concern for us.
This prompted me to reach out to the rescue we adopted him from to see if she had any insight into his past or how his brother and sister were doing, etc. They didn't offer any information that would help.
Next, I started looking online for trainers that could work with him privately at our home.
While that was taking place, our oldest daughter had a new friend come over. We never had any situations with Frisbee and people coming into the house. This young lady was in the house for a bit when all of a sudden she told my daughter she thought Frisbee just nipped at the back of her leg.
Another eye opener for us. Enter now the trainer.
Our first sessions with the trainer included teaching him some basic commands, teaching us how to read and understand his body language (now that's a real eye opener which you can see in the video of one of his training sessions here) and how to introduce him to people entering our home.
You can see in this video that dogs exhibit so many different signals but unfortunately we misinterpret most of them. For instance, if a dog rolls over on his back we think they want us to pet their stomach when in fact the dog could be trying to create more distance and wants you to leave him alone. Oh and let's not forget the wagging tail. Almost everyone thinks a wagging tail means the dog is happy or excited...well not really the case as you can see here.
Learning how to read Frisbee's stress signals was paramount for us in our efforts to understand him better and be better able to provide for his needs.
But we're human and we made mistakes along the way...costly mistakes.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the next chapter in this saga.
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