I acquired Sammie, my four year old female Lab mix, from the local shelter about three years ago. Aggressive to most people – especially children – and aggressive to other dogs as well, she was a day away from being euthanized, having long since worn out her welcome. As the foster parent to several dogs previously, I thought that I could find her a new home and pulled her off of death row. Six months later, I reluctantly adopted her, as it became apparent that no one else wanted her and to send her back to the shelter meant certain death.
I already had five dogs and really didn't want to add another. Still, she loved me and seemed to fit in with the rest of my pack so I thought I could make it work. As time passed, though, she never got over her hostility to stranger humans or strange dogs. I dreaded taking her on walks in the neighborhood, always having to be on my guard. I had to maintain a 15 foot buffer between Sammie and joggers, bicycle riders and children and really every human or small animal. It was exhausting, but I thought I was doing what was best for her, best for me and best for whomever we might encounter; avoid, avoid and avoid.
Two months ago things took an ugly turn; Sammie starting attacking other older dogs in my pack. Had I not been there to intervene then some very serious, possibly deadly, damage might have been done. As it was, I made several trips to the vet to sew up lacerations caused by Sammie; she could go from 0 to bitch in about ½ a second. From what I could tell, she was never provoked, she just attacked. It was all I could do to stop the very one-sided attacks; I, too, was bitten more than once for my troubles. I felt helpless and powerless to prevent future attacks. Why couldn't she just be like the other dogs? I had to do something or else she would surely seriously injure or even kill a dog.
I contacted the shelter and was given the name of Lee Mannix, a professional dog trainer/behaviorist in Oak Hill. He had previously worked with several of the shelter's problem dogs, apparently successfully. I presented Sammie to Lee, who, true to form, was none too pleased to see Lee; he could not get within 7 feet of her before she exploded. He was skeptical that Sammie could be helped but wanted to start her in his next class, three weeks later. He said he could get a better idea then. In the meantime, I was to isolate Sammie from all other dogs and all humans but me. I agreed and confined Sammie to a large kennel, 23 hours per day. For three long weeks, she was out of the kennel only as long as it took relieve herself and then right back in again.
Despite the isolation, Sammie managed to attack two of my dogs during those three weeks, both times resulting in trips to the vet. This was partly due to carelessness by me; I wasn't paying attention when I should have been. When I gave the news to Lee about Sammie's attacks, Lee told me that Sammie had reached a point of no return, that he could not help her. In Lee's opinion, my best option was to euthanize her.
I was devastated. I wasn't expecting this. She could not stay in my home but I didn't want her dead, either. I decided to try to find her a new home although my expectations of successfully finding that home were very low. If I failed that task then I'd carry out Lee's suggestion. So, I put Sammie on craigslist, with detailed descriptions of all of Sammie's behaviors.
Right away I got a reply although not one that I was expecting. Christie Miller wrote to tell me that Sammie's behavior was not at all unusual and that she was certain that Sammie was not beyond help. Somewhat skeptical, I called Christie and agreed to bring Sammie to class. Why not, I figured. Indeed, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Well, I am happy to report that taking Sammie to Christie was the best decision I could have made and not just for Sammie. I quickly realized that I had to share part of the blame for Sammie's behavior. I had been raising all of my dogs with an attitude of “spare the rod, spoil the dog” and thought I was doing it pretty well. Except when I wasn't. Basically, I learned that every time I steered Sammie away from a situation for bad behavior – such as every time I broke up a dog fight – I wasn't following through to correct the bad behavior. Since I never taught her any different, Sammie never learned that there are consequences for behaving badly; she had no reason to alter her behavior.
We've been to just three classes but I can already see a huge improvement in Sammie and in me. I can also certainly see that Sammie absolutely need not be euthanized. She is a much better dog to be around and I look forward to the challenges ahead for Sammie and for me. Thank you, Christie, for giving us this second chance.
October 16, 2010:
Today, Sammie and I reached a milestone; after six months of intensive and extensive work, we graduated from Advanced Training! All the hard work in class, all the hard homework has paid off in ways that I had not anticipated. Christie Miller took a fearful, aggressive and dangerous dog that had been given up for death and helped me turn her into a loving and confident companion. A dog that habitually attacked other dogs in her own home now shows all dogs the proper respect. A dog that I never dared take out in public without extensive precautions I can now take off-leash without fear or worry about what she might do because I know what she’ll do; she’ll do what she is told she can do. Not so coincidentally, Christie took an owner who had really let his dog get away with murder and turned him into a confident dog-handler. The lessons and exercises were grueling and there were a few times that my faith was tested but Christie was always there to encourage us and was always there to push us through, too.
I saw positive and encouraging results early in the 8-week Basic Training and I would have been delighted to stop with just that. How much better could it get? Little did I know! While it is impressive that Sammie can now hold a down-stay for 60 minutes and a sit-stay for 20 minutes and recall from 500 feet, those skills are just side effects of what training really accomplished; bond building. Before training began, Sammie regarded me as little more than the human that fed and walked her. Despite my best efforts, for three years, we weren’t really bonded. Since starting – and finishing – the Intermediate and Advanced training, Sammie and I are closer than ever and I can at last say that we are bonded. She regards me as far more than as just a food machine. I am her master, her protector, her companion and her leader. Sammie now has the order in her life that I had neglected to provide. I trust her and just as importantly, she trusts me. She and I are very fortunate that Christie found us. I am forever grateful to Christie for believing in Sammie and believing in me.
I look forward to enjoying spending time with my “new” dog Sammie and spreading the word to anyone who will listen that their dog, too, can be just like Sammie; a well-trained dog!
To see Sammie’s Craigslist post click here.
To see Sammie's video click here.
Our six-year-old Weimaraner Jubilee began showing aggression towards children and dogs when she was around two years old. Before this we would take her everywhere with us everyday; work, restaurants, parks, shopping, etc. Over time the aggression became worse and we could no longer control her. She would growl and lunge at every dog. It was embarrassing and she became a liability that we literally could not afford.
We realized we needed professional training and so began our journey to find the help we so desperately needed. After a couple ineffective “trainers”, Jubilee became a student of Training by Tara who specialized in dog aggression. Jubilee completed basic and intermediate obedience classes & a special reactive dog class. The environment was very restricted, never allowing the dogs in class to come in contact with one another with the exception of a very controlled greet which was not practically implementable in real world situations. While there was a slight improvement, we were no where near where we wanted to be for the time and money invested and we were still not able to take her into public without incident.
Devastated with the results of her last training we felt hopeless and did not know what to do or who to turn to for help. We happened across K9 Mastery’s website and watched the video of Sammie’s amazing transformation from an extremely aggressive dog to a well-mannered one. Sammie gave us hope that Jubilee could be a happy, well-mannered dog too. We called Christie immediately and she was very helpful in addressing all of our concerns. She explained to us the importance of training without treats so that your dog will respect you and learn to listen to you because you are in charge and not because you are bribing the dog with a treat. We also were very interested in her training method because it is based around real world situations and distractions, where as Jubilee’s prior training was so structured. After one week of training with Canine Mastery, Jubilee was walking on a loose leash closely past other dogs in her class. Prior to K9 Mastery, walking on a loose leash was a struggle, but calmly past other dogs seemed like a miracle.
We received just as much training, or more so than Jubilee. Not only have we gained confidence and trust in Jubilee but with Christie’s help, Jubilee was finally able to gain confidence and trust in us. As her protectors, leaders, and masters we showed her that we have control over all situations and that she does not need to protect us because we will protect her. Our only regret is that we didn’t find K9 Mastery sooner. K9 Mastery has exceeded our expectations and brought us to levels of obedience that we never dreamt about. We are very proud knowing that she came from an aggressive lunging dog to one we can heel off-leash around the neighborhood past dogs, cats, squirrels, or whatever… it is an amazing accomplishment. We are very proud of how obedient a dog Jubilee has become and are amazed at how our relationship with Jubilee has become so much stronger. Words cannot express our gratitude
I have a 4 1/2 year old Chow/Australian Shepherd mix, Shadow, who started to show some aggression towards people, men in particular, just in the past couple of years or so. I didn’t think much of it initially because it wasn’t bad (in my opinion) and he had previously been abused prior to my adopting him - so I blamed his behavior on his past experiences. I enrolled him in Petsmart training, since thats what everyone usually resorts to, but saw little progress with obedience or his aggression by the time we finished intermediate. As time went on, it started to gradually get worse and started to include just random people walking their dog that would completely set him off. Once this happened I knew I had to do something far more than just Petsmart training, he needed more help than the basics. I came across K9 Mastery and began talking with Christie about the problems I was having with Shadow especially his increasing aggression. I have to admit, I was a bit wary when going to my first training class with Christie, but she ensured me that she would be able to help me. The first day was a challenge but by the end of the first week of training with Shadow, I was amazed at what I was already seeing. After six months of continuous training and hard work with Shadow, and Christie guiding us both the whole way, I am proud to say that Shadow has completed all levels of obedience training and is the most amazing dog I knew he could be. There has been no more aggression from him and the bond between him and I has grown exponentially throughout this experience. He respects me and sees me as his master and protector, and he has overall become a more confident obedient dog. I thank Christie tremendously for helping me get Shadow to where he is today; I would not have been able to do it without her help and encouragement throughout the past few months. She truly is an amazing trainer and I would highly recommend her to everyone - especially people with aggressive dogs who have been told to just put them down because they are untrainable. She was available for private lessons on top of our group training and was always quick to respond to emails or phone calls when questions came up. She really knows what she is doing and is passionate about her work. Thank you again for everything you have done to help Shadow and me Christie! I cant say it enough :)
My name is Cassandra Stanek and I have an Australian Shepherd named Scout. Scout is MY first dog. I had dogs growing up, but Scout was my first real responsibility. I am a college student at Texas State University and felt like a dog would be a perfect companion for me.
Scout was always a very independent dog. He never liked to be petted, and always seemed like a loner. His affection towards me was only to get food, and I accepted it. Scout started having problems when we was around a year old. He barked excessively and scared guests that would come to the house. He tipped over the trash and got food off the counter almost every single day. If I forgot to put the trash up, there was always a mess waiting for me when I came home. The list of his problems went on and on. I ended up spending a lot of the little money I had on classes at Petsmart, he went through all of their classes including the “advanced”. After all the classes, I still couldn’t walk him without him pulling, or have him listen to me without a treat in my hand. The trash tipping continued and the barking never stopped. The final straw was when Scout ran after a little girl. My heart broke into a million pieces. I blamed myself for everything, I couldn’t figure out where I went wrong. My family and even my friends told me to get rid of him. They said he was a liability and an embarrassment, and would never break his bad habits. How could I get rid of my dog? This was MY dog! I didn’t want to be one of those people that just get rid of a dog. No. So, as a desperate measure I turned to craigslist. I asked anyone to help. Lots of people responded, saying the same exact things I have heard before, and have tried before. Then there was K9 mastery. It seemed so different, so straight forward- BS free… I went for it.
K9 Mastery changed my life. It was hard work and dedication, but Scout has made a 180. He is the BEST dog in the entire world! My parents even look forward to when we come home. I never thought I could lay at the river with my dog off leash, sitting quietly by my side, or even something as simple as leaving the trash on the ground when I leave for school. Scout is truly MY dog now. He is always so excited to see me, and always gives me love, when before, he couldn’t care less when I walked into a room. No more leash pulling, no more barking, no more embarrassment. I get compliments on him where ever we go, in my head I think “if only you knew how this dog was before..”. I am so proud of how far he has come. But… I couldn’t have done it without K9 Mastery and Christie. She is the absolute best! She helped me become the master of my dog, and without her I don’t know where Scout or myself would be today. Thank you, thank you, thank you ♥
I have seen a tremendous transformation in both of my dogs since we have gone through the beginners series. I was having aggression issues with both my cocker spaniel and my American Staffordshire Terrier. My Staffordshire was overpowering me when I was taking him out on walks or trying to discipline him. I was cautious where I took him walking because he would lunge himself at other people or animals, and with him being solid muscle, it took everything I had to drag him away. My cocker would dominate him in the apartment which resulted in fights that I had to physically separate and keep them in separate rooms until I became brave enough to have them together again. It was hard enough to be on my own for the first time, and now I had these dogs that I love so much like they were my kids, and I had no control. It came to a point that I was strongly considering finding them new homes, until I came across Christie's add. Her bio was my story exactly. It gave me the sense of hope that I was searching for.
After going through the beginner series, I can now walk both dogs loose leash, and they will both sit and lie down and stay upon command. Its so impressive when someone walks by and I have them in a sit-stay and they wont move!! I love to walk them around my complex in a heal, and people will come up and ask what I have done with them and want to know more information because they can see the change and want that for their dogs. Its great because they have become the role models where I live. It makes me so proud that my dogs try to go above and beyond to impress me! This experience has strengthened our bond together, and I am so excited to see their progress in the intermediate series.
I wanted to thank YOU for your help with Josie. I can say that I was getting frustrated with her behavior before my lessons and that now I feel like I have a new dog. You know its a vicious circle. The more your dog misbehaves, the more you find yourself avoiding them. And then the more they act up. But really all the dog wants is attention and positive feedback. The bond between us is a lot stronger and she wants to please me. She listens to me and its so gratifying knowing that I can take her anywhere now and she doesn't drag me around. She walks right by my side. Its pretty amazing how well she is doing since she's still a puppy. Remember we laughed about you training me more than Josie. Everything worked exactly like you said. Praise is all she wants and she will do anything to get it. Repetition is all it took. I'm still amazed how well she picked up the lessons. I'll keep you posted on her improvement and its so great knowing I can call with any questions or problems.