Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reactive puppy = MISERABLE walks!

WOW - Our dog is STRONG!

From the first day that we had Maggie, one thing was clear: Maggie was strong and would only be getting stronger.  She is a puppy and naturally pretty high energy.  Immediately on walks, she was distracted and pulling every which way when she saw a squirrel, cat, dog or anything else that moved (even falling leaves!).

We noticed that she was really reactive to other dogs while on leash.  I don't even remember now if she was barking and whining right off the bat or if we helped make her that way (possibly both).  Either way, she had become a "reactive" dog.  The problem was that she was sick when we first adopted her and then recovering from her spay surgery SO she couldn't be around other dogs for almost a month!  All of a sudden, we had a healthy dog who could finally mingle but honestly, we didn't know if she was aggressive or just excited to play.

 We took Maggie to an obedience school class (her first time being in close proximity to other dogs) and she just went NUTS!  The trainers couldn't help at all.  They gave Mags a bag of treats and a gentle leader while trying to get her to calm down via positive reinforcement.  It didn't really work.  She was still nuts when we left the training room.

The Fouche Way

Seeking help, I reached out to a local dog rescue in Los Angeles called Downtown Dog Rescue.  The founder, Lori, and a frequent volunteer, Debbie, strongly recommended that we take Maggie to Brandon Fouche.  Brandon is a dog behaviorist and is touted in LA as being a "dog whisperer".  He seems to work wonders with dogs that are unruly or aggressive.

After Maggie's failed attempt at obedience school, we decided to contact Brandon to set up an evaluation.  We wanted a safe, structured environment in which we could test Maggie's reaction to other dogs.  Brandon had us fill out a short survey and then asked us to drop Maggie off at his facility at 9:30am.  He sat with us and one other couple for over an hour while we talked about the difference between the way we treat dogs and the way dogs actually think.  He told us that the toys we gave to our dog were reinforcing "the hunting instinct" in her.  Brandon began to explain the way we treat dogs (give them lots of love and affection, no matter their actions) and how we can change our thinking to interact with Maggie in a way that would promote our status as her pack leader.

Well, despite our skepticism as to how much could change in just one day, we were pleasantly surprised.  Maggie wasn't aggressive!  She was just really excited and most likely under socialized as a puppy.   She needed to spend more time around dogs in a safe environment with supervision.  Mags had a blast that day with Brandon's dogs! 

She came out to see us and was in a submissive state, something we rarely saw her in (ears back, sitting, very quiet and obedient).  Brandon taught us his methods of what I call "tough love" (because I'm a softie and hate yelling at my adorable pooch).  We had to take control and set boundaries for Maggie.  We needed to show her through raising our voice that we were the bosses. 

Brandon's evaluation with Maggie helped us immensely, mostly because he showed us what to do in person.  We obviously weren't getting to what we needed just by reading stuff online or watching Cesar Millan videos.  We needed in-person tutoring.

Seeing Brandon was pricey but ultimately worth every penny.  Maggie is a different dog with us now.  We're still working on her reactivity during walks but she's gotten MUCH better.  We now feel like we can also stop her when she gets into her hyper crazy mode inside the apartment.  She hasn't mouthed either one of us in two weeks!  The last issue we need to work out is her barking while we're gone and she's crated but compared to the mountain of problems we had before, we're ready to help her become the superdog we know she was born to be!


  1. Edison was EXACTLY like this when we first got him, too! We got him at 9 months...and also probably under socialized up til then. Just over 1 year and Ed's a completely different dog. Way to go on getting help early! It's only up from here!! Looking forward to watching Maggie grow!!

  2. We need to work more on our pack leader relationship with the dogs. I will be honest, Jay and I are both overly lovey mushy owners and I know that you can't be that 100% of the time--and we kind of are!

    1. Yeah, we're TOTALLY like that too! We've gone from the extreme of not knowing how to show leadership at all to using aversive, dominant techniques to coming back to the other side and realizing that since we are the keepers of food, treats and walks, they automatically see us as parents. BUT that doesn't mean we let them walk all over us like Maggie used to. Well, sometimes we literally let them walk on us, but hey.