We now feel empowered and confident in both ourselves and our dogs which is a truly exceptional feeling.
We have two wonderful dogs that we rescued, but the problem was that before we met Jeff, my husband and I were the only people who could see how sweet and loving our dog Luke was. To the rest of the world, Luke appeared as though he was an aggressive and out of control dog. He weighs 65 lbs and our other dog weighs about 55 lbs. Luke would not only pull us down the street on the leash, but he would lunge and bark at almost anything that came close to him, be it a dog, person, bike or car. Luke also has a very high prey drive so if we saw a squirrel on a walk, it was impossible to prevent him from chasing it. It would sometimes take us 15 minutes after seeing a squirrel for him to calm down enough for us to try to resume the walk.
Over the course of about 6 months we had spent 15 sessions, both group and private, with a pure positive trainer just for Luke. When using food on a walk, if I was 100% focused on Luke I could keep him from lunging at things passing by us about 80% of the time. He would not respond to food when something was more interesting – like a squirrel. At that point, the food was pointless. It was exhausting trying to be 100% focused on him and it meant if I was distracted for 1 second, he was likely going to lunge and bark at whomever was unfortunate enough to be walking near us at that time. It was also impossible to stop and say hello to a neighbor or friend while on the walk because if I did, Luke would start acting aggressively toward the person I was speaking to. We stopped feeling comfortable taking him for walks.
We had also previously been taking him and our other dog to an off-leash park where originally they had been fine and played with other dogs. Luke over the course of several months became more and more aggressive, attacking dogs to the point where we could no longer take him to the park. Food lures did not work at all for off-leash situations. Luke also ran off at one point chasing a squirrel when off-leash and I almost lost him. The only reason he came back was because my other dog found him one street over and brought him back (thank goodness for that herding instinct).
Our options became limited with how we could safely exercise these large (adolescent) dogs so we erected a fence in our backyard to let them play. We told ourselves, at least they have each other and at least they are best friends. We convinced ourselves that that was enough. Then the two of them got into two serious fights, both of which resulted in bites to myself and my husband when trying to break them up. After the last fight, my husband and I did not know what to do. We felt like we couldn’t take Luke out in public as he wasn’t safe, we didn’t want to have people over to our house for fear that he would act aggressively toward our guests or god forbid bite them. And now, we didn’t even feel safe in our own home with our two dogs. Our other dog was acting terrified of Luke at this point, a dog that had once been his best buddy. My husband and I did not know what to do. We couldn’t give this dog up because #1 we loved him and would never want to do that and #2 who would take this dog? The answer was nobody and we knew if we couldn’t help him he would likely be put down which terrified me.
Fortunately, I told a family friend about the problem and she told me she had the answer for us. She told me about Jeff and his training methods and his ability to take on difficult and aggressive dogs like Luke. I immediately sent Jeff a long intake message having essentially cried myself to sleep the night before not knowing how I was going to keep Luke but knowing I could never give him up. I wondered if my life was essentially trapped for the next 12-15 years of this dog’s life. Jeff called me back the same day that he received my message and we spoke for about an hour about Luke. Jeff explained that he believes in correcting a dog’s bad behavior (along with providing proper positive reinforcement) and what he said resonated with me. How can you ignore bad behavior like Luke’s, which is what we had been told to do up until now. My dog was a risk to myself, to my family and to society. Was I supposed to just ignore that and then shove food in his mouth the 5% of the time that he was behaving? Jeff’s training provided the answer to me.
Luke went for 2.5 weeks to Jeff’s board & train facility a couple of days after that first call with Jeff. I was incredibly sad to see him go, it’s scary to entrust a stranger with your dog for a long period of time and I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I knew immediately that I was. What was great was that I could watch Luke’s progress via Jeff’s facebook and youtube posts. There was a post about Luke almost every day and it comforted me to see him progressing and for me to see that he was being treated with kindness by Jeff and his wonderful girls (ages 5 and 7) who helped train Luke. I was also amazed to see the way Luke was behaving at Jeff’s facility. He was off-leash with other dogs, he was walking calmly at Jeff’s side on walks. It was hard for me to believe that it was the same dog, but of course it was.
When Luke came home he was the same goofy loving dog but he was a dog who now understood rules and boundaries. He listens to me now! I can now take my two dogs, weighing in at about 120 lbs total for a walk with minimal to no pulling. I walk them both in my left hand with my hands in my pockets. Most importantly, I walk by kids, strollers, bikes, skate boards, cars and dogs in close proximity and Luke just trots right by them without even thinking about misbehaving. I’ve even experienced other dogs lunging and barking at my dogs and I am able to walk my dogs calmly by the other dog with no reaction which is just amazing to me.
Jeff also goes above and beyond the call of duty by bringing the dogs home to you to make sure A) the owner understands how to use the new training methods and B) to see how the dog behaves in the home. In our case, this last piece was crucial. We discovered that many of Luke’s issues, inside the home in particular (like barking at the door and visitors who come in the home) are actually triggered by our other dog, who we always assumed was “perfect.” Jeff immediately picked up on this and has been helping us train the other dog to knock off his bad behavior so that both dogs and live harmoniously in the home. Jeff spent the extra time with us to make sure the dogs were doing well and that they were behaving. Once we understood that our seemingly well-behaved dog was actually causing some of Luke’s problems, we’ve been able to correct that and the energy in the home has been taken down about 100 decibals. Now, in our home, the dogs are back to being best buddies, they listen to my commands, they stay in “place” or “down” for hours at a time, including when our kitties run by (remember Luke’s prey drive? that was not possible in the past).
In sum, Jeff’s training really did save our family, because yes, our two dogs are part of our family. We now feel empowered and confident in both ourselves and our dogs which is a truly exceptional feeling.