We are beginning to get our lives back.
During the pandemic we adopted a foster puppy. It is not our first dog, in fact, we have two others, a small 9 year old mixed breed and a 6 year old English Lab. In his first months, our puppy was quickly house broken, easily trained, and was even better behaved than our other two family dogs, and seemed to assume his place among their small pack.
However, being a pandemic puppy seemed to effect him in ways our other dogs were not, especially when it came to meeting new people. Certain things made him afraid, and he would respond with barking. We took him to our kids’ sporting events to get him used to new situations, and we were even able to help him mostly overcome his fear of small children; despite the fact he was tipping the scale at 70 pounds, he was unnerved by toddlers.
When it had seemed like things were going almost perfectly, one evening, completely out of the blue, he lunged and attacked one of our other dogs. It was uncharacteristic for him, and also disturbing for us. We assumed it was an aberration - maybe he was tired or resource guarding - but it continued happening toward both of our dogs, and each successive time it seemed to become more intense.
Our home became uncomfortable to be in, especially during the evening when we would normally be winding down and enjoying the quiet after a busy day. Instead of enjoying our evening routine surrounded by our dogs, we were sitting on edge waiting for our gentle boy to explode into an uncontrollable raging monster. Our other dogs were also on edge, especially our lab who was afraid to enter the house or be in the same room where this ticking time bomb could go off with no warning.
We were exhausted. Moving each dog from room to room and insuring the three were never in the same room at the same time every day was unsustainable. We dreaded coming home. Everything began to revolve around this disheartening and unsettling situation. We were quickly finding ourselves running out of options, except for one, which was giving the newest member of our family a new home. It was a heartbreaking possibility.
However, we were fortunate enough to discover Kathy through a friend. We called her in as our last ditch attempt to see if there was any hope in changing the dynamics between our three dogs, but mostly whether or not our problem dog could be helped, or if our only option was to give him a new home.
What happened next was transformational. With only one in person visit, Kathy helped us realize that the situation between our dogs was controlling us, rather than us controlling the situation. With firm encouragement, she provided us with some immediate measures we could implement to change the dynamic between us and our dogs. She helped us understand the actual dynamics of what was going on between them, based on her research of wolves and years of experience. It was illuminating.
By the time Kathy departed after our first session, all three dogs were laying down calmly together, something we have not at all felt comfortable doing in the past few months. Implementing her suggestions, our evenings have once again become relaxed and our home a welcoming environment for us, and all three dogs.
One thing we greatly appreciated about Kathy’s approach was that she came to our home and evaluated every aspect of the environment, and the dynamic of the dogs in that environment, including how we relate to them as a family. What she was able to see in the first few minutes, and convey to us, helped us unravel what was otherwise an impenetrable mystery. Her authority was inspiring to watch, and you couldn’t help but feel empowered as she explained how dogs think and function within a pack, and how they prefer the alpha - in this case human - to bear the responsibility of taking control so that they do not have to be on heightened alert, therefore bringing down the tense energy that readies them for hair trigger reactions to what they perceive as threatening situations. Once we were able to understand this, as well as learn how dogs communicate, we could respond much earlier to their reactions, thereby reducing their need to be on constant alert, and being able to relax.
While we have only begun working with our dogs, just this first step alone has helped us see there is hope after one two hour session. That is why were are committed to continuing our work with Kathy. Her holistic and direct approach is incredibly effective. We cannot wait to continue to work with her as already our time with her has felt transformational for our family.