Our latest foster dog departure was Dune.
Most of the dogs we get are sick and in need of intensive care and recovery. Dune was quite healthy, but had serious behavioral problems. He was not mean, but he was so energetic and unruly that no one could work with him. Volunteers at the shelter tried – and ended up with shredded clothing. They sent him away to a rescue that had a “trainer” who worked with him: and sent him back as a hopeless case.
The shelter Rescue Coordinator knows that I have successfully calmed unruly dogs before (one went on to be a TV star) so she asked if I’d take on Dune. I was their last hope or they’d have to put him down because he was not adoptable as he was.
Marie called him The Jihadi Dog because of his bent toward destruction. He was a serious challenge: he was so determined to have his own way, and seemed to care not a whit if I approved or not. Most dogs are trainable because they want to please their human: Dune did not. And he was psychotically energetic.
At one point I almost gave up on him: he knocked me down, stole my glasses, was jumping on me and chewing my ears and hands. He scared the living daylights out of me! Somehow I forced him back into is kennel and assessed the damage.
I had a few scrapes from teeth and claws, but nothing serious. Had he wanted to hurt me, I’d have been a lot worse off. He was just playing, but he plays ROUGH. But I was really shaken up, I called Jen and told her I couldn’t do anything with him.
Over the few days between this encounter and when I could have our truck to transport him … I changed my mind. I felt like a rat sending him back knowing it was an automatic death sentence. And, during those days he seemed to know how much trouble he was in and became more reserved. I decided to try again.
It took a few months, but I got him settled down to where he would walk on a leash and could be handled like a normal (energetic) dog.
What made the change? Patience and persistence. Getting angry or frustrated with him just fueled his energy: he was pushing my buttons and he knew it! I also used our mentor dogs to good advantage, allowing Dune to watch us playing and interacting in the yard. Dune wanted to play too and expressed his desire – loudly! When I let him out, he could participate until he got rough, then it was back to his pen to watch.
When he was especially bad, I ignored him: I would not talk to him or even make eye contact when I fed him. In time, he developed a desire for my approval – fueled mostly by the fact that I and I alone fed him. That made me leader of the pack: not him. Once he accepted that, we were able to make some progress. As we progressed, Dune developed a fondness for being petted and scratched, where before touching him resulted in being gently bitten as a warning. At first I wore two thick sweatshirts when I worked with him to protect my arms.
Dune may never be a sedate dog, but he is no longer a Tasmanian Devil Dog. I put up several videos of him on Cochise’s Facebook page, and all the shelter folks were amazed at his transformation. He was sent off to Eleventh Hour Rescue in New Jersey a week ago, and the staff there say they just love him. I’m glad I decided to try again.
The folks at Eleventh Hour Rescue have been working with Dune. They got him into Agility Training as a way to direct his energy into something beneficial. He LOVES this, and is doing so well that he is performing in an Agility Superstars exhibition! You can follow along with him on his Dashing Dune Facebook page.
We received a touching note from Dune’s handler at E.H.R. [Read it]
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