Friday, January 25, 2019

Chronicles of a Rescue Dog, Part 4: What the Trainer Said

Here's a video to show how smart Kai is:

At the request of the rescue organization, I put Kai into the back seat of my Subaru, fastened his seat belt, and drove 40 miles south to the West Chester PetSmart to meet Paula, the professional dog trainer they wanted to assess Kai's ability to be successfully placed with another family.

When we got there and Paula got out of her SUV, she was about 5 feet tall and maybe 100 pounds. She did not look like someone who could readily command dogs to do her bidding, but I figured the rescue folks knew what they were doing.

She gave me a training collar and instructed me to put it on Kai and leave him in my car. I would get into Paula's truck with her Aussie, Remy while Paula would then get into my front seat and determine how she wanted to proceed. The thought was that without me there to protect, Kai would be a lot more open to meeting a new person.

And he was. He was actually delighted to meet Paula. (She later told me that anytime he meets new people when I'm at the other end of the leash, his instinct will be to protect me. Because, she says, he's In Love With Me. I'm his person and no one else is supposed to come near me.)

Paula directed me to take Remy into the store while she conversed with Kai a little on proper etiquette. Essentially, she gave him a couple of quick pops on his training collar, accompanied by some firm commands and he instantly turned into St. Kai. (Seriously.)

Once they came inside the store and he saw me with Remy, he went back into his barking/lunging routine. Another couple of pops and he reverted to Kai the Perfect.

I started to see that a lot of our problems might not be at his end of the leash.

Paula said one of Kai's problems is that he never learned to meet another dog face-to-face, so when he's put in that situation, he freaks out. She had me turn Remy around so Kai could meet him face-to-butt. Kai found that a lot easier to deal with (and Remy was completely laid back about what felt to me like a first class invasion of personal space). I won't say that Kai got chummy with Remy, but they were able to wander around PetSmart without any further altercations.

I've taken Kai into my local PetSmart twice and it did not go well either time. The first time he heard another dog yelping and flipped out. The second time he seemed to do a little better until we were standing in the checkout line and he suddenly turned and lunged at the guy in line behind us. (Who was an incredibly good sport about it.)

This time, with Paula at the other end of the leash, he trotted happily around the store, sniffing everything he could get his big beak on and wiggling his stubby little tail a hundred miles an hour.

Paula's take is that inside Kai there is a really wonderful dog who was not socialized as a pup. Consequently, he frequently gets into situations that he doesn't know how to handle and behaves badly.

Her recommendation to the rescue organization was that he needed to be placed in a very specific kind of home--one where he has a "job" to keep him busy and someone who will know how to work with him to overcome these deficits.

Unfortunately, the rescue organization doesn't have a home like that available for him. And, because of some of the bad behavior I reported (he nipped at one of the grandkids on New Year's Eve and tore her shirt), they aren't very interested in placing him again.

Meanwhile, Paula contacted a colleague she's worked with in the past, a man who runs a K9 school where he trains dogs for drug/cadaver/bomb sniffing. After she described Kai, he was very interested in assessing Kai's potential for this type of work. Right now, however, he doesn't have an opening.

So we're in a holding pattern.

Next week: The "E" word


  1. Never having owned a dog, this is very insightful. I'd be at a loss on wjat to do. Sounds like there is a great dog in there that is getting training and love while trying to find his place in this world.

  2. Oh my, that is what I figured some idiot didn't socialize him as a puppy. I hope his behavior continues to get better with you as his guide until the right person comes along:)


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