Friday, February 15, 2019

Chronicles of a Rescue Dog: Part 7: What the K9 Guy Said

Kai in the truck on the way to boarding school

First, let me say that leaving your dog with a total stranger, even if the dog is kind of a brat and the stranger really seems to get dogs, feels like you're leaving your baby in a basket on someone's doorstep.

Unfortunately, even though Kai's behavior has improved since we committed to keeping him, it's still not good enough to make a comfortable life for the three of us, particularly as Old Dog and I age and  have less ability to physically control him as time goes on. The problems fall into three categories:
  • Aggression toward other dogs.
  • (Less frequent) aggression toward people
  • "Orbiting the yard"--that is, running in circles at full speed and then skidding to a halt, to the point that all the boundary areas of the yard, and some additional paths where he's created cross-town paths, are now rutted mud holes where there used to be lawn. (I once bathed him three times in one day. Not only does it tear up the yard--he comes in slathered in mud.)
So, we loaded him up and took him to a K9 Guy in northern Kentucky, about an hour and a half from where we live.

In the training building, he trotted around, sniffing everything while keeping an eye on where Old Dog and I were, while K9 Guy explained the plan: he would keep Kai for a week, working with him on the problem behaviors. He would also evaluate his potential to become a rescue dog or a drug-sniffing dog. He said only a very tiny percentage of dogs have the capability to do this kind of work and Kai's dog-reactivity issues made him unlikely to be one of them.

K9 Guy said that when people domesticated dogs and took them into their homes, they "humanized" them. He says approximately 80% of all dogs can be humanized. The other 20% make up most of his practice. Kai, he said, was in that 20%.

I noticed, without giving it much thought, that as Kai checked out the training building, he stepped on K9 Guy's foot. Kai is a very athletic dog, who moves with a lot of precision. The first day we had him (before we realized how bad he is with other dogs, we took him to a public agility course. He could do everything there with no previous training that I'm aware of.)

Then he stepped on K9/s guy's foot a second time. I couldn't remember Kai ever doing that to me or Old Dog. He's not a clumsy dog.

"Did you see him step on my boot?" asked K9 Guy.

I nodded.

"That's his way of saying, 'You ain't nothing. I don't even notice that you're here.'"

Yup. That sounded like Kai.

Even though Kai checked out the room like he was just curious, his anxiety  was very clear: he salivated so heavily he was literally (not figuratively) foaming at the mouth.

K9 Guy instructed us to say goodbye and then walk out the door without stopping to pet Kai. I've given that same advice to parents of toddlers when I've worked church nurseries--"Say a cheery goodbye and walk out the door without looking back or lingering--the kids do much better when you do that." Unfortunately, when toddlers are going through that separation anxiety phase, most parents can't seem to do that. Instead, they drag it out and leave me with a screaming toddler whose belief that something awful is happening was just reinforced by his parents' behavior.

So, we ignored the foam on Kai's muzzle and his look of betrayal and hit the road. 

K9 Guy said I could text to check on him as much as I wanted, so when we stopped for dinner a half-hour later, I pulled out my phone. Old Dog gave me a look and I put it back away. I did text when we got home. K9 Guy said Kai was finally laying down and settling in. And, presumably, no longer foaming at the mouth.

Next week: How Kai Did His First Week in Training


  1. I look forward to hearing more. I sure hope it all works out for you guys.

  2. Waiting anxiously to hear about it went.

  3. I am anxious as well. I know there is a fit for Kai somewhere. I hope you find the right trainer soon. My Aussie is only 15 pounds but she knows how to round up a group of other dogs (and cats) and can seem quite intimidating when she is all focused.
    Interesting about the toe step. I had not heard that. I know my dogs will sit next to me and set a paw on my foot just to check in and settle. There may be some claiming going on a well, but not superiority.

  4. I sure hope he is a good candidate for a drug dog or a rescue dog. Either one would give him a job, which is what he needs. Seems his job was using the back yard for a racetrack and keeping you busy bathing him! I sure hope it all works out for him and you:)


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