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Teachable
By Brad & Kathy Smith
Happy and proud parents of Duke, the three-legged dog!

We were lucky enough to get Duke from the Colorado Peke and Pom Rescue in November 2011. It only took two days for our “tri-pawed” to weasel his way into our hearts and home. At all of a year and a half old, our new little 6½-pound three-legged Papillon mix had already been through a lot in his short life. After all, he was with a rescue, missing a leg due to what we were told was a car (and ignorant previous owner), and had been unsuccessfully adopted out three times. Fortunately, though, he was in an excellent foster home.


Duke and his new family are now blissfully happy together.

Duke came to us a good eater and trained to go outdoors for his business, and he did walk on a leash. It wasn't all perfect, however. Barking and growling would soon become routine with fast movements and strangers entering the house. He was especially slow in accepting the presence of a male in our home. He had taken his time getting used to his new Dad but is comfortable with him now.

 

Walks would turn into all 6½ pounds of him taking us for a walk in true sled dog style, pulling and tugging the entire way … and oh, let's not forget the barking, growling, and spinning at the end of the leash at the mere site of another dog or human on the greenbelt. YIKES! How embarrassing! And I forgot to mention the ongoing fierce growling at the not-even-visible canine on the other side of a fence. Whoa … that was out of control. We were earning a not-so-great reputation on the greenbelt. Not so cute anymore, but we did so love him. He really is soooooo cute!

Here we were, as his new loving parents, given the opportunity to give this poor little guy a new lease on life, being timely with his meals, taking him for walks, and offering a calm environment that included time for him. But Duke did not seem particularly happy; nor were we. These behaviors were making us all miserable and we could really sense it in ourselves and in Duke.

We owed it to ourselves—and especially Duke—to get some help rectifying his terrible behaviors. We had heard of Deb Nabb, “The Mutt Matcher,” through two sources: the Colorado Peke and Pom Rescue newsletter, and one of her clients whose canine kid had way worse problems than Duke.

It only took one call to The Mutt Matcher for her to instill comfort in us that help was on the way. We filled out her very thorough questionnaire as accurately and honestly as we could; after all, we wanted this to help. Before too long, Deb made a house call to meet us and Duke. Instantly upon her arrival she would experience "his" problem barking at her presence and "his" skittishness at her every move. As I would with one of my children when they were young, I picked him up to comfort and let him know he was okay, and safe with us … and of course, simultaneously, his Dad and I would be scolding him and telling him to stop. In another instant she saw the problem. It was us.

In this first visit she taught us so much about dog behavior and their wants and needs from us, their parents, protectors, and leaders. It wasn't our first dog, but our first dog had problems too. Boy, were we ever failing as canine parents; she didn't say that, but being reasonably intelligent, and honest with ourselves, we knew it.

Deb helped us recognize that we needed to make changes in our tactics and behaviors if we wanted mutual comfort and respect between us and our canine companion. Deb taught us some basics that it takes to be a "real pet parent." She reassured us that with practice we should be able to rectify what we now recognized as our "inappropriate behavior." In other words, it wasn't all Duke: It was mostly us needing to learn how and when to reprimand and praise and be consistent in doing so. With this, Duke would eventually gain confidence in knowing that we really were in control and he didn't need to be the “tough guy” protective alpha dog.

Upon Deb’s arrival for the second visit a week later, she noticed a marked difference in Duke's behavior and ours. She couldn't have been more genuine in her love of her profession as her eyes swelled at the noticeable change in Duke, and us, after only one visit. Her students had listened and practiced and it showed that day and in her visits to follow.

We don't mind if someone enters the house now; we all enjoy our walks, and Duke’s reputation on the greenbelt is now just that of being the "cute little three legged dog". Yes, we are all teachable if we recognize and accept our weaknesses.


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